Written by Manisha Lakhe on August 3, 2018
This Caravan Tried Too Hard To Be A Trip
A young man estranged from his father works at a dead end
job at a software firm. He receives news that his father is
dead in an accident. He borrows his friend Shaukat’s van to
bring back the body. But the body has been exchanged with
another. In his bid to return the body and get his father’s
remains he goes on a road trip and learns a lot about himself.
The film is enjoyable if you can ignore logic but funny
homilies do not a film make.
A decent debut for South star Dulquer Salmaan who plays Avinash, a bespectacled geek who works at a dead end job at a software company. He wanted to be photographer, but his father Akash Khurana refuses to pay for a photography course and scolds him and berates him… With smartphones taking better and better pictures, this backstory sounds rather lame in 2018. And there are photography courses online and in the evenings and over weekends. Instead of playing solitaire at work and falling asleep, he should have simply lived for his passion. But he’s cute, so we laugh at his caricature of a boss who yells and yells at everyone (and at him)…
Avinash receives a phone call (funny!) where a call-center type voice casually informs him that his father is dead in a bus accident and that the body needs to be collected from the cargo company. He realises that the disconnect from his dad is so great that he calmly makes arrangements for the funeral and requests his friend Shaukat (played with much lightheartedness by Irrfan Khan) to lend him his van. The two land at the airport where the cargo company guy is another caricature (lazy, on the phone, yells at underlings who are lazing too). Avinash finally gets the coffin (a long tin trunk) and it is loaded in the van. But we have to suffer Shaukat flirting and threatening two white tourists who have lost their way. Oh come on! This is 2018 and we are still talking rudely to tourists who are ‘dressed poorly’, ‘who stink’ and ‘probably only in India for the ganja’. Why was that even necessary?
It’s only at the crematorium that Shaukat discovers that the body in the coffin is that of a woman. And of course Avinash receives a call saying that someone else has his father’s body. Instead of booking the body by cargo Avi and Shaukat decide to drive the dead body to Kozhikode and exchange the dead. Google says that the journey is 8 hours by road, but the woman who has Avi’s father’s body, requests him to pick up her daughter from Coimbatore. Woah! Who asks a complete stranger to pick up their grown up daughter from their residential college simply because he sounds like a decent man on the phone?
The daughter played by Mithila Parker is the weakest link in the caravan. She is made to behave like she is like a troubled early teen, and you are expected to find her ridiculous behaviour ‘cool’. We are expected to believe that she was so drunk, she forgot that her beloved grandmother died. Cute? Who knows. Of course they find a box of remains of another dead person from that bus accident in the coffin and decide to travel to the address and hand over the box to them. Of course there’s good natured grumbling and homilies from Irrfan Khan and you smile at the smart lines, but is no one other than you worried about the decomposing body at the back of the van.
To make the journey funnier, Shaukat is being followed by a bunch of thugs who steal the van and they have to get the coffin back, and they have to stay at a hotel. You groan when the girl has to tell Avi about how good photography apps are on the phone… Avi also meets the girl from college which is a welcome relief from Mithila Parker’s dumb, rebel act. And the almost romance between Irrfan Khan and the woman in burqa at the hospital (No! You don’t want to know how they got there!) makes you smile too…
Yes there is a stop where they buy dry ice for the dead body but it seems like an afterthought. It’s important for us to learn that Avi acts like his dead father around the rebellious girl. Thankfully they reach Kozhikode and there is a prayer meeting for the dead at the hotel which is run by the girl’s mother. And soon after the two bodies are cremated, they have a party where cake is being made and a feast is cooked and they play cricket and the audience wonders if grief is so easy to overcome.
The locations are beautiful and the idea of finding oneself after a parent dies is good too. But the stink from the dead body permeated the film. You will enjoy it should you leave your brains (and your olfactory senses) behind!
(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )