Liar's Dice - Film Still 02

Starting in a remote village on the Indo-Tibetan border and finishing in downtown Delhi, Geethu Mohandas’ low budget Hindi film is essentially a game of road trip chess. Deception and evasion are key, but this sociopolitical tale underwhelms more than it thrills, despite an intense performance from Bollywood veteran Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Kamala (Geetanjali Thapa) hasn’t heard a peep from her husband since he left to work on a construction site in Delhi five months earlier. As paranoia and worry begin to suffocate, she leaves her snowy surroundings in search of an answer. With no one to look after her Russian doll-like daughter Manya (Manya Gupta), the three-year-old bundle of joy joins her mother’s weary journey, bringing along her impeccably well-behaved baby goat.

The early stages of their passage unexpectedly introduce them to rucksack-sporting army deserter, Nawazuddin (Siddiqui): a mysterious presence who continually offers his assistance. Similarly to Kamala, we’re dubious about the ex-soldier’s motives, also struggling to process his stoicism with a woman who never warms to him.

The stunning mountain backdrops beg for Hollywood cinematography and the shaky cam antics leave much to be desired. But, shot in less than a month on a tight budget, Mohandas’ first feature is an impressive feat. Venturing from the rehearsed opening village scenes to the later, crowd-heavy Delhi shots, the fact no passersby look at the camera is a triumph it itself.

As Kamala’s hope starts to diminish, the endless searching becomes a tad weary. Yet this is never a pointless amble into the unknown. Liar’s Dice evokes a genuine curiosity over the whereabouts of the absent husband and is spattered with the odd moment of tension. The constant lack of trust and Kamala’s determination to do things her own way are trying on occasion, but there’s thankfully respite to be found in Manya and her energetic little goat.

A cryptic and abrupt ending endangers everything you’ve spent the running time investing in, leaving you grasping for answers instead of receiving a concrete explanation. Though it does permit Thapa her big moment, a lack of backstory for her male travel companion and confusion over what you’ve just witnessed prevents the finale from sitting quite right.