Imtiaz Ali's Highway will not give you an adrenaline rush, but a serene feeling that stays with you long after the film is over. Alia Bhatt, who's still the student of Bollywood, has the makings of a superstar.
Warning: passengers… oops viewers of this movie (Highway) are requested to take a deep breath and relax in their seats. The road ahead is bumpy, slow, yet deeply enjoyable.
Kicking off the journey: The opening credits of Imtiaz Ali's Highway prepare you for the journey ahead. The camera moves with you along the breathtaking landscapes of Sambhar, Ajmer, Bikaner, Faridkot, Rampur, Kaza, Pahlgam and Aru.
Imtiaz Ali's Highway has all the highs and lows of a journey. Here're the moments that made us stop and think…
The first stop (scene): There is chaos all around as the preparation for a wedding is in full steam. Alia Bhatt is set to get married. The pre-wedding ceremonies are shot in a documentary style. There are no full dialogues, only snippets that you generally see in a real life wedding video. It was refreshing to see the wedding ceremonies sans the Bollywood touch.
A sharp turn in the story: Veera (Alia Bhatt), the daughter of a rich industrialist, is set to tie the knot with Vinay, when her life takes an unexpected turn, after she is kidnapped by a gang of dacoits (One of them is Randeep Hooda). Much to her surprise, only after she comes out of her present circumstances that she begins to enjoy the journey called life.
Roadblock: Can you empathise with your kidnapper? Are you normal if you find him cute and sing a lullaby (Sooha Saaha) to him? Will you stay with your adductor even if given a chance to escape? If your answers to the above-mentioned questions are No, you are perfectly normal. Clearly suffering from the Stockholm syndrome, our protagonist says yes to all of the above questions, to discover her inner freedom, at the cost of her outer freedom.
Performances - a dhaba break: Two-film old Alia Bhatt is still a 'student' in Bollywood, but can give a lesson or two to many. A natural performer, she nails it in a couple of scenes. In one scene, she gets a chance to escape from the clutches of her kidnappers, but returns to them after she finds she has nowhere to go. In another, she bursts into peals of laughter, followed by a bout of sobbing.
Randeep Hooda delivers a nuanced yet controlled performance. He perfects the Haryanvi accent to lend authenticity to his character. He's able to get into the skin of his character Mahabir Bhati. His character opens up and frees himself from the self-imposed shackles towards the end.
In the right direction: Imtiaz Ali's film is all soul. The movie takes one direction and focuses on it, rather than moving to sub-plots. True, there's no adrenaline rush, but there's a serene feel to it. Much like his previous films, Imtiaz's female protagonist wants to break out of the existing rules and regulations, to lead life at her own terms (remember Jab We Met's Geet and Rockstar's Heer). Hats off to Imtiaz for doing justice to the essence of the film.
The musical journey: The Oscar winning team of Jai Ho - AR Rahman, Resul Pookutty, Amrit Pritam churn out some soulful music to go along with Imtiaz Ali's road movie.
From the window seat: Be it the opening credits, the abduction scene, the trying-to-escape sequence, the Patakha Guddi moments or the scenic beauty, cinematographer Anil Mehta deserves a round of applause for capturing everything so beautifully. Mehta has also tried some unique camera angles, to break the monotony of the journey.
A whiff of fresh air: scenes that stayed on…
1) Alia dancing to the western tunes in the middle of the highway. One of the kidnappers joining her.
2) Alia cooking Maggi in a small house located on a mountain.
Verdict: If you are stuck on the crossroads of life, take the Highway.