A poster of the 'Karwaan'. Photograph:( Twitter )
Much like life, debutant filmmaker Akarsh Khurrana’s ‘Karwaan’ has twists and turns in plenty. Some that make sense to the story, some that look arbid. And while the film doesn’t always make sense – much like life, there are moments that genuinely make you laugh or smile.
Writer Bejoy Nambiar finds humour in the most morbid setup ever possible- death. Avinash (Malayalam star Dulquer Salmaan) is disinterested software professional who has a strained relationship with his father. One night, he gets a call that his father is dead. A goof up by the cargo leads to swapping of coffins. His father’s coffins lands up in Kochi with another family while the family’s matriarch’s body- who also died in the same accident with Avinash’s father- ends up in Bangalore with Avinash. Like a good samaritan, he decides to deliver the body to its right destination and embarks on a road trip with friend Shaukat (Irrfan Khan).
Enroute college student Tanya (Mithila Palkar) joins the two. It is Tanya’s grandmother’s coffin that the two men have to get exchanged in Kochi. And the trio, each with their different set of problems, embark on a journey of self-discovery.
The film starts on a morbid note. There has been a death and a body has to be delivered to its right destination. But Hussain Dalal’s dialogues and Irrfan Khan’s acting makes the first half a breezy affair. You laugh out loud at so many of Shaukat’s life lessons to Avi. When the two embark on the journey, they know their destination. But slowly, the multiple routes take them to new places and make them meet new people.
In fact, the road trip serves as a metaphor for how life’s journey is. The journey can be long, unpredictable and sometimes bumpy- but it's the people and circumstances that make the journey interesting, life-changing.
The film shines on two aspects- cinematography by National Award winner Avinash Arun, who makes the lush green, winding roads of south India look breathtaking. Each of the frames makes you sigh with its beauty. The film also has a good set of performers. One can never be disappointed with Irrfan Khan’s act. He is dependable, exudes life into each of his characters and Shaukat is no different.
Irrfan plays a car service owner, a man who sticks by his principles and is rather conservative yet never comes across as a creep. He ultimately has a ‘good heart’ as Avinash points out and the actor gets some of the best lines in the film, making his scenes the funniest and also the most poignant. A scene has him wooing a woman with sher-o-shayari. As the woman eggs him to continue and he runs out of shers, he starts reciting old hindi film songs as prose!
Dulquer, a star down south, adapts well his angst ridden-character Avinash. Avinash has been ridiculed by his father for his passion in photography and blames him for his boring arduous life. Dulquer underplays his character and balances out Irrfan’s exuberance with his own restrain performance. A man who has been part of some of the most fantastic films in the recent past, Dulquer choice for making his debut in Bollywood is rather unconventional and hence praiseworthy. Mithila Palkar, a star in her own right, also handles her character- Tanya well. She is a rebel, has some insecurities but also knows how to live life to the fullest- much to Avinash’s discomfort. But among the leads, her character is perhaps the most poorly written and hence doesn’t leave much of an impact. You aren't quite sure why she is a rebel, her back strory is the least convincing of them all. There is also a scene wheer Tanya and Avinash clash, because of their ideologies and though we get the intent, the scene and situation seems forced.
The music of the film is pleasant to the ears and suits quite well with the scenario.
While ‘Karwaan’ scores in camera, music and acting department, it is ultimately the story that derails the film to quite an extent. There are too many unnecessary twists in the film- that makes no sense. There is an elaborate sequence where the trio gate-crashes a wedding – right before the interval- and that’s when the film slowly starts losing focus. The whole sequence seems unnecessary to the narrative. The second half too, in a bid to be philosophical, becomes tedious and long. In fact, the story isn’t too coherent and we ultimately get a half-baked story of self-discovery. And we have seen such stories before in Bollywood, so it doesn’t offer us anything new.
'Karwaan’ ultimately suffers because of its fractured story that doesn’t offer any new insights nor does it leave a lasting impression.
The film is only worth a watch for the incredible Irrfan Khan and the charming Dulquer Salmaan. You would want to forgive the writers for just these two men.