This is a small tender idea, executed with a certain amount of elan and loads and loads of heart. Writer-director Amit Rai’s debut film is a Gandhian parable done up in shades that are at once, pristine pastel noble gentle warm tender and funny.
The imaginative plot about the Mahatma’s ashes belatedly being taken out of Allahabad to be scattered in the Ganga, gets its strength from the moral frailty of the times that we live in. Miraculously while constructing a heart-warming morality tale the debutant writer-director manages to keep the tone purely and strictly non-judgemental.
Among the many virtues in this frail but strong tale of two communities that need hard and immediate lessons in co-existence, is the detailed eye for locations. The streets and roof-tops of humble middleclass homes in Allahabad are shot by cinematographer Dharam Gulati with a keen eye for the teeming crowds peeping out of ramshackle windows which have seen better days .
The eye used to create the authentic ambience is forever lucid and non-judgemental. Sandesh Shandilya’s re-worked interpretation of Gandhian Bhajans, add considerably to a sense of serene sincerity in a work that gently but firmly prods awake our conscience.
The process of spiritual awakening that the sleepy communally-divided town undergoes when a humble honest motor mechanic Hashmatullah decides to repair the car that would take Gandhiji’s ashes to the sea is shown to be gradual and persuasive. Amit Rai derives more humour out of the plot than the tense situation would normally warrant.
In its effort to project a world beyond strife that is obtainable to a more reasonable humankind than visible in today’s divided times, the narrative at times slips into the realm of naÃ¯ve idealism.
No harm in that. Road To Sangam shows us that the road to salvation for a wounded and dying civilization is to cut through the tangled web of politics and religion to try to a find a common ground between the Hindu and Muslim viewpoint without compromising or hurting either. Paresh Rawal as the noble simple and obstinate motor mechanic finds that dithering but comforting ground in his performance.
Paresh’s Hashmatullah is a gentle soul driven by clarity of purpose that brooks no interference from religious bigots. His cluster of Muslim compatriots opposing his idealistic efforts to do justice to Mahatma Gandhi’s memories, often come across as benign caricatures.
Director Amir Rai portrays the world of religious bigotry as eminently reform able. In this sense the film’s core could be considered impractical. But the film’s quest to convert the currency of communalism into a molten gold of harmony and peace is never questionable.
There are lingering moments of dialectic on the communal divide. These remain beyond the sphere of the sermonistic, thanks to Paresh’s portrayal of the motor mechanic whose repair and restoration work symbolizes a far deeper search to heal a wounded warring civilization. Pavan Malhotra as a Muslim hardliner and Om Puri as a Muslim leader forced to mouth communal jargon because they are expected from him, lend a strong backbone to Paresh’s outstanding author-backed turn.
The Road To Sangam is a gentle trip into the heart of a society that has resorted to a collective suspicion and hostility as a form of protestation and self-protection. Without really saying so aloud, this film suggests Gandhism still has the solution and medicine to the spirit of ceaseless strife that grips our society.
The dusty half-formed modern integrally-traditional ambience of Allahabad and Paresh Rawal’s deceptively smooth portrayal of the man who must do his duty even if it endangers his life, carry Road To Sangam to the region of an important statement on the relevance of Gandhi in today’s age of rage.
Lay down the guns and swords of the unnecessarily Veer generation. Look at the wounded world through the eyes of a man who feels Mahatma Gandhi’s last remains in a urn are more crucial than being rigidly loyal to your own cause and religion.
There’s a lesson to be learnt from this film. Luckily we aren’t required to dig too deep into the narrative to procure the message.
Gentle and heart-warming Road To Sangam is that rare passionate paean to patriotism that doesn’t resort to flag-waving even once.