Karwaan is a lightweight road movie, meant to be life-altering for the characters, and amusing for the audience, but the Akarsh Khurana-directed film is neither too funny nor profound enough. It coasts along on the charm of the actors and breathtaking beauty of the Southern landscapes not seen too often in Hindi films. Audiences today are pleased with much less.
Bengaluru-based Avinash (Dulquer Salman — earnest) is a leftover from 3 Idiots — he wanted to be a photographer, is forced by his father into a secure IT job. The estranged father is killed in a bus accident, and Avinash wants to get the last rites over with quickly, when he discovers, much to his annoyance, that his father’s coffin has been exchanged with that of the mother of a Kochi-based woman, whose rebellious daughter Tanya (Mithila Palkar) joins the trip.
The solemn Avinash, inexplicably, has a friend in an older garage owner Shaukat (Irrfan), who offers to transport the coffin in his van part of the way, but the journey keeps getting extended, and not all diversions are interesting. Why, for instance, would Avinash not leave a package to be delivered at the home of the recipient who is not in, and insist on going out of the way to a wedding, where he is to be found!
Shaukat is a man with too many chips on his shoulder — he takes off on foreigners, scantily clad girls (“my van is not a dance bar”) and people who drink. But he has been given the best lines (some credit to dialogue writer Hussain Dalal), and even an old-fashioned romance. Tanya is a bit of a caricature too, millennial girl means she smokes, drinks, sneaks out of the boys’ hostel, wears tiny shorts and is so spaced out that she forgets all about her grandmother’s death.
Dulquer Salmaan gives an effectively unobtrusive performance as opposed to Irrfan’s show-offy wisecracking. However, the good and bad thing about having Irrfan in the film is that he gets all the laughs, but when he is not on screen, the movie seems to deflate.