From the first frame, Road, Movie drenches us in color, sound and emotion. Overlooking a cinnamon and turquoise colored hill town, gazing on bottles of amber and saffron colored oils, accompanied by the sounds of drums and strings, a young man stands looking on while an old man prepares a fragrant potion and in less than a minute Dev Benegal evokes a thousands of years of tradition. Although the past and present peacefully coexist, our young hero Vishnu (Abhay Deol) gazes discontented. He doesn’t appreciated tradition. He seeks change. Looking for an opportunity to escape his provincial down and father’s faltering hair oil business, Vishnu volunteers to drive a beat up 1943 Chevy truck to a town by the sea where it has been sold to a local museum. But this is no ordinary truck, it is loaded with reel to reel film, a projector and a “wide screen”. It is a touring cinema. Thus begins Road, Movie and Vishnu’s journey of self-discovery.
As Vishnu begins to leave for his trip his family prepares him for his journey. His mother blesses him, his sister dons the truck with a lucky talisman and his father blesses him with oil. Vishnu scoffs at the fanfare, but within a day of leaving home he begins to appreciate the old ways. But first he befriends a young boy (Mohammed Faisal) who, much like him, wants to escape his small town life. When the truck breaks down the two meets a mechanic, Om (Satish Kaushik), who agrees to repair the truck for a ride to a fair he remembers from his childhood. As their water begins to run out, the three meet a gypsy woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) who scowers the desert in search of water, but who is willing to share the little water she has with them. Together they teach each other about the importance of friendship, love, dreams and magic.
The key to the lessons lie in the collection of old films and the old film projectors in the back of the old Chevy truck. There is a moment when the film seems to enter into the surreal when from no where a fair appears in the middle of a vast desert-scape, but Benegal captured this moment from a real life experience with a traveling with a touring cinema in India’s outback. In the director’s notes Benegal recalls, “I spotted a figure in the horizon. And then another. Almost magically, from nowhere, they started coming. Most of them on foot, others on bullock carts, a family of four on a motorbike, twenty people crushed together in a jeep. The line seemed endless. Within a few hours, five thousand people had gathered, coming from miles away, all for the same reason: to see a film.” Moments like these are where the where dreams and reality “come together under a starry sky” to quote the director again and magic of the film takes center stage.
As they cross the desert, Vishnu discovers that the touring cinema that he once thought should be scrapped and the oil that he claimed smelled so bad – in short the past – are the keys to their survival protecting them from corrupt police and a ruthless waterlord. The journey proves enlightening for everyone, but especially for Vishnu who finds himself in Indian’s tradition and outback. See the official film site http://www.roadmoviethefilm.com/
Cast (credited cast): Abhay Deol (Vishnu), Mohammed Faisal (the Boy), Satish Kaushik (Om), Tannishtha Chatterjee (the Gypsy Woman), full cast and crew.
US Release Date: 5 May 2010 (limited). Written and directed by Dev Benegal, released by India Films. Running time: 95 minutes; MPAA NR; genre: Drama. Presented by the 3rd i South Asian Film Festival tomorrow, Sunday, November 7, 2010 at the Castro Theatre. Tickets to Closing Night Reception are on sale! Actress Tanistha Chatterjee confirmed as a gues for Road, Movie.