After "Qarib Qarib Singlle" (2017) and "Piku" (2015), Irrfan Khan hits the road again in Akarsh Khurana's "Karwaan" (Caravan), this time on a jaunt through picturesque fields and palm-fringed roads in southern India. He's the bystander, much like in "Piku", watching his co-passengers and getting a kick out of commenting on their lives.
Khan's comic timing is no surprise and in what is otherwise an uneven film, he seems to be the only one having fun, whether as his character Shaukat or while playing him. His co-passengers include Avinash (Dulquer Salmaan), a morose IT professional stuck in a dead-end job. When his estranged father dies in a bus accident, Avinash is sent the body of an old woman in a bureaucratic mix-up and he needs to travel with it to Kochi to reclaim his father’s corpse.
He sets off with Shaukat and on the way, picks up the dead woman's granddaughter Tanya (Mithila Palkar). She's in college and seemingly unaffected by her grandmother’s death and the fact that her body is lying at the back of the van. Like everything in this film, emotions are dealt with in an off-hand manner, but the humour used to mask these emotions is pedestrian enough for neither to come through.
As Tanya, Shaukat and Avinash travel to Kerala, they meet a motley group of characters, are hospitalized, get into trouble with the police and even meet former lovers, as each of them looks to clear the cobwebs in their head.
The story, by Bejoy Nambiar, ticks every cliché in the road movie book. The problems the characters face are not new, nor is the way Khurana chooses to depict them, especially in the way Palkar's character is treated.
The writers seem to condone Avinash’s patronizing approach, whether telling her off for smoking or being promiscuous at her age. And if this wasn’t enough, we have crass remarks about foreign tourists doing drugs, and Shaukat’s character ogling women.
Of the cast, all three leads are solid, especially Salmaan and Khan. Palkar has screen presence and an effervescent personality that helps her navigate the bumpy parts of the script. But that is about it for the positives from this film. For the most part, you cannot wait for this trip to end.
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