The film is about two people. Or even better, the people beneath those people. Beautifully written, deeply philosophical, visually astounding and absolute fun — Highway is unadulterated joy.
Veera (Alia Bhatt), the daughter of a Mr. Moneybags, has been kidnapped by goons. She’s bundled up in the back of a truck with a dirty rag stuffed in her mouth. The look in her eyes— a mix of helplessness and fear— could haunt you for days. It’s a ransom deal and the leader Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) instructs his men to keep watch.
The film is about a beautiful bond between two people— a bond that peels away the layers and makes them both see inside themselves. In other words, as it often is in true love— they become each other’s best friend and shrinks rolled into one.
The superficial age and background disparity only adds to the fun. You won’t find a more unlikely pair, and yet they’re so similar intrinsically. I refuse to divulge anymore of the story, as the fun is in the ride, as one character evocatively says in the film (in any case, they’ve said too much in the film’s promos).
Writer-director Imtiaz Ali is unabashedly loyal to the story, refusing to bend it to serve a more commercial taste. So in one of the film’s most stunning scenes, a character sits by a gush of water and laughs uncontrollably wondering why they’re doing so. Such happiness this character has never experienced, so it’s as uncontrollable as the gush of water. This scene goes on and on, and it’s just priceless!
This is just one scene from the many others that will stay with you after the film’s over. The mountains too serve as a metaphor, representing the extreme beauty and danger of this unlikely bond.
And how Ali has evolved as a filmmaker! He designs a character that doesn’t cop-out towards the end. Veera is not a character that will decide to become a nun because a man doesn’t love her (like in Jab We Met), neither is she full of fear and illnesses (like Heer in Rockstar).
Veera, here, is a character who thought she was living, until she discovers what ‘being alive’ meant. And then she screams like she has never screamed before, rebels like a new person, and finds herself in way she would have never imagined.
The film comes alive with the mind-blowing performances. Alia Bhatt, that girl in fancy clothes who debuted in Student of the Year is this generation’s BIGGEST FIND. Her debut film didn’t do any justice to her talent, and one thanks her for picking this gutsy film as the second project.
Completely immersed in the role, Alia’s uninhibited and raw performance will have you emotionally invested in her character all through. So, it can be quite a journey for the viewer as well.
Randeep Hooda is superb as the rugged Mahabir whose inner core is revealed through the story, making him both uncomfortable and grateful.
Supporting performances are superlative especially by Randeep’s kidnapping assistant who steals the show in a dancing scene.
The film has been shot with as much love as it has been written. Cinematography by Anil Mehta brings alive the different portions of India the film has been shot in. Aarti Bajaj’s editing, Resul Pookutty’s sound design and Aki Narula’s styling are top-notch! A.R.Rahman’s music is haunting and resonates with the film beautifully.
The only aspect that left one unsatisfied was the development of the bonding between the pair that often seems like a mix of the Stockholm Syndrome, an asexual friendship, and a bumbling romance. Since he tends to show her as a child-woman towards the second half of the film, one wonders if she’s finding solace in the other character’s arms, or is she really in love?
Maybe there’s no need to intellectualize this beautiful bond and just savour it as it is.
Just like the film. Do Not Miss!
Rating: Four stars