Mumbai, 03 Aug 2018 2:00 IST
Visually and emotionally compelling, Akarsh Khurana's Karwaan is a nuanced take on love, loss, life and the eventual self-discovery.
To call Karwaan a road trip film would be as much of an injustice as calling Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) a comic book movie. Akarsh Khurana’s film contains the right balance of emotion, hope, humour and visual beauty to help you get rid of your ghosts and find peace. After all, that is the only way to move on.
The soul of Karwaan lies in its characters. Avinash (Dulquer Salmaan) is a 30-something infotech professional stuck in a dead-end job answering complaints about the poor quality of pirated software. He once harboured the dream of pursuing photography, but his disciplinarian father ensured that his son did not walk the path of arts students who "live on their parents’ money and celebrate revolutions".
A mix-up involving his father’s dead body at the airport puts him in a van with the conservative Hyderabadi mechanic Shaukat (Irrfan Khan) on a journey to Kochi to exchange corpses. On the way, they are forced to pick up Tania (Mithila Palkar), a rebellious teen whose grandmother’s body is in Avinash’s custody.
The trio carry their own emotional baggage as well. Each deals with his/her loss in extremes. Shaukat turns to humour, Avinash buries it deep within himself, and Tania (like every millennial) buries herself in her phone. By the end of the journey, each learns from the others and grows. The three age groups (Shaukat is in his 40s, Avinash in the 30s, and Tania is 19) add another dimension to the story.
By the end of the journey, Avinash learns to say ‘no’ to things, Tania accepts her responsibilities, and even the conservative Shaukat turns modern in his attire and outlook.
Akarsh Khurana's direction maintains an even pace, without letting the interest flag. The incredibly funny dialogues (Hussain Dalal) and situations keep coming. They help to mask the tragedy that lurks in the background like a ghost, to emerge at the opportune moment. Khurana does well to not let it overwhelm the journey even as he does not let it disappear out of sight.
With a fantastic score (Prateek Kuhad, Anurag Saikia, Shwetang Shankar and SlowCheeta), even the pauses in the journey feel enjoyable.
The movement of the plot is organic. An instance would be the scene in the hotel where Avinash opens up to Tania about Instagram photography. It could have easily turned into a proselytizing moment but is prevented from becoming one by some very effective writing and acting.
What is unrestrained is Irrfan Khan. The actor is the Jack Sparrow of this trio of road pirates. With an aphorism for every moment, it is hard to take your eyes off him. His easy demeanour and sharp timing add ammunition to the already rib-tickling one-liners. No other actor could have pulled off the outlandish Shaukat with such ease.
Khan is matched by the restrained composure and vulnerability of Dulquer Salmaan. He might be making his debut in Hindi cinema, but this is an actor at the top of his game. Dulquer speaks Hindi fairly well, though his accent slips through in some places. But that would be nitpicking. His final reconciliation with his dead father is a moment to cherish. If he plays his cards well, Dulquer Salmaan might just become the next star to bridge the North-South divide.
Mithila Palkar is another natural talent who shines in her role as the spunky, rebellious Tania. The actress has a balance of innocence and mischief that adds magic to her performance. Her banter with Irrfan Khan makes for some of the funnier sequences in the film.
Even Kriti Kharbanda and Amala Akkineni enter the scene with grace. Both actresses deliver a wonderful touch to the story.
The entire story is packaged in the beautiful visuals captured by Avinash Arun, who had shot Masaan (2015) and won the National award for Killa (2015). The frames are clean, the shots steady and superbly composed. Each scene is lit perfectly to make it a visual treat. Good enough to be snapped and uploaded on Instagram!
There are characters that sometimes feel unnecessary and lead nowhere, but every journey is filled with these. The nuanced and very humanistic style of director Khurana is both admirable and enjoyable, to say the least.
If you have to take a journey this weekend, make it Akarsh Khurana's treat of a film.
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