Movie Review – Karwaan
Quite the journey
A dead body. The strangest of mixups. A road trip. Three reluctant travel companions.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Well, not quite, at least according to debutante director Akarsh Khurana’s Karwaan. This offering is not quite the typical road trip comedy that has been reproduced to exhaustion. A tragic bus accident ends up causing the death of the father of Avinash (Dulqueer Salman) but a mishap by the logistics company means he ends up with the wrong corpse and has to undertake a lengthy road trip from Bangalore to Kochi. Keeping the repressed, detached IT firm employee company is his Muslim driver friend Shaukat (Irrfan) and is soon joined by Tanya (Mithila Palkar), the easy-going quintessential “party girl”, who is the granddaughter of the now-deceased woman with whom the other body was exchanged.
Salman is well and truly the star and centerpiece of the entire effort. His portrayal of a repressed, frustrated IT employee who feels like he is headed nowhere with his life, is not only intense but very real. His love for photography, a recurring theme throughout the movie, had been dashed to pieces by his father, ending up fracturing their relationship. It seems there is hope for casting on the basis of quality acting after all, rather than one’s surname. The Kangna Ranaut effect, perhaps, is in motion.
That being said, Irrfan more than holds his own in his portrayal of Shaukat, who is responsible for most, if not all, of the comic material in the movie and really tickles one’s funny bone with genuine comic timing. Tanya, meanwhile, is the reluctant “party girl” yet she proves to be much more than that as the movie progresses.
While the acting standards are very much the highlight of the effort, the plot itself, even if it may appear skeletal, really ages well, adding richness and depth to itself as the movie progresses. The scene transitions, in most cases also appear almost seamless. Some very important themes are prevalent throughout, especially those of loss and grief, of the complexity of family ties and the important mental health issue of repression and how it works, in light of Avinash and his struggles. Moreover, by the time the credits roll, Karwaan has managed to tie everything together, from plot lines to character arcs, into such a neat little package that you leave the cinema hall with a satisfied smile on your face, just like I did. The cinematography by Avinash Arun (not to be confused with the main character) and his team also deserves an honorable mention, with some gorgeous shots of the South Indian landscape adding color and life to the road trip itself.
Despite everything though, and much like any piece of art, Karwaan has its flaws and shortcomings. The dialogue and script suffer from lulls, especially around the halfway point of the film, at which point it seems to have transformed into a drag and nothing more. The cameo by Rumana or “Rumi”, played by Kriti Kharbanda, presents a very important character in Avinash’s life, from years gone by. However, restricting “Rumi” to only a scene or two is disappointing, since the cameo could have easily been developed into so much more. Moreover, Khurana’s character Shaukat is an inaccurate portrayal of Muslims in the subcontinent especially on the other side of the Wagah border. Muslims today do not speak flawless Urdu nor do they rattle off romantic Urdu couplets at will. This ends up presenting Shaukat as a somewhat dreamy character from the Ghalib era, rather than today’s day and age. Yet, the portrayal seems all too familiar, well in line with how Bollywood itself has presented Muslim characters, either as terrorists or those birthed from the same mold as Shaukat. About time Bollywood rectified that.
To conclude, if you are looking for a movie that not only makes you laugh but also makes you think, about life in general and the looming questions it poses, Karwaan might be a perfect choice.