A beautiful journey, despite the meandering

A beautiful journey, despite the meandering

Highway
Hindi (U/A) ¬¬¬
Cast: Randeep Hooda,
Alia Bhatt
Director: Imtiaz Ali

A director must be very bold in order to keep some of the most important scenes of his film devoid of any background music, letting the ambient sound do the talking. It’s a bigger gamble when the man behind the music for the rest of the film is A R Rahman. But director Imtiaz Ali goes ahead with it, and in the process delivers some scenes that should end up in film-making courses.

But first, let’s focus on Highway’s low points. The story, on the surface, can be summed up in just two words: Stockholm Syndrome – a mental condition where the hostage begins to sympathise with the captor, and the two develop a positive bond.

That Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) would be taken hostage by Mahabir Bhati (Randeep Hooda) and his gang, and that she would take a liking to him, was evident in the trailers. It’s the “how” and “what then” that make Highway worth watching. Also, beware the plodding pace, which almost derails an otherwise visual and mental treat. They are why Highway fails to rise to levels of greatness.

Get past these, and you have scenes that endear you to the characters with situational absurdity, the protagonists’ emotional roller-coasters, and some acting that only a director of Imtiaz Ali’s calibre can bring out. How he gets the audience to think for and with the rustic, staunch Mahabir and the liberated-by-capture Veera, both as individuals and as a couple, merits one whole star in this review.

Look out especially for the scene where Veera’s actions result in a never-healing breach in Mahabir’s strong-as-a-dam exterior, and how they handle the resulting emotional flooding together. Also worth watching is the climax of sorts, where Veera finally manages to break out. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s a start for Alia Bhatt, who has come a long way since her debut; one can’t help but thank Imtiaz Ali for it. But she still has a long way to go.

Then there’s A R Rahman's music, which is underused, but the film isn’t poorer for it. Songs like “Sooha Saha” and “Patakha Guddi” only manage to underscore the story and the characters. Also remarkable is the cinematography, with scenic beauty at times overshadowing the characters. Watch this for cinematic value. Munch your popcorn elsewhere.

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