Gyan Correa’s debut feature and India’s Oscars submission, The Good Road, is an honest attempt to capture the moods and colours of an otherwise barren and extremely harsh terrain in Gujarat’s Kutch.
Shot with an incredibly low budget of Rs 2 crore, financed by the National Film development Corporation of India (NFDC), The Good Road at 92 minutes is a reasonably fair bet for the 2014 Oscars in the foreign language category.
Flavoured wonderfully with the smells and sounds that are so very Indian, nay Gujarati (Correa’s wife I am told hails from that part), the movie relies on several non-professionals to weave a largely believable story that has three distinct strands.
First, we have a grumpy truck driver (who is actually one) and his young assistant out on a nefarious mission, and the two find themselves saddled with a seven-year-old boy (played with disarming ease by Keval Katrodia) and, to the duo’s horror, a puppy which the child refuses to let go.
The boy is an integral part of the film’s second plot, and in a strange way finds himself lost when his parents (Sonali Kulkarni and Ajay Gehi) driving a service utility vehicle inadvertently leave him behind at a highway tea shop. The search for the boy forms much of the narrative, interspersed with the arguments between the driver and his assistant as well as the anxiety-driven search by the parents, who also manage to lose each other, with the wife being stranded in the middle of the desert. She almost dies there.
It is into this story that Correa injects the third element, a girl (Poonam Kesar Singh) who on her way to find her grandmother lands in a brothel, and this is the movie’s weakest link.
While the story of the boy/his parents and the driver are woven into each other with fair conviction, that of the girl does not quite blend with the rest.
Though, Katrodia is a natural, and so is the driver, both Kulkarni and Gehi appear a trifle too stiff. Kulkarni could be a good performer.
Now, the question is whether The Good Road has the potential to travel the lane to Los Angeles, and win at least an Oscar nomination, if not an outright victory. With tens of other films from the rest of the world (Pakistan has sent a movie for the first time in 50 years, and Saudi Arabia the first ever in the country’s history), the road to the Academy Awards has never been easy.
Besides, any movie needs a decent budget for a decent publicity build-up at LA. Will the NFDC step in here? Otherwise, like many other Indian entries in the past, The Good Road can stumble into a pothole.