‘Karwaan’ is a road movie with a spirited driver

Updated 11 August 2018

‘Karwaan’ is a road movie with a spirited driver

CHENNAI: It is simply amazing that a first-time film director, Akarsh Khurana, although he has a long record in charge of theatrical plays, could have handled the morbid subject of death and loss in such a breezy, subtly witty way in “Karwaan.” It’s a moving story by Bijoy Nambiar and an utterly believable screenplay by Khurana. The film’s trump card is Irrfan Khan, who proves to be the very soul and spirit of this road movie.

Portraying Shaukat in his usual quiet, lighthearted but mesmeric manner (with some of the best lines), Khan steers his ramshackle van through the winding roads of southern India, criss-crossing the Blue Mountains, calm rivers and picturesque Kerala landscape. But this hides an ominous tale: of a horrific accident on the Himalayas, and two dead bodies, each handed over to the wrong relative. Avinash (Dulquer Salman), who hates his father so much that he cannot even grieve his death, gets the body of Tanya’s (Mithila Palkar) grandmother. And the father’s corpse goes to Tanya’s family in Kerala.

When Avinash finds out about the blunder committed by a transport company, he seeks his friend Shaukat’s help to take the grandmother’s coffin to the right address. On the way, the two men fetch Tanya from her college hostel, and then a hilarious journey begins. Shaukat’s lack of English leads to rib-tickling fun, and his electrifying presence and sharp sarcasm are a marvel to watch.

Salman is wonderful as well as a son estranged from his bossy father who does not let him pursue his passion for photography, but he seems a little uncomfortable in Hindi and often breaks into English. However, he manages to convey cowardice and loss with amazing ease. Tanya is a modern girl for whom sex and pregnancy are no big deal, but her character could have had more substance.

One of the finest films I have seen in a long time, “Karwaan,” while having a novel plot, sparkles all the more because of Khan, whose magnetism rubs off on his co-stars, and we see a delightfully natural and understated performance from Salman, too.

Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

Updated 23 February 2019

Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

CHENNAI: Stories about slums and poverty are not easy to script. They can easily turn into vulgar celebration, as Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was seen by some, notably legendary Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos.

But director Zoya Akhtar (“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” and “Luck by Chance”) manages to steer herself clear of slipping into this trap with her latest drama, “Gully Boy,” which emerges from one of the biggest slums in the world, Dharavi, in Mumbai.

There, thousands of people living in a sprawl of huts have a bewildering variety of experiences to narrate. One story is that of Murad’s (Ranveer Singh), whose chance meeting with a rapper, Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), opens a magical door.

The film, inspired by real-life rappers Naezy and Divine, focusses on Murad’s ambition to become a rapper, and how he achieves it, despite his driver father’s fears and his uncle’s disdain.

In one scene, the uncle tells Murad that a chauffeur’s son can only hope to be another chauffeur, a servant in other words. A humiliated Murad takes this to heart, but quietly vows to transform his dream into reality.

His sweetheart Safeena (Alia Bhatt), who is studying to be a doctor, pushes him towards a hip-hop life.

Witten by Akhtar along with Reema Kagti, “Gully Boy” is undoubtedly the director’s career best, and Ranveer’s too. In a role that literally overshadows his earlier outings (including “Bajirao Mastani” and “Padmaavat”), he brilliantly conveys the angst and struggle of an underdog, and how his unflattering social status attracts ridicule even among those merely aspiring to be rappers.

Ranveer infuses into Murad a quiet determination that helps him cross frightening social and cultural barriers.

Safeena is also imaginatively fleshed out as a fiery woman who helps Akhtar create his own brand of rap music (some grippingly done by Naezy and Divine).

What is even more exciting is that “Gully Boy” brings rap out of the shadows and in this process the city and the slum, sensitively lensed by Jay Oza, seem to be screaming that miracles are possible even in the face of Mumbai’s painful inequities.