A famed Hindi novelist’s quest for a new subject leads him to the heroine of his past novel in Goutam Ghose’s ambitious but unwieldy “The Journey.” While it’s a treat for Indian movie fans to see Bollywood star Rekha in a role fit to her status, pic’s unsure shifts in tone and uneasy sense that it will never end erodes aud goodwill. This non-musical-with-music will appeal to those looking for an alternative to the norm, but may put off mainstream regulars as it shifts from fests to commercial runs.
Set to pick up a prestigious, corporate-sponsored literary prize, revered scribe Dasrath (Nana Patekar) begins musing about a new novel provisionally titled “The Bazaar.” Early section in the author’s abode establishes a warm atmosphere with wife Smita (Deepti Naval), daughter Somita (Anandi Ghose) and drums-obsessed son Yaman (Romit Raj).
On the train to the ceremony, Dasrath falls into a rambling though interesting conversation with inquisitive filmmaker Mohan (Nakul Vaid). They discuss cinema’s dependence on literature and the ideas behind Dasrath’s best-known novel, “Janaza,” a tragedy involving a dancer and culled from Dasrath’s own experiences.
A rather creaky illustration of the novel introduces Rekha as Lajwanti, a beautiful dancer betrothed to a thuggish man who brutally punishes her when she spurns his boorish friends. She’s rescued by Satosh (Patekar, made up to look a tad younger), who sets her up in lodging in Hyderabad.
“The Journey” blurs fiction-within-fiction and the fiction itself, as Dasrath seeks out the woman who inspired his Lajwanti in Hyderabad and finds her performing under the name of “Lisa.” The author’s caustic acceptance of his prize allows for pic to indulge in a polemic on cultural decay, and a final twist suggests the hand of Mohan’s filmmaking has been operating.
It’s all a bit much for a longish two-hour film to digest — ironically hinting at how a novel version of same story may be superior — but Patekar and Rekha summon up strong, committed perfs in difficult, multi-dimensional double roles.
Rekha’s dance/music numbers provide pic with its musical aspects, stressing traditional craft that invokes a misty period feel. Images both corny and evocative vie for attention in a project with solid production elements.