When The Good Road got selected over ‘The Lunchbox’ (Read its review HERE )to be sent for Oscars, I confess, I was seething with anger. Not because I had anything against ‘The Good Road’, but more so, due to my awareness of how close ‘The Lunchbox’ was of breaking into top 5, had it been sent for the Oscars. I had read few ignorants complaining in media and on web, that “How can one proclaim that ‘The Lunchbox’ could have been a better selection without even seeing The Good Road ?”. My answer to all those who had this question was that anyone who has an understanding of how Oscars work would have never raised the question in the first place. The right questions to be asked are – which film has more chances of being accepted by western audience and which film has the muscle behind it to make it all the way ? Answer to both these question was ‘The Lunchbox’ with its globally identifiable theme of urban loneliness and marketing brain in the form of Sony Picture Classics.
Now let’s come back to ‘The Good Road’. It is not a film that overwhelms you with either its sheer brilliancy or with its emotional impact. If, anything it might leave you a little cold. ‘The Good Road’ feels like an attempt to achieve the elusive artistic excellence in cinema, but sadly, it never quite reaches it. Though, I will give the film credit for its stark visual presence and a very well done sound mixing.
‘The Good Road’ has three story-lines occurring parallel to each other on a highway in Gujrat’s Kuchh. Pappu, a truck driver with his assistant is on mission to stage a killing of himself to get a heavy insurance amount. David and Kiran, a middle class urban couple, are looking for their lost son, a 7-year-old kid, Aditya. Poonam, an 11-year old-year-old girl loses way on the highway to accidentally stumble into child prostitution. The three stories merge towards end, even though, not in the most convincing fashion. Probably Gyan Correa could have taken a leaf out of Alejandro inarritu’s [21 Grams, Amores Perros, Babel] book who is a master at working with several stories and merging them in a brilliant way.
Ambitious in its scope yet laid-back in its approach, ‘The Good Road’ lacks the vigor or urgency which its subject matter required. Strangely enough, director Gyan Correa purposely hinders the audience’s involvement in the film by keeping his characters utterly emotionless through out. Nobody shouts, screams or even cries or laughs in the film. Everyone seems to have a zen-like quality about himself or herself. When a kid gets lost, he doesn’t shed any tears; and neither do his parents when they find out that he is missing. And the less said about Pappu the better. Obviously, when characters etched out are so cold, you are also left distanced from them, when actually their motive should have been to force you to invest in them. What also doesn’t help the matters is most of the actors are amateur and non-professionals. Many a times, I was left aghast at the quality of acting on display in the film.
‘The Good Road’, in spite of saddled with questionable and strange choices, has some merits too. It’s a film that validates its title. It might appear initially in the film that the road on which characters are treading is full of bad people but ultimately what comes through with the film is goodness of the road and its people. Every main character in the film is helped by one or the other good person. And hence the film is aptly titled ‘The Good Road’, which also brings me to film’s intentions, which even though is feebly achieved, appears to be to in bringing out the best out of humanity. Film’s greatest strength are its visuals, especially the manner in which night scenes are shot. It looks incredibly well done.
If it hadn’t been for the last act or the final 20-25 minutes that redeems the film of its utter lack of enthusiasm, the film would have been at the best a mediocre effort. With the combination of some technical brilliance and some great ideas (most of which weren’t explored as much as they should have been), ‘The Good Road’, ultimately is a respectable effort, though not worthy enough to be sent as an entry for Oscars from a country that produces largest number of movies every year.