Ashes on a Road Trip
Cast: Mohan Agashe, Pradeep Joshi, Ajit Abhyankar, Amey Wagh, Geetanjali Kulkarni
We have seen movies that explore how grief brings out the worst in man. Mourners at a funereal are known to speak their minds, and we find long-hidden skeletons tumble out of the cupboard. The 1998 Cannes title, Patrice Chereau’s Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train, is a classic example of how people blurt out uncomfortable truths or fume at injustices they have been nursing. Chereau’s work takes us to the funereal of a minor painter, and his relatives gather at his twin brother’s home, where long buried secrets are openly tossed around.
Mangesh Joshi’s Ashes on a Road Trip, which just had its world premiere at the ongoing Tokyo International Film Festival, is a subtle but powerful look at how human relationships begin to break after a death.
Puru Dada is gone, and his three younger brothers, Satish Karkhanis (Mohan Agashe), Pradeep Karkhanis (Pradeep Joshi) and Ajit Karkhanis (Ajit Abhyankar), begin the rituals of cremation. Puru on his death bed had expressed his wish to have his ashes buried in their ancestral home and fields. So, the three men set out in a van driven by Dada’s son, Om Karkhanis (Amey Wagh). They are accompanied by their sister, Sadhana Karkhanis (Geetanjali Kulkarni).
The movie turns into an adventure-filled road trip, sweetly poignant at times and punishingly painful at other. There are moments of hilarity when Pradeep gets into the wrong van at a petrol station and is nearly roughed up by the vehicle owner. The old man, the young owner assumes, was trying to tease his wife, but poor Pradeep, who suffers from memory losses, is bewildered.
There are moments of deep sorrow at a memorial meet, where Dada’s kind gestures are praised by those who received his noble help.
Later as the van speeds on lonely highways carrying the urn of ashes, Sadhana demands that the envelope, presumably containing his will, be opened – much against Dada’s wishes. He had explicitly stated that the cover must not be opened before his ashes were buried. And there is a good reason for this, as the climax will reveal.
In the meantime, Sadhana is making plans to buy a flat out of the money she feels Dada would have left her, and Om, caught in a relationship with a girl he had got pregnant, thinks that his father’s money would help him set up a motor garage. Ajit, who has been living in America for years, is facing a messy divorce, and Dada’s money can see him out.
Writers Joshi and Archana Borhade (who is also the DOP) keep us guessing till the end about Dada’s will. And Ashes on a Road Trip scores here, but where it falters is poor production values. Probably, not enough funds were available, but the movie makes up for this with a brilliant piece of performance by Agashe, but of course. As the recent patriarch of the family, he conveys anguish and disappointment with sombre dignity and silences.
(Author, commentator and movie critic Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Tokyo International Film Festival for several years)