It sure requires guts to attempt a film of this genre. Ramgopal Varma's ROAD, directed by Rajat Mukherjee, defies all norms of commercial Hindi cinema.
ROAD is about Arvind (Vivek Oberoi) and Laxmi (Antra Mali) who love each other. They flee their homes when their parents oppose their relationship. On the way, they come across Babu (Manoj Bajpai), who asks for a lift.
What happens next, forms the crux of the story.
Inspired by Steven Spielberg's English flick DUEL, ROAD tackles a theme that is alien for Hindi movie buffs. Shot at the picturesque locales of Rajasthan, the novel thing about the film is its plot ? three characters and their misadventures on a deserted road.
ROAD starts off as a love story and later comes straight to the point. As far as the plot is concerned, yes, producer Ramgopal Varma and director Rajat Mukherjee deserve a pat for deviating from the mushy love stories/mindless action flicks to come up with something that's genuinely 'hatke'.
The story actually gathers momentum when the lovers give a lift to Manoj Bajpai and how, slowly, Bajpai's eccentric behaviour comes to the fore. The film keeps you on tenterhooks all through the first half, thanks to its share of chills and thrills.
The introductions of an eerie Vijay Raaz and a happy-go-lucky Makrand Deshpande add zing to the enterprise. In a nutshell, the first half is like one of those roller coaster rides that's thoroughly enjoyable.
But the film falters in the post-interval portions. Though the look of the film remains consistent, the script goes for a toss in the latter half. There are loopholes in the screenplay and they partly erase the indelible impression that the first half had left on the viewer.
* The introductions of several new characters in the second half (Raj Zutshi and Ganesh Yadav) are half as exciting as the characters in the first. Actually, Zutshi's character has no relevance to the story.
* Two, the story suddenly focuses more on Manoj Bajpai in this half, sidelining Vivek Oberoi in the process. From the script point of view, one does feel the absence of the hero in passages.
There's no denying that director Rajat Mukherjee has presented the story with style and panache. Right from the titles to the last frame, the craftsmanship is visible in every frame. The shot execution is simply fabulous.
But Mukherjee ought to have concentrated on the content as well. The writing (Rajneesh Thakur) leaves something to be desired. In order to accommodate Manoj Bajpai in the second half or perhaps, to exhibit his (Bajpai) wide range as a performer, the writer has jumbled up an otherwise captivating plot.
Sandesh Shandilya's music is easy on the ears and two tracks can easily be singled out ? 'Makhmali Ye Badan' and 'Kya Ye Pyaar Hai'. The background music (Amar Mohile) is superb and enhances the impact of several sequences. Cinematography (Sudeep Chatterjee) is fabulous. The chase sequences (Allan Amin) are fantastic. The sound effects (Arun Nambiar) deserve a special mention.
Manoj Bajpai stages a comeback with gusto with ROAD. The actor gives it all to this performance and is sure to walk away with plaudits. Vivek Oberoi impresses a great deal, but how one wishes the writer wouldn't have relegated him to the background in the second half. Antra Mali exhibits her anatomy and her talent freely. Amongst the character artistes, Rajpal Yadav (excellent) and Makrand Deshpande (good) stand out.
On the whole, ROAD caters more to the city audience and would appeal to those who understand and appreciate cinema of this genre. Its business will taper as it moves from cities to towns to interiors. Nevertheless, an interesting flick to watch!