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Posts Tagged ‘Road’

The Hindi New Wave

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 9:07 AM

*A still from LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhoka

By Ben Rekh

Published in FILMMAKER Spring 2010

Namaste! Welcome to Indian cinema. The world’s largest film industry, India produces more than 1,100 films per years, roughly a third of which are Hindi-speaking or “Bollywood” films. A world play on “Bombay” plus “Hollywood,” Bollywood is known the world over for stories of true love, its signature bright colors, and its non-stop singing and dancing. But there is a new movement currently underway in the Indian film industry, and it may just be what the subcontinent and the world needs. Similar to what happened in Hollywood in the 60’s and 70’s, Bollywood is undergoing a massive cultural shift in content and consciousness. There are new voices and new audiences that are reinventing Indian cinemas as a major player on the global stage. This is the Hindi New Wave.

“This new generation is making films because they want to make films, not because they want to make money,” says Anurag Kashyap, the undeclared pioneer of the Hindi New Wave. At 37, Kashyap has directed seven motion pictures across all genres – think Steven Soderbergh in the 90’s. Kashyap plays by his own rules. And now, both Hollywood and Bollywood are chasing after him wanted a piece of the action. Danny Boyle hired Kashyap as a consultant on Slumdog Millionaire after seeing the slum sequences of his terrorist-themed film Black Friday. Kashyap recently signed an unprecedented nine-picture deal with UTV Motion Pictures, the most progressive film studio in India. With more than 30 credits to his name as writer, director and producer, Kashyap leads an army of creative rebels behind him. “There are the new voices of the new people.”

In 2009 Kashyap’s Dev. D broke into Bollywood and created mayhem with its revolutionary style and controversial content. A clever reinvention of the classic Bengali tale Devdas, the film explores themes and storyline previously taboo in India. An alcoholic spinster trolls drugs and prostitutes on the dark streets of Delhi. A young schoolgirl is ostracized by her friends and family after her sex video circulate around the country. The film was a forceful punch to the face of Bollywood bubblegum. Kashyap describes the origins with his collaborator and leading actor, Abhay Deol: “Abhay told me a story he wanted to do about a man who falls in love with a stripper, and this guy was self-destructive like Devdas.” Adds Deol, “No one had ever imagined this modern spin on the classical tale. At its core, the film is about addiction, a theme as relevant today as ever.” Made for under a million dollars, Dev. D gave voice to the angst of the country’s youth and became an instant cult classic.

“We went from having only one TV station that would play for only two hours a day to the 24-hour programming of MTV,” explains Deol, citing the opening up of the Indian economy in 1991 as a major influence on the new filmmakers’ credo. “Our generation saw the transition happen in our lifetimes.” In addition to Dev. De, actor- producer-youth icon Abhay Deol stars in several groundbreaking films including the international co-production Road, Movie and the darkly comedy Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! The latter is co-written and directed by the third axis of the New Wave, visionary filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee.

Born and raised in Delhi, Banerjee wowed audiences with his first two films, Khosla Ka Ghosla! Portrays a suburban family terrorized by an underworld landowner who lays claim to their abode. Oye Lucky! Charts the incredible rise and fall of one of Delhi’s more notorious thieves. But nothing could prepare audiences for his last venture, LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, a shocking portrait of India’s modern youth. The first digital feature produced in India, LSD follows three desperate and disparate tales, all told via the protagonists’ cameras. In the first, an aspiring filmmaker directs a campy Bollywood remake, falls in love with his lead actress, and finds his life in danger when they elope in the real world. The second, shot entirely in the pharmacy from the POV of security cameras, follows the store supervisor as he manipulates his female co-worker into unknowingly starring with him in a sex tape to pay off his debts. Peeking out from hidden cameras, the third film follows a reality-show reporter collaborating with an ex-model to catch a leading pop star in a video sting operation. The genius of the film unfolds in how the stories are woven together, the final disturbing picture becoming clearer at every step. It’s a brilliant cinematic experience, a film whose psychology is as rich as the best of today’s international cinema.

The beauty of the New Wave filmmakers is that though they are provocative in their content, their sensibility is distinctly Indian. There is song and dance in Dev D; it is just under a black light with pop-and lockers from London. There is romance in LSD, but it is manipulative, desperate, and complex. And Abhay’s heroes are disillusioned and angry. India is a young country, with nearly 70 percent of the population under 30. And they are coming out in droves to support the new cinema that reflects a closer reality to their own.

Slumdog kicked open the doors in Indian-themed stories around the world, but it was still a British and American production,” admits Kashyap. Deol adds, “The true change will have to come within.” Like Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg of the American ‘70’s, Kashyap, Banerjee, and Deol boldly tackle contemporary issues that resonate with their country’s restless youth. And like the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls that came before them, theirs are not art house films. This is the new mainstream cinema in India. While Bollywood’s shimmering glitz fades across the world, the Hindi New Wave is poised to explode onto the global cinema stage. If people around the world think Slumdog Millionaire is the real India, they have no idea what’s about to him them.

‘Road, Movie’ first Hindi film to go to Tribeca: Abhay Deol

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Courtesy of Real Bollywood

New Delhi, March 4 – Having already traversed the world festival circuit in places such as Berlin, Tokyo, Toronto and Doha, Abhay Deol’s ‘Road, Movie’ has been selected for the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The movie is the first Hindi movie to go to the fest, said the actor.

‘The New York Times has confirmed that we are also in for the Tribeca Film Festival, New York. It’s the first Hindi movie to be selected there,’ said Abhay.

‘Of all the movies, it’s the first time that a foreign film has been selected there,’ said producer Susan B.Landau.

Co-produced by Ross Katz and Landau, the 95-minute Indo-American film has been directed by Dev Benegal. It also stars Tannishtha Chatterjee, Satish Kaushik and debutant Mohammed Faizal Usmani.

Abhay and Landau were in the capital Thursday evening with Usmani to promote the film at the PVR Anupam, Saket. The meet was followed by a special screening of the movie for underprivileged kids organised by the Salaam Balak Trust.

Founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in response to the Sep 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, the annual New York festival begins April 21 and will run until May 2.

IANS

Bollywood Soars Toward Hollywood

In Uncategorized on March 9, 2010 at 4:45 PM

A still from “Peepli Live”

Courtesy of The New York Times

By Anupama Chopra

LITTLE about “Kites” suggests “Rush Hour.” An extravagant Bollywood romantic thriller, “Kites” features the Indian star Hrithik Roshan and the Mexican actress Barbara Mori as mismatched lovers who can’t speak each other’s language and end up on the run in New Mexico.

But last October, when the director Brett Ratner saw an unfinished version at a screening in Los Angeles, he found echoes of “Rush Hour,” his own Jackie ChanChris Tuckersmash hit. “It was two characters that were fish out of water,” Mr. Ratner said in a telephone interview, “only here it was an Indian and a Mexican. I’m not saying that ‘Kites’ will be the box office hit that ‘Rush Hour’ was, but I felt it had the potential to cross over to American audiences.”

So Mr. Ratner, who until then had seen only a few Hindi films, offered to re-edit “Kites” and make it more accessible for mainstream America. Working with Mark Helfrich, his editor on the “Rush Hour” series and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Mr. Ratner pared the 118-minute film to 90 minutes. He lost some of the elements that “just wouldn’t translate,” including a song sequence featuring Mr. Roshan, and had the dialogue for all the characters, except the two leads, dubbed by American voices.

On May 21 the original Hindi version and Mr. Ratner’s reworked English version of “Kites” will be released simultaneously globally, receiving a much bigger push than is typical for an Indian movie in the United States.

“For me it’s about breaking barriers,” Mr. Roshan said in Mumbai. “The larger goal, the big dream, is to have an Indian film being watched by a world market.”

Bollywood already has a world market. Indian cinema has an annual estimated audience of over three billion worldwide. South Asians are avid consumers, as are viewers in countries as varied as Germany, Malaysia and South Korea. But the world’s largest film market, the United States, has remained impervious to the seductions of song and dance. “There are essentially two kinds of audiences in the West: mass and niche,” said Nasreen Munni Kabir, a documentary filmmaker and authority on Indian cinema. “The mass audience wants English-language films with known stars and familiar story lines. The niche audience accustomed to world cinema accepts subtitles, slightly longer films and unfamiliar actors. But these films must reflect a cultural, political and social reality of their country. Bollywood films by their very nature do not fit into either category.”

That state of affairs is beginning to change, thanks in large part to the staggering success of “Slumdog Millionaire.” Hollywood studios have made significant investments in Bollywood (with a few missteps along the way) and wouldn’t mind their Indian movies translating around the world. It also helps that the definition of Bollywood has become more elastic. No longer a monolithic style that denotes stars, songs and melodrama, Bollywood has also come to encompass something else; over the last decade new filmmakers have tweaked the traditional form so that Hindi cinema also includes films without songs that are stark and rooted in contemporary Indian realities.

Even established filmmakers are willing to break boundaries. So in the recently released “My Name Is Khan” the director Karan Johar forgoes his trademark opulent songs and feel-good emotions for a more grim subject: the plight of American Muslims post-9/11. Bollywood’s biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan, plays the lead, a man with Asperger’s syndrome, who embarks on a journey to meet the American president, after his family is devastated by a hate crime. The film, which was largely shot in America and features extensive English dialogue, is the first Hindi film to be distributed by Fox Searchlight. The opening box office was solid — “My Name Is Khan” ranked 13th on the United States charts, with nearly $2 million, but with a per-screen average higher than that of the Presidents’ Day weekend’s box office leader, “Valentine’s Day” — and Fox is currently exploring options of releasing a shortened international version. (The movie has now made nearly $3.4 million in the United States, one of the best showings for a Bollywood film there.)

Even as overblown Bollywood extravaganzas are being reworked to suit more minimalist Western palates, smaller, grittier Hindi films are making inroads via the festival route. In January “Peepli Live,” a low-budget black comedy about farmer suicides in central India, became the first Hindi film selected for competition at Sundance. In February “Peepli Live” screened at the Berlin Film Festival, alongside another crossover candidate: “Road, Movie.” A whimsical tale of a traveling cinema in rural India, “Road, Movie” was co-produced by Ross Katz, whose credits include the Oscar-nominated “Lost in Translation.” Fortissimo Films acquired distribution rights last year (another first for a Hindi film) and, according to Mr. Katz, “Road, Movie” should reach United States theaters later this year.

He acknowledged that getting people to attend a subtitled Hindi film might be tricky, but the crowd-pleasing nature of the film might help. “ ‘Road, Movie’ is a celebration of the movies,” Mr. Katz said in a telephone interview. “There is an infectious quality in the film, which hopefully will translate to global audiences.”

It’s doubtful that any of these films will pull off a “Slumdog”-style success, but there’s hope for making bigger inroads in the United States. Rakesh Roshan, who produced “Kites,” was cautiously optimistic as he supervised the sound mix of the Hindi-language “Kites” at a recording studio in Mumbai. “I think we haven’t been able to make a ‘Crouching Tiger’ so far because you need guts, and you need a vision,” he said. “Maybe ‘Kites’ won’t work, but at least we took a step forward.”

Meanwhile Mr. Ratner has already figured out his next move: “I would love to make a movie in Bollywood,” he said. “I would do American stars in an Indian musical. That’s my idea.”

Tribeca Film Group Tries to Build a Distribution Brand of Its Own

In DJ Sumie on March 3, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Courtesy of The New York Times

By Michael Cieply

LOS ANGELES — Entering its ninth year, the Tribeca Film Festival is set to become associated with a new venture to distribute films digitally and in theaters under the Tribeca name. It is also embarking on another initiative to make some offerings available online to the paying public at the same time that they are screening at the festival.

The dual strategy, disclosed by Tribeca executives this week, puts this Manhattan-based festival and its corporate parent, Tribeca Enterprises, in the thick of a fight to revive the faltering independent film world with new distribution schemes. Those are typically built around video-on-demand operations and have often traded on the cachet of film festivals, including Sundance and South by Southwest.

Just this week, one such service, FilmBuff, said it had acquired the right to show a pair of films, “Erasing David” and “Crying With Laughter,” on iTunes and Amazon.com, simultaneously with their premieres at South by Southwest, in Austin, Tex., later this month.

But Tribeca’s foray stands out as a particularly bold effort to combine the promotional pop of a major festival — which gets marketing support from American Express, a longtime partner — with a new distributor that will acquire and release movies under the name Tribeca Film, even if they have no direct connection to the festival.

“This is about getting as many eyeballs on that film as possible,” said Jane Rosenthal, a producer and Tribeca co-founder, who discussed the plan in a telephone interview.

Ms. Rosenthal said she expected the new distribution venture — which has backing from the investor Jonathan Tisch, a member of the Tribeca Enterprises board, and his Walnut Hill Media group — to release 10 films a year. It will focus on video-on-demand distribution, but sometimes, at least, it will include a theatrical release in commercial theaters.

Five of the new venture’s first releases, Ms. Rosenthal said, are to be distributed simultaneously with their showings at the Tribeca Film Festival, which runs from April 21 to May 2. Those include “Climate of Change,” a documentary about environmental activism narrated by Tilda Swinton, and “Road, Movie,” a film by the director Dev Benegal that tells the story of a road trip in India.

Ms. Rosenthal founded the Tribeca festival with her husband, Craig Hatkoff, and her business partner, Robert DeNiro, in 2002, to help revive Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 terror attacks.

She has talked for years about turning the festival into a platform for the distribution of at least some of the thousands of independent films produced each year. But she and her partners only recently struck deals with cable and telecom operators like Comcast, Cablevision and Verizon FiOS to distribute movies on a pay-per-view basis to about 40 million households. Those films will be available for a period of at least 60 days, Ms. Rosenthal said.

Separately, the Tribeca festival is expected to make a number of feature films, shorts and filmmaker events available to 5,000 purchasers of an online premium pass that will cost $45.

Geoff Gilmore, who was the director of the Sundance festival before joining Tribeca Enterprises as its chief creative officer last year, said that such efforts were needed to keep film festivals from losing their appeal at a time when independent movie-making has been troubled by the collapse of traditional financiers and distributors like Miramax Films and Warner Independent Pictures.

“Festivals don’t have the kind of promotional force they might have had a decade ago,” Mr. Gilmore said.

He acknowledged that it would take time to find a balance between the commercial purpose of Tribeca Film and the curatorial function of the festival, but described such accommodations as necessary.

“It has to do with the changing nature of what a festival does,” he added.

At the Sundance festival in January, YouTube introduced a movie rental option that offered five films, including “One Too Many Mornings” and “Bass Ackwards,” as soon as they had festival premieres. Sundance has also made films available via cable and satellite on-demand services through a program called Sundance Selects.

Cablevision’s Rainbow Media, which owns the Sundance Channel and IFC, has aggressively promoted on-demand arrangements that have increasingly supplanted a theatrical release for less expensive films.

Ms. Rosenthal said that Tribeca had not yet decided how its films would be handled theatrically, though she said the company’s emphasis would be digital media, including DVDs.

Reached by telephone this week, John Sloss, a lawyer and filmmaker representative who helped to found FilmBuff through his interest in Cinetic Rights Management, said he welcomed the proliferation of on-demand services.

“I think it’s a good thing all the way around,” Mr. Sloss said. He noted that FilmBuff, which operates both online and through cable operators, was intended to offer both old and new films, while avoiding association with any one festival or library.

“Trusted filters are going to become more and more critical,” he said.

Take a Journey with ‘Road, Movie’… Opening in India!

In E. Nina Rothe on March 1, 2010 at 5:13 PM

Courtesy of The Ajnabee

By E. Nina Rothe

On March 5th, those lucky enough to live in my favorite land on earth will be privy to the countrywide release of the highly anticipated Dev Benegal film ‘Road, Movie’. The movie has been beloved by all who have seen it do the rounds of film festivals and has had quite a few awards bestowed upon it by juries around the world. For North America, we will have to wait until April/May for the release. My hunch tells me it will be at Tribeca Film Festival here in NYC, right before its theatrical distribution by Fortissimo Films

Director Dev Benegal wrote recently, in his FB update: “Road, Movie in Cinemas across India: Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Baroda, Surat, Rajkot, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Mani Majra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Indore, Nagpur, Kolkatta, Guwahati, Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad, Goa. To begin with…” so you have no excuses not to catch it if near to any of those extensive locales.

Back in September, I wrote a short piece about it right here on The Ajnabee which also included the trailer and a synopsis of the story. So click on the link above for all the info you may wish to know and if you need extra incentives to go watch this film I have been chomping at the bit to see. I leave you to stare at the hunky photo of Abhay Deol casually sporting his cool pink t-shirt, leaning against the turquoise/yellow truck with the Rajastani sky in the background.

Image courtesy of Studio 18

Check out this fly video from the film!


Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie to open Generation 14Plus in 60th Berlinale

In DJ Sumie on January 21, 2010 at 6:02 PM

Courtesy of Dear Cinema

The Generation 14plus competition of the 60th edition of the Berlianle will open with Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie. In this moving homage to the mobile cinema culture of India, the director pays tribute to the place where screen, light and audience come together in a magical event.

From melodrama to science fiction and musical – in the 33rd year of its existence, Generation has a broad cinematic range. “There’s not just one experience of childhood or adolescence and there are many ways to make a film about it,” says section director Maryanne Redpath in view of the 56 short and feature films in the Generation programme.

With Alamar, a documentary fiction will kick off the Generation Kplus competition for the first time. Rhythmically, with the water, wind and waves, director Pedro González-Rubio carries us off to a nature reserve in the Mexican Caribbean and intimately documents the relationship between a father and son. “Generation is marking the anniversary of the Berlinale with a programme full of contrasts. We want to celebrate this difference,” says Maryanne Redpath.

The Generation programme comprises 28 feature length films (among them ten world premieres and five international premieres) and 28 short films from 31 countries:

Generation Kplus – Feature films

Alamar by Pedro González-Rubio, Mexico 2009

Bestevenner (Rafiki) by Christian Lo, Norway 2009 (IP)

Boy by Taika Waititi, New Zealand 2010

Iep! (Eep!) by Ellen Smit, The Netherlands/Belgium 2009 (WP)

Knerten by Åsleik Engmark, Norway 2009 (IP)

La Pivellina by Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel, Austria/Italy 2009

Shui Yuet Sun Tau (Echoes of the Rainbow) by Alex Law, Hong Kong, China 2009 (WP)

Sukunsa viimeinen (Last of the Line) by Anastasia Lapsui & Markku Lehmuskallio, Finland 2010 (WP)

Superbror (Superbrother) by Birger Larsen, Denmark 2009 (IP)

Susa by Rusudan Pirveli, Georgia 2010

This Way of Life by Thomas Burstyn, New Zealand/Canada 2009 (IP)

Uchū Show e Yōkoso (Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW) by Koji Masunari, Japan 2009 (WP)

Yeo-haeng-ja (A Brand New Life) by Ounie Lecomte, Republic of Korea/France 2009

Yuki & Nina by Nobuhiro Suwa & Hippolyte Girardot, France/Japan 2009

Generation Kplus – Short Films

Apollo by Felix Gönnert, Germany 2010

Avós (Grandmothers) by Michael Wahrmann, Brazil 2009

Burvīga diena (Wonderful Day) by Nils Skapāns, Latvia 2010

Derevo Detstva (Childhood Mystery Tree) by Natalia Mirzoyan, Russian Federation 2009

Drona & ik (Drona & me) by Catherine van Campen, The Netherlands 2009

Fløjteløs (Whistleless) by Siri Melchior, Denmark/Great Britain/Sweden 2009

Franswa Sharl by Hannah Hilliard, Australia 2009

I-Do-Air by Martina Amati, Great Britain 2009

Indigo by Jack Price, Great Britain 2009

Jacco’s Film by Daan Bakker, The Netherlands 2009

Kozya Hatka (Goat’s House) by Marina Karpova, Russian Federation 2009

Masala Mama by Michael Kam, Singapore 2009

Munaralli (The Egg Race) by Kaisa Penttilä, Finland 2009

Sinna Mann (Angry Man) by Anita Killi, Norway 2009

Sol skin (Sun shine) by Alice de Champfleury, Denmark 2009

The Six Dollar Fifty Man by Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland, New Zealand 2009

Generation 14plus – Feature Films

Bran Nue Dae by Rachel Perkins, Australia 2009

Dooman River by Zhang Lu, Republic of Korea/France 2009 (WP)

Gentlemen Broncos by Jared Hess, USA 2009

Joy by Mijke de Jong, The Netherlands 2010 (WP)

Les Nuits de Sister Welsh (Sister Welsh’s Nights) by Jean-Claude Janer, France 2009 (WP)

Neukölln Unlimited by Agostino Imondi & Dietmar Ratsch, Germany 2009 (WP)

Os famosos e os duendes da morte (The Famous And The Dead) by Esmir Filho, Brazil/France 2009

Retratos en un mar de mentiras (Portraits In A Sea Of Lies) by Carlos Gaviria, Colombia 2009 (WP)

Road, Movie by Dev Benegal, India/USA 2009

Sebbe by Babak Najafi, Sweden 2010 (IP)

SUMMER WARS by Mamoru Hosoda, Japan 2009

Te extraño (I Miss You) by Fabián Hofman, Mexico/Argentina 2010 (WP)

Vihir (The Well) by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, India 2009

Youth in Revolt by Miguel Arteta, USA 2009

Generation 14plus – Short Films

Älä kuiskaa ystävän suuhun (Whispering in a Friend’s Mouth) by Hannaleena Hauru, Finland 2009

Az Bad Beporsid (Ask The Wind) by Batin Ghobadi, Iran 2009

Corduroy by Hugh O’Conor, Ireland 2009

I’m Here by Spike Jonze, USA 2010

Juzipi de wendu (The Warmth Of Orange Peel) by Huang Ji, People’s Republic of China 2009

Megaheavy by Fenar Ahmad, Denmark 2009

Mi otra mitad (My Other Half) by Beatriz M. Sanchís, Spain 2009

Ønskebørn (Out of Love) by Brigitte Stærmose, Denmark 2009

Poi Dogs by Joel Moffett, USA 2009

Redemption by Katie Wolfe, New Zealand 2010

Siemiany by Philip James McGoldrick, Belgium 2009

Zero by Leo Woodhead, New Zealand 2010

Dev Benegal’s Road, Movie (2009) Starring Abhay Deol, Tannishtha Chatterjee, and Satish Kaushik Releases in February 2010

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2009 at 1:32 PM

Courtesy of Washington Bangla Radio

By Cineover

Delhi born Abhay Deol, a cousin of Sunny, Bobby, Esha and Ahana Deol, is the son of Punjabi movie maker Ajit Deol, who is a brother of veteran Indian cinema hero Dharmendra. Abhay has established himself as an acclaimed actor in parallel cinema and indie movies, with powerful performances in  Dev D, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Manorama Six Feet Under. In Dev Benegal’s movie with the self-referential title “Road, Movie” Abhay plays the role of a young man disgruntled by his bleak future prospects decides to drive long-distance across Indian back roads in a barely functional truck, giving rides to a myriad of interesting characters.

Also starring in Road, Movie are Tannishtha Chatterjee and Satish Kaushik, of Brick Lane (2007) fame.

Director Dev Benegal with producers Susan B. Landau and Ross Katz (Lost in Translation, In The Bedroom) have captured some of the fantastic grandeur of the Indian landscape, its people and culture in a unique concept movie. This is the third film by Benegal.

Road, Movie premiered at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2009. It will be released in India on Feb 26, 2010. 

The Journey on the Road

In Aseem Chhabra on September 29, 2009 at 12:25 PM

Courtesy of Mumbai Mirror
roadmovieSep 27, 2009 by Aseem Chhabra

There is a story about Buddha when, as Prince Siddhartha, he set out on a journey during which he encountered three men – one old, the other two sick and poor – and then a corpse. This led him to give up his riches and seek the meaning of life. In Walter Salles’s The Motorcycle Diaries a young Ernesto Guevara de la Serna set off on a similar journey, with the intent of having fun, especially experiencing the company of women. But along the way he encountered poverty and the harsh realities of the underprivileged in Latin America. This discovery made him change the course of his life, leading him eventually to become the hero of the Cuban Revolution.

I thought of these two journeys last week, while watching Dev Benegal’s haunting and visually stunning film Road, Movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. In the film, Benegal’s protagonist Vishnu (Abhay Deol, in a far quieter and introspective role after his showy performances in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Dev D) travels through a mythical landscape in India, traversing across the desert in Rajasthan and the salt lands of Kutch.

dev-benegal-1But Benegal (English, August and Split Wide Open) does not start the film with lofty and visionary goals for Vishnu.  The man is escaping his father’s dying hair oil business and finds something else to preoccupy himself – a favour to drive a broken down truck with old movie projectors and film reels. Along the way Vishnu meets several colourful characters – including a young boy (Mohammed Faizal), an old man (Satish Kaushik in his career best performance) and a gypsy woman (the seductive Tannishtha Chaterjee, who is fast becoming the leading lady of the Indian indie cinema).

They set off on a colourful magical mystery tour in the truck, and share experiences that may not happen in the realm of reality. There is reality in the film and then beyond, but it is all very satisfying for the senses. Benegal’s travellers stop to show movies to villagers, allowing them to dream and escape from their harsh state of poverty and desperate shortage of water.

Vishnu’s three travelling companions play diverse roles in his journey. The child reminds him of simple pleasures of life, innocence and the importance of a sense of humour. The old man, a fatherly figure who helps guide him through the rough terrains of his internal and external journey, gives him advice on life lessons. And the woman shows Vishnu his caring, sensitive side, in addition to seducing him.

roadmovie_03Also during this journey Vishnu sees a group of women walking long distances in search of water. The women are like a Greek chorus, or the Goddess of Rajasthan, appearing in the film in the far-off landscape, but watching and never letting Vishnu get completely lost. He is tested but never allowed to fail completely. Vishnu does not become Buddha in the end, but he certainly feels in control of his destiny.

Life lessons apart, Road, Movie is a very funny film. It has a terrific and a witty script written by Benegal and is tightly directed. Benegal’s narrative is aided by bright upbeat soundtrack by Michael Brook (a collaborator with Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan, who also composed for a number of films, including Sean Penn’s Into The Wild), and stunning camerawork by Michel Mathieu. The film is full of so many visual wow moments – large expanse of landscape, the overbearing desert and the magical truck, peppered with the colourful costumes of the characters.

roadmovie_04There are moments when we feel the truck is within us and the audience is on the same journey with Vishnu and his co-passengers. And then there are moments of stillness, such as when the four characters first step on the salt land in Kutch. That single shot takes your breath away.

Finally Road, Movie is Benegal’s homage to the magical world of cinema. The film is full of charming and sometimes hilarious movie clips, and a playful version of a classic Bollywood song that will surely have the audience smiling as it leaves the theatre.