After Irrfan Khan’s Karwaan, take a journey with these 5 underrated road movies
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After Irrfan Khan’s Karwaan, take a journey with these 5 underrated road movies

Irrfan Khan’s Karwaan is a terrific road movie, mostly because it’s so much more than that. Here are 5 other road movies, hopefully the ones you’re least likely to have already seen.

weekend binge Updated: Aug 04, 2018 10:04 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Karwaan,Irrfan Khan,Dulquer Salmaan
Dulquer Salmaan, Mithila Palkar and Irrfan Khan in a still from Karwaan.

There’s something about road movies that taps into every human being’s desire to escape, to the extent that we’re willing to watch two mismatched souls transport a dead body across south India, and even a curmudgeonly old man have diarrhoea on the highway. We’re willing to watch a family take their young daughter to a beauty contest across the country and we’re willing to follow a deranged Kazakh ‘journalist’ expose America’s most shameful secrets.

There’s a road movie for everyone, because everyone, in their own way, can relate to the feeling of being somewhere else, of travelling to unknown destinations, meeting new people along the way, and having to deal with unplanned shenanigans.

Karwaan, which released this week, is a terrific road movie, mostly because it’s so much more than that. Like the best films about clashing personalities trapped in a moving vehicle for long periods of time, Karwaan hurtles through dense emotional territory and takes its characters on a journey of self-discovery.

Listing great road movies is a relatively easy task - easier than, say, listing films about neo-Nazis. But here’s the thing: As with every genre, the popular road movies are really popular. So it makes no sense to repeat them here. Which is why the opening couple of paragraphs alluded to some of the most acclaimed road movies of recent times, films such as Piku (which also stars Karwaan’s Irrfan Khan), Little Miss Sunshine, Into the Wild, Borat and Almost Famous.

There are more, of course. More obscure ones as well - films such as Grandma, the John Green adaptation Paper Towns, and the Netflix’s one-two punch, Kodachrome and The Fundamentals of Caring. But for this list, we’re going to talk only about the films you’re least likely to have seen.


Will Forte takes his father on a road trip in Nebraska. (Paramount Pictures)

Like Karwaan (and like Kodachrome and the recent Like Father), Alexander Payne’s black-and-white, Oscar-winning drama is about fathers and their children. It’s quite a popular theme, isn’t it, to trap family members with difficult relationships in enclosed spaces? Sort of like a makeshift therapy session where the chances of recovery are literally 100%. I wonder why everyone doesn’t do this. But Nebraska is the perfect example of what road movies can accomplish when they’re well-made - and they’re sort of the rule book when it comes to writing characters.

Away We Go

John Krasinski was at the peak of his Office fame around this time.

Before Sam Mendes made Skyfall - in fact, immediately before he made Skyfall - he made this quaint road movie about a married couple who embark on an adventurous journey to find the perfect new town in which to raise their child, who is expected to be born in a month. Along the way, they meet a typically colourful cast of characters, and learn valuable life lessons. Away We Go isn’t the final answer when it comes to road movies, but with such fine talent both in front of and behind the camera - the film stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, and is co-written by Dave Eggers - it’s one you should check out.

My Own Private Idaho

River Phoenix in a still from My Own Private Idaho.

American independent cinema was in its heyday when director Gus Van Sant made My Own Private Idaho, an indie oddity whose biggest claim to fame these days is that it featured a very young Keanu Reeves, and one of the final performances of the late River Phoenix. Poetically, Van Sant’s most recent film, the brilliantly named Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, stars River’s brother, Joaquin. It’s one of Van Sant’s earliest encounters with taboo subjects, which he even back then handled with delicate empathy.

Wendy and Lucy

Michelle Williams in a still from Wendy and Lucy.

It’s not everyday that one gets to discuss the films of Kelly Reichardt here, so let’s make the most of this opportunity. Reichardt is an acclaimed American filmmaker whose movies span a variety of genres and often have as their protagonists people that have been relegated to the fringes of society. In Wendy and Lucy, a vagrant (played by Michelle Williams, who worked with Reichardt on two more occasions, in Certain Women and Meek’s Cutoff), searches for her lost dog across rural United States.


Spot the young Brad Pitt, and bonus point if you recognised David Duchovny.

For the sake of having a wild card in this list more than anything else, here’s Kalifornia, a 1993 thriller - made in the vein of films such as Duel and The Hitcher - about two college students researching serial killers, who inadvertently pick up an actual serial killer on their trip. It’s understandable if you’re still not quite on board, but wait till you find out who’s in it. A young Brad Pitt. He plays the killer.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 09:41 IST