A lot goes into making a good road film — nuanced performances, beautiful landscapes, a fluid background score, an arresting plot. But at its heart, there is always a journey that takes you towards your subconscious.
Though Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salmaan and Mithila Palkar’s latest film, Karwaan, tries hard to weave in their characters’ personal journeys into the one that they are forced to take together through south India, it somehow doesn't touch the right chords.
Karwaan has a weak foundation — characters are struggling, their woes seem banal and their attempts at a resolution forced. Though they grow through the film, but only too predictably, reducing the movie to a shadow of what it could have been.
Karwaan marks the Bollywood debut of Dulquer and Mithila — one, already a star in Malayalam and another, a web sensation — both with immense untapped talent. It also has Irrfan in one of his most unlike Irrfan roles. It is painful to see him, who was brilliantly effervescent in Piku, play the third wheel.
Despite its skilled star-cast, Karwaan, instead of being the journey of a lifetime, is a forgettable trip, one among the many that Bollywood keeps offering its viewers every once in a while a la Finding Fanny, Traffic, Road, Movie.
Unlike Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Highway, two of Bollywood’s most memorable contemporary road films, Karwaan does a shoddy job of using travel as a metaphor for self discovery. Plus there are way too many references.
For instance, the scenes depicting Dulquer’s monotonous corporate IT job are straight out of the lives of Imtiaz Ali’s dissatisfied heroes. Remember Saif Ali Khan in Love Aaj Kal, Ranbir Kapoor in Tamasha and Shah Rukh Khan in Jab Harry Met Sejal? All eating alone, looking in the mirror, unsuccessfully trying to smile? You'll see them one more time.
Even his conflict with his father over his choice of career, Mithila’s unfounded teenage angst, Irrfan’s uncouth buffoon — all overplayed stereotypical tropes — are at full play in this film without much success.
Often mistaken as a tried-and-tested formula, road films can be tricky to deal with. Karwaan serves as the latest example.