Imitiaz Ali is definitely one of the most creative directors in Bollywood, a status he received after the success of the cult movie jab we met (2007). He is known for introducing adorable or complex characters with apt realism and depth. Highway is the movie based on a television episode he wrote and directed named “Rishtey”. Veera (Alia Bhatt) is kidnapped at gunpoint from petrol pump where her fiance Vinay (Arjun Malhotra) could only stare at her helplessly. Her kidnapper Mahabir (Randeep Hooda), after finding out about her aristocracy, demands ransom while she is held hostage. Over time, Veera develops Stockholm syndrome and her kidnappers softens one by one. What follows is a journey about love, freedom and redemption.
If highway focused on love aspect or the kidnapping alone, then it would have been another typical Bollywood film but Imitiaz Ali introduced a flavor that I haven’t experienced in a Bollywood film for a while. This is not just a film but a journey that takes you along with it. We follow the roads, the hills the mountain and see North India from Veera’s POV. As a girl born in a rich overprotective family, Veera is looking forward to a life where she could be free and be herself. Ironically she finds it after being kidnapped. Ali’s direction takes the cake making highway one of the most underrated yet noticed film of 2014. After watching cliched disasters like Dhoom 3, jab tak hai jaan, happy new year etc which earned massive at box office, questions the taste of the audience in general. The movie might not have the same appeal for all, one will be needed the flair to understand the inner meaning of the visuals especially when it is viewed from each character’s POV. Veera is a straightforward person who changes as she goes to different spots in India with Mahabir. She finds joy in touching plants, watching the stream’s rushes, looking at the snowy mountains and making food in a small cottage. During her journey to North India we might think “wow, there are places that I have yet to visit”, geographical diversity is the nation’s beauty. Alia Bhatt delivered a spectacular yet heart breaking performance. We feel for her as she narrates the horror story where she, as a child, was sexually assaulted by her uncle and the haunting climax scene where she nailed it. We don’t get to see powerful female-centric films, one of the major reasons why actresses don’t survive in Bollywood beyond 35 years of age. With roles like highway, Alia will make a name for herself. She’s got the talent and caliber. Randeep Hooda did a film that has nothing to do with his sex appeal or sexual freedom, after back to back films like jism 2, muder 3, rang rasiya. He showed his versatility with this anti-hero depiction where he is a tough nerve racking villain who is soft and broken inside. Randeep and Alia shared a great chemistry in that sense as their characters are bipolar in nature yet they understood each-other no one else could. Mahabir represents the positive message this movie gives, that is how love can change a person to redemption. Durgesh Kumar has adorable presence as Aadoo, one of the first people to admire Veera’s free spirited nature. The supporting cast on the hand was dim in a typical Imitiaz Ali way, where the complete focus is on the lead characters. Veera’s journey was like god calling, asking her to come out and feel the nature.
Our eyes will moisten after seeing the beautiful scenery at Himachal Pradesh, especially the clean water and greenery, as we are well aware of how population explosion is leading to deterioration of the nature, inch by inch. Mahabir tells Veera that they could any of the mountains as it is theirs, but it is only a matter of minutes before they could lose it to govt officials looking forward to built infrastructure. The movie had perfect pacing backed by a poignant screenplay and Ali’s vision to explore the journey of a young woman. Cinematography deserves the applause for the visuals captured which put the audience in the natural envt. Aarti Bajaj compiled the visuals apropos the majestic journey to have result of befitting pace. A.R Rahman composed haunting scores and songs which can be played over and over, my personal favorite being “maahi ve”. Highway is also one of the best feminist films released in Bollywood as it witnesses the transformation of Veera into an independent woman who takes a stand against the system which suppressed her, from her kidnappers to her family who tried to silence her as she spoke out about her history of sexual abuse.
And it is a film that inspires you to travel and stay close to nature.
A must watch.