Tag Archives: Abhay Deol

Movie Review: Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016)

HappyBhagJayegi2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

You might think that the woman named Happy would be the main character in a movie titled Happy Bhag Jayegi (“Happy Will Run Away“). You’d be wrong.

Happy (Diana Penty) is a plot catalyst rather than a real character. She exists to cause problems that other people must fix, ostensibly in the name of getting Happy what she wants, but really in order to advance their own character development.

Of the film’s four major characters, Happy is introduced third, ten minutes into the film. The first character we meet is Bilal Ahmed (Abhay Deol), the film’s true protagonist on whose emotional growth the story depends.

Bilal’s father is a prominent Pakistani politician determined to make his son follow in his footsteps and “change the future of Pakistan.” Bilal meekly walks his predetermined path, too timid to speak up for what he really wants.

The Ahmeds visit Amritsar for an agricultural summit aimed at fostering ties between the neighboring countries. Elsewhere in town, a local goon/politician named Bagga (Jimmy Shergill) takes the stage to perform at a celebration before his upcoming wedding. His bride-to-be — Happy, appearing onscreen for the first time — waits until the show is underway before secretly leaping out of a window into the back of a truck. Only instead of landing in the vehicle owned by a friend of her boyfriend, Guddu (Ali Fazal), she mistakenly jumps into a truck taking goods from the agricultural summit to the Ahmed family home in Lahore.

Bilal scrambles to find a way to get Happy back home without creating an international incident (and without his father finding out), but Happy won’t leave unless her marriage to Guddu is secured. Bilal enlists the help of his fiancée, Zoya (Momal Sheikh), and the police constable, Afridi (Piyush Mishra), to pull off a complicated cross-border scheme.

Happy meets the minimum requirements for a generic Bollywood romantic comedy female lead in that she’s beautiful and feisty, with a penchant for drinking and a domineering attitude that make her irresistible to male Bollywood romantic comedy characters. But that’s all there is to her.

In contrast, Zoya is refreshingly complex. Bilal’s childhood friend and the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Zoya and Bilal have been betrothed since birth. She views Happy as a problem to be solved, but Bilal’s infatuation with the interloper makes Zoya question whether her own romance with him is one-sided. She doesn’t want to be a constant reminder to Bilal of the choices he wasn’t allowed to make for himself. Yet Zoya is a team player, and she doesn’t let her doubts interfere with her duties, nor does she resort to trickery to keep Bilal and Happy apart.

Another unfortunate feature of Happy’s character is her lack of agency. After making her fateful leap into the truck, she spends most of the film in jail, in hiding, or kidnapped. When she receives her father’s blessing at the end, it’s not because of anything she’s done but because of the actions of one of the men.

It’s also worth pointing out that, after Happy runs away, both Guddu and Bagga continue to express their desire to marry her. However, her father grabs a gun and says he’s going to kill her. Even if he doesn’t mean it literally, it’s not the kind of joke you can make when women and men who elope are still murdered by their families with alarming regularity in Pakistan and India.

Unlike the cookie-cutter title character, the men in Happy Bhag Jayegi are thoughtfully written. Bilal has spent his life resisting his future in politics only for Happy’s plight to show him that he’s a good leader. Guddu’s future is as amorphous as Bilal’s is fixed, plaguing the young lover with doubts about his ability to provide for his beloved. Bagga is a goon, but also a decent guy who genuinely cares for Happy.

The performances from the likeable cast are generally quite good. It’s clear that Penty is capable of more than the material she was given. The plot unfolds at a decent clip and heads in some unexpected directions.

One more knock against Happy Bhag Jayegi may only be relevant to international viewers. Many of the jokes are wordplay humor, especially involving the different meanings of words in Urdu versus Punjabi or Hindi. These jokes aren’t translated with context, so it’s impossible tell what’s supposed to be funny.

There are the elements of a good movie present in Happy Bhag Jayegi. If only the title didn’t feel like a bait-and-switch.

Links

Movie Review: Raanjhanaa (2013)

Raanjhanaafilmposter2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

What a difference perspective makes. Had Raanjhanaa been told from the point of view of Sonam Kapoor’s character, Zoya, it would’ve been a horror movie along the lines of Fatal Attraction.

Instead, the main character in Raanjhanaa is a scrappy guy named Kundan (Dhanush). He’s supposed to be a tragic romantic hero, but he’s actually a stalker so possessive of Zoya that he destroys her life.

Their one-sided romance starts harmlessly enough. Muslim Zoya and Hindu Kundan grow up in the same neighborhood. He flirts with her, and she doesn’t discourage him. Things progress as far as a hug before her parents learn of it and send her away. Kundan vows to wait for her forever, even though he’s only in tenth grade, and she’s in ninth.

Eight years later, Zoya returns and doesn’t recognize Kundan. When he reminds her that he’s the reason she was sent away, her memory sparks, but romance does not. She laughs off his marriage proposals and makes it clear that he resides in The Friend Zone.

Besides, Zoya is in love with someone else: Akram (Abhay Deol), a politically active classmate from college. Akram is everything that Kundan is not: rich, principled, educated, and motivated. Zoya says that she loves Akram because he treats her as an equal, not as an object of worship or a trophy to be guarded.

Kundan doesn’t take the hint and instead acts like a manipulative drama queen. He slits his wrists, then stages a sham marriage to his childhood friend, Bindiya (Swara Bhaskar) to try to make Zoya jealous. This is particularly cruel because Kundan knows that Bindiya is in love with him. Ultimately, Kundan robs Zoya of her home, family, love, and future, all because she doesn’t love him in return.

What makes Raanjhanaa more interesting than another recent stalker-as-hero movie, Ekk Deewana Tha, is that the movie acknowledges that Kundan is in the wrong. He recognizes his mistakes, and justice is served in the end.

Yet the fact that the story is told from Kundan’s perspective is problematic. Most of the movie’s second half is about Kundan trying to redeem himself in Zoya’s eyes, though his actions are heinous enough that he doesn’t deserve forgiveness. The fact that he believes his actions are motivated by love is itself a kind of self-administered absolution, a shield for behavior that would otherwise be deemed evil. Perhaps the story might have been more satisfying had Kundan realized during his atonement that what he feels for Zoya is obsession, not love.

The story is all the more tragic because Kundan is a different, more endearing person when he’s with his friends, Bindiya and Murari (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub). He’s more relaxed and playful, and the three share a great rapport. One of the movie’s best scenes is when Bindiya reluctantly agrees to help Kundan and Murari sink one of Zoya’s potential suitors, a doctor, by turning a medical check-up into an x-rated encounter.

The acting is uniformly good. Sonam Kapoor gives Zoya depth and allows her to grow throughout the film. Dhanush also gives a strong performance. It was nice to see a couple of romantic leading men portrayed by actors who don’t look like professional bodybuilders, for a change.

Raanjhanaa is entertaining, even if it is troubling. Zoya spells out exactly what modern women want in a love interest. Time for filmmakers to write their leading men accordingly.

Links

Movie Review: Chakravyuh (2012)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Chakravyuh is the latest offering in the Bollywood sub-genre of topic-driven films. The concept of building a film with a political or social issue as the foundation — then adding a story and characters around it — generates films that patronize as often as they entertain. Recent topics to grace the screen have included fairness in education (Taare Zameen Par and Aarakshan), honor killings (Aakrosh and Ishaqzaade), and farmer suicides (Summer 2007 and Peepli Live).

Chakravyuh exemplifies how to do an issue picture the right way. It starts with an on-screen note explaining that the film is based on actual events in the Indian government’s ongoing struggle against the Naxalites, a Communist separatist group. Writer-director Prakash Jha finds the common threads in these real-life events and weaves them together into a cohesive narrative that presents all sides of a complicated conflict.

The first five minutes of Chakravyuh are spent bringing those audience members unfamiliar with Communist separatism in India up to speed. Jha efficiently explains who the Naxalites are and what they want, without belaboring the point for those who already understand the conflict.

The story is told from both sides of the conflict: the police hired to enforce the law, and the separatists who seek self-rule. Adil (Arjun Rampal) volunteers for the position of chief of police of the town of Nandighat: a rural town on the edge of Naxalite-controlled territory. Adil, full of confidence acquired during his relatively easy journey through life, sees himself as the only man who can drive out the Naxalites and restore local confidence in the Indian government.

Adil is only in town for a few days when he is shot in the line of duty. His ne’er-do-well friend, Kabir (Abhay Deol) — who was kicked out of the police academy for hitting a superior officer — sneaks into the police station to see Adil. Kabir offers to infiltrate the Naxalites and act as Adil’s informer.

Because of Adil’s overconfidence and Kabir’s nonchalance, they don’t appreciate what a dangerous idea this is until Kabir is being beaten up and shot at by both the cops and the Naxalites. After spending some time with the separatists and witnessing the way the police treat the locals when Adil isn’t watching, Kabir begins to sympathize with the group he was meant to destroy.

Chakravyuh‘s sets and scenes are gripping. Nighttime police raids are dark, disorienting, and terrifying. Villages of homes built largely of sticks fly hammer-and-sickle flags in their yards, as armed insurgents walk through town calling each other “comrade.” The Naxalite camp is little more than tarps strung up between trees in the forest.

Adil and Kabir are terrific characters to guide the audience through the film. Both have enough power to influence some events in their lives, but not enough power to actually end the conflict. Kabir, while valuable, is too new in camp to make it into the Naxalite inner circle. It takes Adil a long time to realize he’s merely a big fish in a small pond; the real power lies with the federal heads of the police department, the politicians who appoint them, and the industrialists who finance the politicians’ campaigns.

Rampal and Deol are both superb in their roles. Each man is sympathetic, if not always right. The history of their friendship is illuminated by minor glimpses into the past but is apparent in the way events play out in the present.

Esha Gupta does a nice job as Adil’s wife and fellow police officer, Rhea. She ardently defends Kabir, but her loyalties lie unambiguously with her husband and her badge. Manoj Bajpai is gripping as the Naxalite leader, Rajan, as is Anjali Patil as Juhi, Rajan’s executioner. The story of how Juhi came to join the insurgents captures the sense of frustration and helplessness that could drive a person to rebellion.

At the heart of Jha’s story is compassion for the poor and the seeming futility of their struggle for a better life. The villages in Chakravyuh lack plumbing, electricity, and medical facilities. When Adil puts antibiotic cream on a villager’s wound, the man’s face beams, accompanied by a corny, patriotic musical swell.

The Naxalites intimidate the villagers into brandishing weapons against the police, but the rebels also provide the people with a sense of control, a way to fight back against a government that ignores them until valuable natural resources are discovered under their land. At one point in the film, an army of paid thugs with machine guns rolls into town on bulldozers, bellowing through bullhorns that the government’s forced demolition of the town is “for your benefit.”

Chakravyuh places blame equally on the government and the Naxalites, while acknowledging that both parties undoubtedly regret needless bloodshed. Yet, with neither group willing to be the first to renounce violence, the conflict rages on, and it’s the poor people caught in the middle who suffer.

Links

Movie Review: Shanghai (2012)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

In the opening scene of Shanghai, an older man tells his nephew he’s worried that the two of them may be in over their heads: the powers they’re dealing with are just too big. Such is the case for all of the main characters in Shanghai, a jaw-dropping thriller.

In India’s drive to become a world financial power, the low-income neighborhood of Bharat Nagar is designated as the future home of the International Business Park (IBP), a collection of high-rise office buildings. IBP has the blessings of a pair of local politicians. The residents who will be forcibly relocated have little say.

Author and activist Dr. Ahmedhi (Prosenjit Chatterjee) arrives in town with the hope of uniting the residents to oppose IBP. His former student, Shalini (Kalki Koechlin), gets a tip that the doctor’s life is threatened by goons affiliated with the local political party. Ahmedhi goes ahead with his planned rally and is promptly hit by a truck driven by the uncle and nephew — Jaggu (Anant Jog) and Bhaggu (Pitobash), respectively — from the opening scene.

The local government sets up what the audience knows is a sham inquiry into Ahmedhi’s “accident.” But the bureaucrat assigned to run the inquiry, Krishnan (Abhay Deol), takes the job seriously and uncovers discrepancies in the official accounts. Shalini demands the truth and confronts Krishnan with irrefutable evidence from an unsavory source: a slimy pornographer named Jogi (Emraan Hashmi).

Deol performs admirably as Krishnan, but the role is pretty straightforward. Krishnan is careful with his words, knowing that a promotion surely awaits if he does well in his investigation. It’s hard to become emotionally attached to the character.

Because of that, Shanghai belongs to Koechlin and Hashmi. Kalki Koechlin has one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen. She elevates staring to an art form. After stellar performances last year in That Girl in Yellow Boots and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and now this star turn in Shanghai, I’m willing to put Koechlin alongside Vidya Balan as the two most talented actors working in India right now. She’s riveting.

Until now, I haven’t loved any of Emraan Hashmi’s performances. He’s been good, often playing handsome, lusty characters, but he hasn’t blown me away. Hashmi is spectacular in Shanghai. Jogi is gross, with his stained teeth, grimy clothes, and his slight beer belly. He’s still lusty, but by no means handsome. One of the best moments in Shanghai is when Jogi tilts his head back and grins at Krishnan while standing next to him at a urinal. It’s a smile that’s meant to be charming but comes off as repulsive, especially given the setting.

Jogi’s reptilian swagger fades when he realizes how much trouble he’s in. It’s replaced by a barely restrained panic, which Hashmi portrays perfectly. A scene in which Jogi and Shalini navigate Bharat Nagar at night under a police curfew is heart-stopping.

As wonderfully plotted as the film is, there were some moments near the end that didn’t work for me. Krishnan has an important conversation with someone in a position of authority, and I wasn’t sure who that person was. In fact, I wasn’t even clear who Krishnan ultimately worked for (thanks to commenter Dallas Dude for clearing things up). Also, the film ends with unnecessary epilogue notes, though the ending scenes had already done more than enough to wrap up the story.

Shanghai is something special. It’s a great thriller that doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at under two hours long. That runtime includes two songs which fit smoothly into the story. It’s a nice way to keep uniquely Indian elements in a film with unquestionable international appeal.

Links

Opening June 8: Shanghai

Shanghai is the only new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area the weekend beginning June 8, 2012, and it looks promising. The thriller stars two of my favorite actors — Kalki Koechlin and Abhay Deol — in a tale of politically motivated murder.

Shanghai opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The film’s website has a full national theater list. Shanghai‘s runtime is 1 hr. 54 min. Read my review here.

All three of the above theaters and the Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie carry over Rowdy Rathore for a second week. The action-comedy opened with earnings of $381,784 from 120 U.S. theaters.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend are the Telugu films Adhinayakudu and Endhukante Premanta.

Outside of the theaters, June 8 marks the Mela debut of the March, 2012, release Bumboo. It’s also the day Don 2 becomes available in DVD format at Netflix.

Movie Review: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Writer-director Zoya Akhtar’s sophomore effort, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, is good enough to push her into the top tier of filmmakers working in India at the moment. Her ability to create realistic characters keeps the old Bollywood recipe fresh, updating it for a young, global audience.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD, henceforth) follows three lifelong friends from India as they roadtrip through Spain. The trip is a sort of bachelor party for Kabir (Abhay Deol), in which the groom-to-be and his two pals, immature Imraan (Farhan Akhtar) and serious Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), each get to choose a different adventure on which the others must go along, no matter what.

The trip gets off to a rocky start. There’s a lingering animosity between Imraan and Arjun, who keeps getting work-related phone calls. Kabir selects scuba diving for his adventure, even though Arjun can’t swim and is terrified of water.

The trip is saved by their beautiful, free-spirited diving instructor, Laila (Katrina Kaif). She helps Arjun overcome his fears and shows the boys around Spain. The trip proceeds so that the friends can find what they are really looking for: not just a little fun in the sun, but the means by which to fill the voids in their lives.

What I loved about Zoya Akhtar’s first movie, Luck By Chance, was her devotion to believable, nuanced characters. She exercises the same care in ZNMD. Imraan’s attention-getting jokes mask his insecurity; Arjun struggles with the greedy workaholic he’s become; Kabir is so busy trying to keep everyone else happy that he doesn’t know what he really wants.

Kabir’s jealous fiancée, Natasha (Kalki Koechlin), is so well written, it’s eerie. I recognized Natasha’s cold reaction when Kabir introduces her to Laila over Skype as the way I might’ve reacted as a young adult. Kudos to Zoya and her co-writer, Reema Kagti, for creating such a realistic character, and to Koechlin for bringing her life.

The acting in ZNMD is brilliant, across the board. As suspicious as Koechlin plays Natasha, Kaif keeps Laila breezy and winsome. Roshan, normally a charming leading man, seizes the rare opportunity to play an unlikeable character and makes Arjun a real jerk early in the film.

But Deol and Akhtar take the cake with their easy, natural rapport. Their expressions as Imraan and Kabir joke behind Arjun’s back make some scenes feel like candid outtake shots rather than directed scenes. Deol, Akhtar and Roshan deserve extra credit for singing their own parts in the catchy song “Señorita.” (I’ve included a teaser video of the song below.)

My only complaint about the movie is that it’s longer than it needs to be. While the scenery is beautiful, and footage of the boys scuba diving and skydiving is exciting, there are lengthy periods that feel like a promotional video for the Spanish tourism board or for an adventure tour company.

That said, I understand why those scenes are in the movie. Akhtar opted to tell her story using the traditional Indian runtime of about two-and-a-half hours, and she filled the time to maximize the amount of escapism. It’s as easy to get lost in the story as it is in the footage of the Spanish countryside.

Since my only quibble with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a matter of personal preference, and not a problem of execution, I don’t hesitate to recommend it. Zoya Akhtar is setting new storytelling standards that other Hindi directors must try to keep up with.

Links

Opening July 15: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

I’m excited for this weekend’s new Bollywood release: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Farhan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol roadtrip through India, Spain and Egypt, meeting Katrina Kaif along the way. Akhtar produced the film, which is written and directed by his sister, Zoya, in her second effort after her terrific debut, Luck By Chance.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara opens in the Chicago area on Friday, July 15, 2011, at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Given its stellar earnings of $1,232,610 in just two weeks in U.S. theaters, it’s no surprise that Delhi Belly is getting a third week at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. Both theaters are carrying over Bbuddah…Hoga Terra Baap for a third week as well.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include 3 Kings (Malayalam) and Deiva Thirumagal (Tamil).

Movie Review: Aisha (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, has inspired numerous adaptations in the nearly 200 years since it was first published. The latest onscreen version, Aisha, is watchable, but its heroine misses the mark.

In this modern Indian update, directed by Rajshree Ojha, Emma is renamed Aisha (Sonam Kapoor): a wealthy girl from Delhi who fancies herself an expert matchmaker. Her intrusiveness and inability to read people winds up complicating the lives of all around her.

Of particular interest to Aisha is Shefali (Amrita Puri), a small-town girl who’s looking for a husband. Shefali presents a convenient means for Aisha to rid herself of her own dorky suitor, Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar). She sets about trying to force the two to fall in love, with disastrous results.

Debutant actress Puri does a lovely job as Shefali. She’s desperate not to disappoint Aisha, yet incapable of becoming the society girl she’s expected to be. The earnestness and excitability Puri brings to the role is spot on.

American filmgoers will find Aisha very accessible. The characters’ addictions to trendy fashions and designer labels is universal among young people with money to burn. The story is structured like many Hollywood movies (though it’s occasionally bogged down by the song-and-dance montages unique to Bollywood). A familiar story helps as well.

Emma Woodhouse is an enduring character because of her complexities: supreme self-assurance paired with a lack of real world experience, a compassionate nature mixed with uncontrollable nosiness. Like Emma herself, Sonam Kapoor lacks the experience to make Aisha an appealing leading lady. Kapoor plays Aisha as woefully immature, to the point that she seems like the lone adolescent in a world full of adults.

Kapoor delivers her lines with whiny condescension. When Aisha finally apologizes for her mistakes, it seems as if she’s doing so just so that people won’t be mad at her, and not because she’s gained any insight her own behavior. She responds to a declaration of love with a shrill and insincere, “Really?”

In the movie Clueless — another modern remake of Emma, from 1995 — the main character narrates the movie. It allows the audience to hear her thoughts, testifying to her change of character. A similar technique would’ve been useful in Aisha.

Despite a lackluster heroine, Aisha has a great supporting cast. In addition to Puri’s solid turn as Shefali, Abhay Deol reaffirms his rising star status with a charming and authentic performance as Arjun, Aisha’s long-time neighbor and friend (the George Knightly role in Emma).

The character who undergoes the most emotional growth throughout the story is Aisha’s best friend, Pinky (Ira Dubey). Pinky begins the movie as Aisha’s cynical sidekick, snobbishly looking down upon everyone but Aisha. There’s a moment when she realizes that she’s been too hard on Randhir, and it changes her outlook on life. Too bad Aisha didn’t experience such growth herself.

Links

Opening August 6: Aisha

The only new Hindi film releasing in theaters this weekend is Aisha, starring Sonam Kapoor and Abhay Deol. Aisha is a contemporary version of Jane Austen’s Emma — similar to the 1995 Hollywood film Clueless — set in high society Delhi.

Aisha opens on Friday, August 6, 2010 in the Chicago area at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 6 min.

The comedy Tere Bin Laden finally makes its Chicago area debut after releasing internationally on July 16. It also opens on Friday at the Golf Glen 5.

Gangster flick Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai continues for a second week at the Golf Glen 5 and AMC South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing around Chicago this weekend include Don Seenu (Telugu), Maryada Ramana (Telugu) and Oru Naal Varum (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5.

Movie Review: Road, Movie (2010)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon

Road, Movie is like a happy dream. You wake up, momentarily unsure if what you experienced was real, but left with a feeling of contentedness.

Vishnu (Abhay Deol) is desperate to avoid following his father into the hair tonic sales business (“A drop of Atma Hair Potion, your hair springs into motion. Everything else is an illusion.”). He convinces a family friend to let him drive a 1942 Chevy truck cross-country, where the truck will be sold for scrap.

Vishnu is scarcely more qualified to drive an ancient truck across an Indian desert than I am. He doesn’t know how to operate the truck and expects to be able to phone for help when it inevitably breaks down. But in the desert, there’s no cell phone reception and no one to ask for help.

His savior is a kid of about ten, known only as The Boy (Mohammed Faisal), whom he liberates from a job at a roadside tea stand. The kid is a smartass; when Vishnu frowns at the quality of the tea he’s served, The Boy asks if he’d mistaken the stall for a Starbucks.

But The Boy is also hard-working and resourceful. After the truck breaks, he leaves, returning the next morning with Om (Satish Kaushik), a hobo who fixes the truck. In exchange, Om asks for a ride to the fair, though he only has a vague idea of where the fair is.

Om is as enigmatic as his namesake. He’s got a knack for solving problems, both mechanical and interpersonal. His bizarre directions must be followed on faith.

This rankles Vishnu, who has no respect for Om. In fact, Vishnu doesn’t respect anyone he meets on the road. He disdains the lifestyle of the desert dwellers, as though they choose to live in poverty and constant thirst.

Vishnu’s opinion begins to change after a cop pulls him over for having an improper license. The tiny police station is the only building for miles, and the cop is clearly starved for entertainment. Om, noticing that the truck once doubled as a mobile movie theater, suggests that they show a movie that night in exchange for their freedom.

They position the truck to project an image onto a wall of the police station. No one bothers to move the bicycle propped against the wall. Word spreads, and soon there are dozens of people watching a grainy film from the ’70s with rapt attention. Om explains to Vishnu that this is often the only form of entertainment in this rural area, and a rare one at that.

Vishnu opens up even more when the group happens upon The Woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a young widow wandering the wasteland. He offers her a ride, though it’s hard to believe his motives are purely altruistic, given how pretty she is. The growing group continues on in search of Om’s fair.

The rest of the movie is equal parts fantasy and road trip. The characters acknowledge that some of the events seem magical to the point of impossibility. But everything serves to open Vishnu’s eyes to life outside of the city: harsh but not without its charms. It gives him plenty to think about, as a young man trying to find his place in the world.

The fantastical elements of the movie aren’t limited to plot points. The scenes of the nomads watching the old movies projected from the truck are enchanting. The nomads’ sense of wonder and joy is infectious, reminding the audience how great the escapism that films provide can really feel.

As unpleasant as Vishnu’s adventure is at times, Road, Movie inspires that same sense of wanderlust that all great road movies do. As the truck rolled across the Indian desert, I started thinking about the trip to the American Southwest I’ve been meaning to take for years. Eventually, I began to wonder if, perhaps, Mobile-Movie Theater Operator in Rural India was a job I should consider. Impractical, yes, but a happy dream nonetheless.

Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes.