It is an error to think that more constraints you put increases the audience appreciation or your films value, rather the shortest route that is often the best way. Unfortunately, this film was seriously indulgent and was missing key ingredients. The opportunity slipped because the method was fundamentally incorrect. It felt unrealistic when the main thing the film-makers were betting on was to land in that real world zone. Its a dark film so you only have a small space to meet your mark. For example, after the epiphanic experience when the protagonist is runs back from the desert, the next morning she starts behaving as if she is on a road trip with some friends. Then there is a blocked scene with choreographed camera movements in a film where there is a lot of static shots. Then a beating local song, followed by a sudden rendering of a philosophical monologue (though beautifully shot). It felt uneven and I didn't buy into it.
This could be an honest mistake by this mainstream director who wanted to be (narratively-speaking) a puritan and approach this film as one would with traditional artwork. However, you are unlikely to direct a film in this way as if you were reading it purely off a book. I like that the story is character-driven and the direction gives space for great improvisation (unlike regular Indian films) however the plot narrative has to be adapted for the screen which has a way of its own. Its a physical journey and an emotional learning curve. Things need to happen in the physical world especially when you are on the road and the audience has to be invested in its transformational experience even as we walk out of the halls. This is what the film promised to be to counter typical blockbusters. This is the difference we were hoping for but we got an unbalanced movie.
I felt where it had fallen short was, though well intentioned, was the bridging of our society's deep class divide. Romeo and Juliet can fall in love and make it memorable but the notion that a respectable girl, from an affluent family, even temporarily, sharing love with another human being, who is not only a thief and murderer but also poor, jolts the collective middle-class psyche. The human insights that make us identify with the characters should have been much more in order for us to like and accept the situations shown. Instead there were cliché fillers with some beautiful visuals stretching it and tiring us before we reach the emotional scenes. Its clear that the room for improvisation was so vast that the time-tested value of scripting had to give way. I am not mentioning the uncomfortable (for our society the) thrusting of the view that love can blossom and heal broken souls under the most serious and morally "wrong" circumstance. Its a view, we should not judge it blindly and in simple terms. Humans are complicated and so is our cathartic redemption experiences.
Art is about a feeling and being able to connect that with your audience. Commercial film can never be for its own sake. Nevertheless this is a real feature film and I bet the crew has many memorable stories to tell.