September 27, 2002 
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So, does Vivek live up to the hype?
Yes, though one wishes Road didn't take the viewer for such a ride

Sukanya Verma

Producer Ram Gopal Varma's Road is a decent but flawed first attempt in the genre of road films. Good execution is not much of a substitute for poor content, which is what the film suffers from.

A breakthrough in terms of the script would have made Road one of its kind in Hindi cinema. Instead, it has, to its credit, a predictable storyline.

The first commandment of a road film is speed. Thus, Road opens outside a moviehall with the playful camaraderie between college sweethearts Arvind (Vivek Oberoi) and Lakshmi (Antara Mali). Lakshmi's father frowns on the couple. Hence the two decide to elope and get married in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

Once on the road, they have a brush with a crazy and mysterious villager (Vijay Raaz). They bump into smooth-talking hitchhiker Babu (Manoj Bajpai) who is stranded in the middle of nowhere. Babu convinces the young couple to give him a lift. Travelling with Babu proves an irritation for Arvind and Lakshmi. He smokes in their car, much to their disapproval.

Babu refuses to take any hints and bullies them into playing his choice of music, stopping midway for food. Arvind refuses to take it lying down when Babu makes a blatant pass at Lakshmi.
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Soon, Lakshmi finds herself a hostage of an armed Babu. Thanks to the timely intervention of truck driver Inderpal (Makarand Deshpande), Arvind rescues Lakshmi from Babu's clutches. Their happiness is shortlived as the repulsive creep strikes back and scoots off with Lakshmi once again. While Arvind runs to find help, Babu manically serenades Lakshmi.

Road was publicised as having be full of surprises at every twist and turn, however, there is no such astonishment witnessed. Therefore who wins the chase is anyone's guess.

Road has the Ram Gopal Varma brand of filmmaking stamped all over. Be it in the character's smug attitude, the unconventional music or the film's technical finesse, it is Varma all the way. Director Rajat Mukherjee, whose debut film Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya moved at a slackened pace, maintains an upbeat tempo in Road.

A still from the movie Road The first half of the film is an adventurous roller-coaster ride with nonstop chase sequences and thrilling drama. In its last 45 minutes, the film's plot nosedives. From a serious and scary character, Babu turns into a ridiculously infatuated clown.

That is where Road falters.

A gigantic lorry smashes up the behind of Arvind's van. The next shot shows a scratch-free vehicle. Besides continuity glitches, the characters of Manoj Bajpai and Rajpal Yadav are shown making digs at director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and actor Shah Rukh Khan. The humour is in bad taste.

Sudeep Chaterjee's camera flirts wildly with the roads of Rajasthan. Though I couldn't quite fathom its fixation with Antara Mali's ringed belly button. In one scene, Bajpai is firing shots at a cop. The camera is trained on Mali's flat gut.

Post-interval, one hardly sees Vivek Oberoi. Pity, considering the actor boosts the screen with his magnetic presence. Compared to his first film, Company, Oberoi's role in Road is no big deal. Yet he displays subtle vulnerability and endearing boyishness.

His onscreen chemistry with his Company costar Mali works well for them as a romantic pair. Mali shows a lot of spunk and skin. However a little toning down of expression in song sequences would do her good.

Antara Mali The songs, incidentally, are totally out of character. Most of them are an obvious ploy to exploit Mali's sex appeal. On the other hand, the background score by Amar Mohile rocks. The music and the cinematography succeed in personifying the unpredictability of the road.

Touted as the surprise package of Road, Manoj Bajpai is a letdown. He hams, uses his previous negative performances in Kaun and Aks to irritating effect here. The actor is in serious danger of turning into a caricature.

Road takes the viewer for a ride by failing to deliver what it promised.

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