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In Road, Antara Mali Shines Once Again,
Both Ways

          Direction: Rajat Mukherjee
          Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Vivek Oberoi, Antara Mali
           The Film:
Attempts at making road movies, already developed into a separate genre by Hollywood, have been few in Bollywood. And if any have been made, these do not strictly fall into a well-defined class. But Ram Kumar Varma breaks new ground alongwith his director Rajat Mukherjee with Road, literally a road movie.

           Shot for most part in Thar desert and Australian outback in extreme weather conditions, the film's narrative avoids homesteads: there are frequent references to the girl's parents - dad a high police official - but he is never shown. The road, passing through desolate, bumpy bushlands and rocky terrain, with all possible hazards, including the enemy lurking in the shadows, plays in the movie more like an antagonist than merely a useful physical feature of the scene.

          Sudeep Chatterjee's camera keeps inter-changing long shots of desolate landscape and close-ups of the various characters in and outside the vehicle on a long, endless drive with the haunted couple. The contrast and the communion between the moods of the boy and the girl, besides the guest they gave lift to on the one side and the lifeless backdrop on the other builds a tense scenario for the viewer.

          Road is a testing ground for both Vivek Oberoi and Antara Mali, whom we have seen together in Company. Both made a good impression through that movie, despite the veterans they were with to match their talents. In Road too there are Manoj Bajpai and Shinde. It wasn't easy to stand out against them, particularly Manoj as far as Vivek's role is concerned. Manoj's unusual characterisation as conceived by the writer and its portrayal by the actor on the scene was a big challenge for Vivek. And it's satisfying to watch him perform with a rare confidence.          

           Antara Mali has to live and travel through a scary experience from the moment they offer Manoj a lift. Soon they both realise their kindness towards a strange wayfarer was a foolish act. Having eloped with her lover was risk enough, they were caught in a situation far worse than what they imagined. The rest of the story is how they manage to cope with an unexpected situation created by a simple act of giving lift to a man who seemed to be needing help. He turns out to be a crazy chap who is bent on doing things his own way. In fact, he takes control of the whole operation leaving the two to his mercy.
          There is nothing lacking inAntara's performance. Apart from the serious side, she has also to play the glam doll as per the Hollywood norms, which she does with all the flair. In fact, she outdoes Urmilas, Kareenas and Raveenas when it comes to hip-swinging and highlighting body curvatures. The somewhat wild choreography gives her a lot of scope to throw around her body in all kinds of movements.

          Though the movie slows down a bit midway, there is so little to say in Rajnish Thakur's story, it picks pace in the second half and rushes towards a tense moment of violent finish.

-by Our Film Critic
September 27, 2002

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