Romantic and contradictory road for Westerners in India

Scene from Romantic Road

Romantic Road
Directed by Oliver McGarvey
Showing nationally as part of the MINI British Film Festival

In 2011, retired British lawyer Rupert Grey and his wife Jan set off on a driving tour of India — in a 1936 Rolls Royce that he had inherited from his father. Filmmaker Oliver McGarvey tagged along for the six-month journey across mountains, deserts, through civil war zones and bureaucratic snafus.

After a torturous, years-long crowd-funded production effort Romantic Road is the result.

The Greys had back-packed across India in the glory days of the 1960s hippie trail, smoking hashish and camping in out of the way places. Rupert Grey then made a pile of money in the British legal system while settling into a slightly eccentric existence in a picturesque English village.

Now aging, the Greys were reliving the high times, while travelling to a civil rights-themed photography conference in Bangladesh.

The film is charming and revealing about many things.  India’s beauty, political contradictions and violent internal struggles are all on show.

Importantly, the filmmaker doesn’t hold back from exposing the privilege involved in a well-heeled English couple — even of left-leaning liberal persuasion — motoring through a nation that the British ruthlessly pillaged. Their Rolls Royce symbolises the Raj; it runs on contradictions as much as petrol.

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