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Road: a character driven journey
Nov 24, 2002 02:15 AM 1978 Views
(Updated Nov 24, 2002 02:15 AM)





The climax of the film sums up everything that is great about Road. The villain Manoj Bajpai is sprawled on the sandy dune, bloodied and cowering before the hero Vivek Oberoi, who's vengeful and ferocious. The heroine Antara Mali stands beside the hero and after the villian condemns her betrayal with gasping breaths, she lets out a small smile, at once smug and vindictive. It is this three dimensional approach towards the characters that impressed me the most about Road. The concept being what it is, needed a cast that would gell convincingly and in the star cast, director Rajat Mukherjee was truly blessed. The talented Vivek and the fabulous Antara had a chemistry that is unique and spell-binding. They convey the familiarity of an already long-standing relationship with ease and humour and yet the intensity of their love cannot be doubted. They are at once playful and passionate and this combination is crucial to the believabilty of the story.

When Manoj Bajpai is added to the mix, the story becomes volatile and explosive. Bajpai handles his role with a delicacy and intelligence that is rare in Bollywood these days. The fine line between sanity and insanity is crossed and recrossed, and the villian goes from being witty and likeable one minute to aggressive and menacing the next. When Babu kidnaps Laxmi, he is captivated by her beauty and what he perceives as her uniqueness. She is strong, where most women would be screaming hysterically or crying uncontrollably and she is sexy, even dressed in casual jeans and a trendy top. For her part, Lamxmi is fascinated by Babu, she smiles at his jokes and even when he is threatening her, she secretly admires his directness and control. She is repulsed by his actions and yet she is flattered by his obvious attraction to her.

So when the climax comes round the audience is left to guess which man she will aid and much credit must go to Antara Mali for portraying this ambiguity so convincingly. She chooses Arvind and we see yet another metamorphosis. Arvind, the hero, has gone from being the do-gooder boyfriend to an agrressive, ruthless man. When Babu grabs Laxmi and threatens her with a blow to the skull with his gun, Arvind menacingly goads him on, calling his bluff. This scene is a marked difference to an earlier scene where Arvind backs off at the sight of a gun pointed to Laxmi's head. Arvind and Babu have in essence, switched sides, Babu becoming the lovesick, vulnerable man and Arvind the ruthless and in control man. Laxmi then gets the best of both worlds, and the passionate exchange between the two lovers as Babu lies beaten and bloodied before them underlines the enjoyment both get out of his plight. Babu belatedly realises that he has met his match, in both Arvind and Laxmi and is helpless as he watches the couple swagger off in each others arms, taunting him as they go.

It is in the actors execution of their roles that Road triumphs without question. Despite the occasional flaws like badly placed songs and an overlong middle section, the movie pushes the boundaries of conventional Hindi cinema. While the background music, the cinematography and the taut script are all remarkable, Road could have easily ended up as an over-ambitious, half-baked movie if the casting had not been up to the mark. As it is, the real journey in Road, is one into the pysche of the characters and it is an exciting, exhilarating and thoroughly refreshing journey.

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