It was around a month back when I first saw the trailer of Karwaan. The charming Dulquer, cute Mithila and a goofy Irrfan were enough to pique my interest instantly. If the trailer had left me confident that this will be a great film, the actual movie itself left me with somewhat mixed feelings.
Avinash Rajpurohit is an IT professional played by an understated Dulquer Salmaan. He is like your typical Chetan Bhagat’s hero – the quintessential young man forced to choose Engineering over his passion by a strict, judgmental, Arts-hating father. Needless to say, he holds enough grudge against his old man. Even worse is his boss, who leaves no chance to taunt him publicly. Karwaan begins with Avinash’s story, giving us an insight into his lonely, gloomy and monotonous routine.
The humdrum of his life is broken when he gets a call from a travelling agency. The chirpy woman on the other side informs him of his estranged father’s death, the cause being an accident while travelling to Gangotri for pilgrimage. Much to a surprised audience, Avinash is pretty stoic despite the news. Nonetheless, he immediately reaches out to his friend Shaukat, a garage owner played by a magnificent Irrfan Khan, to recover the body from Bangalore airport and complete the funeral rites.
But things are not destined to be so easy. As they open the coffin, they realize that the corpse is not of Avinash’s father, but of an old lady. On further investigation, it is found out that the father’s body has gone to a woman in Kochi by mistake, while her aged mother’s remains have wrongly been received by Avinash. To exchange the corpses and complete his duties as a son, Avinash embarks on a road trip to Kochi with Shaukat as his companion. In between they detour multiple times, much to the chagrin of a grudging, yet funny Shaukat. In one of the detours, they pick up Tanya, a young college girl from her hostel in Ooty, who is the dead old lady’s granddaughter. With three characters who are practically poles apart packed into one blue van, thus begins the life-altering journey of Karwaan. Or, at least that is what the trailer had hinted at.
Usually, slice-of-life films are not very heavy on the plot, and encash more on the subtle, emotional aspects of life. Karwaan is no different. However, it does make you wish for a better screenplay with a little interesting subplots which could have livened up the flick some more. The picturesque sites of Kerala are wonderfully shot, but they do not form an integral part of the film. To be fair, it is mainly the comic scenes that serve to hook the audience from the beginning till the end. The idea of using death as black comedy is a novel one that I appreciate. Music composers and lyricists too deserve credit for the beautiful soundtracks.
Irrfan Khan is hands down the star of the show. We are all familiar with his legendary acting skills, and this time too, he takes the cake. He has the goofiest lines, and keeps the audience guffawing from the time he comes on screen till the moment the end credits start rolling. His character Shaukat is not exactly the most “fleshed out” one of the lot, and oozes out ample amount of sexism, racism and xenophobia at regular intervals. And yet the effervescent aura of the actor somewhere dissolves the unpleasantness of the character and converts him to an oddly lovable being. Internet sensation Mithila Palker is raw, yet promising as the immature and rebellious teen. She is pretty and talented, and is capable of delivering much more if given more training and experience. Kriti Kharbanda too shines in her cameo. My disappointment is however, with Dulquer Salmaan.
Now, now. Mistake me not. Dulquer performs reasonably well as an understated, repressed Avinash. His baritone is droolworthy and the subtlety he brings to the table is fantastic. However, despite the considerable amount of screen space, his character has very little to do in the film. Especially, next to an eccentric Shaukat who is constantly churning out hilarious lines and leaving the audience in splits, somewhere, Dulquer’s downplayed Avinash becomes lacklustre due to its one-dimensional character sketch. Had this been my first film of his, I probably would have mistaken him as a limited actor. But having watched him play eccentric, negative, comic, subtle, loverboy, angry and different kinds of roles with aplomb in Charlie, Solo, Bangalore Days, Kali, Kammatipadam, etc and being familiar with his range of acting, I am thoroughly disappointed that the director and the writers gave very little to the Malayalam superstar to do onscreen, thereby wasting his potential. Being the fan that I am, I wish Dulquer had launched his Bollywood career with a more impactful role, before playing an understated Avinash in Karwaan.
There is a scene in the film, where the trio gatecrash into a Kerala wedding. Tanya goes straight to the bar, picks up a drink, and begins chatting with a couple of guys. Noticing her from a distance, an angry Avinash barges in, comes closer to Tanya protectively, and speaks in a husky tone, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you drinking and partying in the morning, when your grandmother just died?” As one of the guys tries to get closer to Tanya, he instantly pulls him away, and says, “Easy!!!” At the risk of giving out some spoilers, I’d say that this one scene gave us a glimpse of a potential magical spark in Dulquer and Mithila’s chemistry, making me wish the writers had explored this angle more in the film. Did the makers too have similar plans, but chose to give up the idea because of the huge age difference between the characters? Maybe. But I wish they hadn’t.
Overall, Karwaan is a good film, and definitely watchable for at least once. But given how the trailer had set the hopes sky-high, the film slightly disappoints. I wish, the characters had a little more visible growth towards the end. Despite the fantastic performances, beautiful cinematography and lovely songs, the movie falls a tad bit short of leaving a soul-stirring feeling in the end, which is what we generally expect from slice-of-life films. You walk out of the theatres reminiscing not the subtle, heartwarming scenes of protagonist Avinash, but the hilariously insensitive dialogues of side character Shaukat.
In light of all this, I would give this film 3 out of 5 stars.
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times