Cruising on a quirky road

Akarsh Khurana’s directorial debut, based on Bejoy Nambiar’s story, builds on the genre with its own quaint, quirky touch. For once, the three protagonists — IT guy Avinash (Dulquer Salman), his friend Shaukat (Irrfan) and Tanya (Mithila Palkar) — belong to different age groups and the film emphasizes it than hide it away. They couldn’t be more radically different from each other as individuals. One quiet and inward-looking, other outgoing and unrefined and the third rebellious and always out for an adventure. The only thing that seems to bind them is their father issues, “father wala department” as Tanya puts it. She lost hers to cancer when young, Shaukat couldn’t take the violent ways of his own while Avinash seems to be suffocated under the authoritarian, conservative ways of his dad.

The three undertake the trip for exchanging two bodies (of Avinash’s father and Tanya’s grandmother) that have mistakenly gone to the other address. However, despite this extraordinary reason, the journey itself is as much about quotidian moments and commonplace chatter as about some rather strange situations that the three land themselves in.

There are little, throwaway touches in the film that stand out — like the dull life of Avinash finding a parallel in the soulless, matter of fact intimation of the death of his father. Much mirth emerges from these unlikely, off the wall instances that you don’t quite associate laughs with. So, while death itself is dealt with an utter lack of morbidness, the life of Avinash is as soppy as it can get and the parallel keeps staring hard at you. Even as the film makes the audience laugh uproariously it keeps them grounded in its own whimsical way with some sobering, everyday wisdom and bitter-sweet insights into loss, longing and life.

Their characters might be poles apart but the three actors are finely tuned with each other. Mithila Palkar plays her part sweetly but not cloyingly so. Irrfan is the crowd-pleaser who makes comedy seem easy and effortless with his characteristic deadpan look and the impeccable, straight-faced comic timing with which he delivers Hussain Dalal’s hilarious lines. His method fits well with the film’s overarching loopy sense of humour.

Then there is Dulquer Salman making his Hindi film debut. He has a subdued and retiring role, one that may not make as much impact on the masses in the face of Irrfan’s flashy, funny road roller of an act.

But look closely and you see interesting touches in the young actor’s performance — from the fleeting expressions to the hemmed in body language and hunched shoulders to that boring shirt-pant attire; Dulquer brings in something simultaneously intelligent and endearing to his “repressed” on-screen avtaar.

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