Ram Gopal Varma and his production house are usually thought of as the most innovative and inventive group of filmmakers this side of the globe. With their latest production Road they keep up their end of the bargain in making a film which is definitely different; however there is room for a lot of improvement. Borrowing influences from Hollywood flicks like The Hitcher, Breakdown and Duel, the films script is completely original. Director Rajat Mukherjee last wowed us with his debut effort Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya which was shot stylishly and did decent business. Hopefully Road does the same, but it seems a little unlikely.
The story starts off with Arvind (Vivek Oberoi) and Laxmi (Antra Mali), two young lovers who decide to elope. On their way to their destination they come across some crazy characters. They also pick up a hitchhiker, Babu (Manoj Bajpai), who turns their life upside down. After entering their car he smokes, despite Laxmi´s allergies to smoke, changes the music in the car, and begs them to stop for food. It´s obvious Babu is an eccentric person, but things go haywire when he pulls a gun on Arvind and forces him out of the car.
Babu kidnaps Laxmi and takes off leaving Arvind stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no help. Luckily with the help of a Sunny Deol wannabe truck driver named Inderpal (Makhrand Deshpande) he is able to catch up to Babu and Laxmi, rescuing the girl and continuing on their trip. But just as you think things are going to be ok Babu shows up again and flees with Arvind´s Tata Safari EX and his girl. The rest of the movie becomes one long and sometimes boring chase to save Laxmi from Babu.
Road falters on several accounts but the most obvious is the script/screenplay. Rajneesh Takhur´s content captivates for the first half of the film, but he slowly looses it after the interval. There are several glitches in the script. Babu says he doesn´t know how to drive, but he somehow manages to maneuver the car for most of the second half. And how does he get into Arvind´s jeep, or even into Inderpal´s truck for that matter. The first half of the film moves as fast as the car on the road with the couple eloping, the introductions of various characters (Vijay Raaz, Makhrand Deshpande and Rajpal Yadav) and two kidnappings. The second half slowly disintegrates. The story´s outcome is obvious but the least they could have done is make it interesting.
While the chase scenes do excite for the most part the second half drags. Ram Gopal Varma´s touch is evident especially in the songs, while Rajat Mukherjee´s direction for the movie is at times typical, and at times intriguing. However, one thing needs to be said, the film oozes style from frame to frame. Songs are shot with style and at breakneck speed especially Toofan Sa. Sudeep Chatterji does a good job with his camera work. He captures the flat desert terrain with style and his camera angles add dimension to the film. The music may have seemed boring at first, but with visuals it improves considerably. The songs are a highlight, although they do slow the progress in the plot. Amar Mohile´s background music is simply fantastic and really brings the movie to life. It adds tension to the scenes when needed and is very well done.
When the film was first launched Saif Ali Khan and Urmila were considered for the leading roles. After viewing the film we´re much happier that Rajat Mukherjee cast a couple who fit the character´s ages and mannerisms much more effectively. Vivek Oberoi gets sidelined heavily in the second half. This film does not have the scope for performance as Company did, but here Vivek shows he can be a typical hero as well. He gets to fight, dance and romance and does it with conviction. He has a great screen presence in the first half, but almost disappears till the climax in the second half. Antra Mali does a good job flexing some acting muscles and stripping down to almost nothing in the songs. Her body is an obvious asset and Rajat Mukherjee cashes in on it. Still she leaves an impression, however she needs to work on her facial expressions in some of the songs. Her chemistry with both Manoj Bajpai and Vivek Oberoi is good.
Manoj Bajpai overplays Babu to the hilt. In the initial portions he is a welcome addition to the plot, but in the last hour of the film he gets plain annoying. He makes Babu too dramatic of a character, at points becoming unintentionally comic. The audience doesn´t sympathize with him at all. However one needs to say that he is very funny in the picturization of Pehli Nazaar Mein which may have been unneeded but is still a delight to watch because of the comedic elements. The supporting cast doesn´t get more than a scene or two. Makhrand Deshpande and Rajpal Yadav add comic relief without overdoing it. Vijay Raaz and Raj Zutshi´s characters are not needed so they leave no impression. Koena Mitra and Ganesh Acharya make a special appearance in Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karen which is excellently picturized. But one can´t help chuckle at the backup dancers and Ganesh who makes a very odd pairing with Koena. And as far as Koena goes, she writhes to her hearts delight and looks great doing it.
So what´s the verdict? Well the movie tries to be different but really doesn´t offer anything truly new except for the way it has been shot. Shot with a lot of technical finesse, the script lets down in the second half. The film makes good viewing but has no repeat value whatsoever. Antra Mali and Vivek Oberoi are delights to watch although they are sidelined by Manoj Bajpai who hams it up towards the end. Road will take you on a rollercoaster ride, with plenty of ups and downs, but only some will find it truly enjoyable.