Road movies as a genre is something I've always enjoyed, because it's a journey of self-realization for the characters involved, of setting off on the less beaten path, of challenging oneself and the absorption of experience through what life decides to throw at you. But only if you're willing to be that sponge, otherwise you're in for one miserable time unless you learn what's essentially to wing it and take things on the chin.
For Vishnu (Abhay Deol), he's troubled with his life heading nowhere, and that his family business, Atma Hair Oil, isn't as lucrative as his dad had envisioned. He decides to take a 6 day road trip by driving on behalf of his uncle, a rickety 1942 beat up truck which had seen better days, one that his uncle is proud of in being the ultimate travelling cinema, complete with two 35mm projectors, a large white sheet to be used as a screen, and a library of classic films from both Bollywood and Hollywood.
But of course Vishnu's plan isn't to become a travelling cinema operator, nor to sell bottles of Atma Hair Oil which his dad had thrust upon him to do so. It's a matter of escape and hopefully through the journey to discover his destiny, and little does he know that the episodes that he's going to encounter, would alter his heartless temperament, sour attitude, and that general feeling of being lost in the crowd.
In essence, it's a film about friendship gained through life's experiences and in finding happiness with friends and the situations we find ourselves in. For Vishnu's case, it's befriending (and this guy takes an extremely long time to warm up to people) a smart-arse kid (Mohammed Faisal Usmani) whom he grudgingly accepted to hitchhike from a pit stop for tea, a mechanic and general technician Om (Sathish Kaushik) who actually bails Vishnu out from countless of technical situations no thanks to the condition of the truck, and a gypsy girl (Tannishta Chatterjee) who's part of a tribe on a journey of her own to look for precious water, with whom he falls in love with.
And the incidents that writer-director Dev Benegal crafted was wonderfully varied, which ensured that you're kept engaged throughout this odyssey, from a run in with corrupt cops, to a hilarious episode with a gang of bandits who had monopolized the area's water supply. Bear in mind that everything brought along on a road trip has a use in the film, and I was chuckling at how that object became something that was useful in this barter situation.
Then there's the plot element of being a cinema paradiso, after all what good does it serve if you're travelling with a library of films, but not screening it to anyone? Doing so for the local populace allows the audiences to catch glimpses of some classic Indian films, and I always felt that these scenes just highlighted what power films can bring to audiences, especially positive ones that will always draw a smile, no matter when they're played.
If there's life lessons that can be taken away from this film, that will be a very key message passed on which called for learning to be with less, in being contented with what life has dished out to you, otherwise you'll be in for a very miserable, unhappy time. For anything else, there's always hair oil and a good head massage to set things right.