Having directed English, August and Split Wide Open, Dev Benegal is back with his third outing after more than a decade. Road, Movie, he says, is about discovering laughter and joy, with 'travelling cinema' and the Indian landscape as its backdrop.
"Road, Movie is about the journey of a young man driving a truck from a small town to a city by the sea. He has to cross a desert in between and eventually in the end of the journey he discovers laughter and joy," Benegal, 49, told IANS in a telephonic interview from Mumbai.
"It's really about discovering laughter and happiness and about enjoying yourself and letting yourself go and going for the ride," he added. The 95-minute outing is also about more. "I wanted to make a road movie about the Indian landscape which has a very raw, powerful and naked beauty to it," he said.
"I was really worried that before the entire country becomes a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), I wanted to go out there and somehow really capture the spirit of what India really meant and that's what Road, Movie is all about," he added.
Releasing Friday, Road, Movie revolves around Vishnu (Abhay Deol), a young man desperate to escape a future working as a salesman for his father's hair oil business.
He relishes the chance to drive his uncle's 1940s Chevy truck across the desert to a museum. Along the way, the cast of characters grows to include a cheeky sidekick in the form of a runaway boy (debutant Mohammed Faizal Usmani), a wise mentor in an old desert wanderer (Satish Kaushik), and a beautiful gypsy woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee).
Vishnu soon learns that the truck was once used for 'travelling cinema' - it involves screening movies in different locations through projectors that are carried to the spot in vans or trucks.
The concept is a reflection of the director's own past working for travelling cinema in India. Vishnu's truck still contains projection equipment and reels of film, from vintage Indian cinema to the daredevil silent comedies of Hollywood. Screening films in the middle of the desert provides them all with moments of salvation and reflection.
"The inspiration for this film also comes from the many road trips I've taken as a teenager. All for me were a sense of escape and getting away and exploring something new," said the 49-year-old.
"All of us somewhere inside want to take a road trip. We want to take a break, see something different, and breathe a different air. We hope when we come back things would have changed for us," he added.
Asked about the unconventional title of the film, Benegal said: "It's actually a take on the road movie genre and also about two worlds, which are colliding with one another - the Indian road and movies - that is, the idea of watching movies on the road and in the open."
"The travelling cinema and the Indian road are just a story waiting to be told," he added. The movie has already garnered huge appreciation at the world festival circuit, including the Toronto Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival.
Having assisted his filmmaker uncle Shyam Benegal and made a series of short films and documentaries, Dev Benegal rose to fame with his debut venture English, August (1994). His second project "Split Wide Open" came five years later, in 1999.
Asked what takes the director so long to wield the megaphone, he said: "I usually take my time to make movies, but hopefully the next one won't be so long." Benegal's next project includes Hindi movie Samurai.