Cast: Paresh Rawal, Om Puri, Pavan Malhotra, Javed Sheikh
Director: Amit Rai
Husmatullah (Paresh Rawal), is a mechanic in Allahabad who is a genius when it comes to handling car parts. He has been assigned the task of fixing an old ford engine by the local museum authorities. Time is critical. That's all he knows. Later, due to riots, all Muslims are under the radar. Family men are getting picked up by the police for interrogation. This obviously irates the Islamic elders so they decide to protest and declare a strike of few days. Of course, strike means shutting down shops and not allowing normal routine for the public. Husmatullah happily agrees at this point of time.
A few days after, a reporter meets up with Husmatullah to interview him. He is the one to enlighten him about the fact that the engine given to him by the museum authorities is no ordinary one. But one of great historic importance. It was used to carry the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi. It is being repaired to do the same unfinished work as someone left a part of Gandhiji's ashes forgotten in a bank vault. It is now the wish of Gandhiji's surviving successor Tushar Gandhi that the last of the great man's ashes be immersed in the Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
This piece of information comes as shocking and moving for Husmatullah. He feels if he doesn't complete the work of the engines he is seriously disrespecting a great soul, someone who'd sacrificed his life for the country. He presents a petition (asking permission to resume work on the engine inspite of the strike) to the elders at the mosque but they fail to understand his point of view and reject his petition. Husmatullah too fails to understand why religion has to interfere with work. With such a terrible turmoil within him and the communal riots outside, this man puts into practice Gandhiji's timeless principles to do what his heart says is right.
Road to Sangam can be aptly compared to the khadi cloth that Gandhiji actively promoted. Its simply made. The message that it wants to put through is clear enough. Some gory images have been shown. But perhaps it is to make the viewers realize that there have been too many fights with cause unknown and consequence unbeneficial. And that, the time has come to open up our eyes to think any issue through before standing for it or against it. The movie raises a question as to where should one draw a line between religion and country, between personal and societal. When the whole world thinks in one direction and you think the other way, are you okay? Is it right to follow your heart's voice even when the closest to you don't seem to speak the same language?
However, if this message has to reach the public then a fair job hasn't been done. It needs more than what's in the film, for any layman to sit through the movie and then grasp its message. The thought of the movie is novel but its presentation isn't mass endearing. Also, another disappointing fact about this film is the lack of strong female characters. Or is it just a true and bitter reflection of our small towns where women still find it hard to make their space in the society?
The film doesn't cross the line except where a rickshaw driver retorts to a question asking him how he'd respond if someone forced him not to work for a day. He says- Is this a Pakistan or a Taliban, that anyone can force? It beats me how we can ever achieve peace with Pakistan if we continue to have such dialogues in our films.
The music is rustic and at times spiritual. Some songs have a levitating effect. Editing is smooth.
All the actors have done a stupendous job. Although Paresh Rawal is the protagonist, it's impossible to say the other characters are less impacting.
Paresh Rawal as Husmatullah is very very convincing. He takes you through his ups and downs without a trouble. You can actually feel what he is going through. Javed Sheikh as Dr. Ansari is a class-act. He is one of the lesser-known faces so it's a sweet surprise to get to see so much of an actor as good as him.
Om Puri as Mohammed Ali Kasuri is well-defined. Pavan Malhotra as Maulana Qureshi is a challenge accomplished. The actor has played a part several years older than him and has managed to pull it off.
Debutant director and scriptwriter Amit Rai has made a movie that not many would dare to make. A delicate topic has been handled pretty well. But we need docu-dramas that are mass appealing as the vital message goes to waste if not reached out to the audience.
This film is for those who are on a sincere quest of true meaning of patriotism as well as those who have a penchant for serious meaningful cinema.
Reporter and Author: Susan Jose