Being a Woman
This is a first for me since I’ve never written about a movie, mainly because I’ve not been moved enough and also since I do not have the requisite qualifications for a film critic. I’m not crazy about films but watching a movie is always something I look forward to, especially in a theatre. This is not a review of the movie with pithy observations of the script or other technical aspects of movie making. I’m only trying to pen down my impressions about one of the most brilliant films I’ve watched over the past couple of years. Of late, there have hardly been any movies which have made an impression on my mind. Highway has quietly sneaked in and marked a space for itself. Imtiaz Ali had jumped onto my list of favourite directors with Jab We Met, but promptly got dislodged from his place with his next two efforts, Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar. I just could not identify with anything in these two movies. There has been a lot of hype which has build up around Highway and I was a tiny bit wary of the outcome.
The basic story is about the accidental abduction of Veera(Alia Bhatt) by a gang of small time criminals led by Mahabir (Randeep Hooda). Veera comes from an extremely privileged background while Mahabir is from the other end of the social spectrum. These two worlds collide for a moment and both of them are thrown together against their wishes. Since her father is highly connected to the top political brass, Mahabir has to take Veera away from Delhi and that too without any delay. The ensuing journey forms the crux of the movie.
Highway is not all fun and frolic. There’s a strong thread of serious issues running through the film and they add layers to what outwardly looks like just another road movie. The director wields the reins skilfully, letting go when the story requires and bringing it in tight when the pace relaxes. He has been beautifully helped in this endeavour by the leading pair of Alia Bhat and Randeep Hooda. The bratty Alia, whom we saw in Student Of The Year has been erased from my memory by the fragile yet strong Veera. Highway is Alia’s film, both because of her brilliant performance and also due to the strength of the script. I also feel that if not offset by Randeep Hooda’s brooding raw intensity, Alia would’ve been reduced to a mere caricature. Mahabir remains as an ache in my mind even after I’ve returned home . A man who’s tortured by the demons of his past, who yearns for a moment’s peace yet which he’s denied at every turn in life. Veera and Mahabir are perfect foils for each other. She has dreams, while he only wants a respite from his nightmares. She yearns for light and freedom, while he has learnt to live in darkness. She hopes to break free one day, while he has lost all hopes. Highway is the story of their journey. A journey which both start unwillingly but which makes them aware of hitherto unknown facets of their own personalities. Veera finds honesty and honour where she least expects to and Mahabir finds solace and acceptance.
Highway is not just a movie, it’s an experience. Sounds terribly cliched but so true in this case. The locales are breathtaking and the director has brought out the inherent distinctiveness of the different parts of the country without trying to coat them with gloss and glamor. The simmering discontent due to huge wealth imbalances in Delhi is revealed through some gritty shots and effective use of dialogue. The contrast between the narrow crowded streets of Ajmer and the vast expanse of the salt pans of Sambhar is tremendous. The sheer expanse of the bleached white salt pans is as intimidating for us as it is for Veera. Lush, green fields, dusty roads, crowded alleys, slick black roads edged with a frosting of snow, rough mountainous terrain, rushing waters of wild rivers, the sheer majesty of the brooding mountains; this whole mosaic just adds to the richness of the experience. Imtiaz Ali has shown us undefiled tracts of Incredible India. The enormous amount of work which has been done by the cast and crew alike has definitely been responsible for the beauty of this film.
The songs by A R Rahman are a slight disappointment, though his Patakha Guddi and the lullaby Sooha Saha stay in the mind. The background score is spot on . This is one of the few films which has used the power of silence so effectively. It has been used to enhance menace and also to enrich nature’s beauty.
Highway, like any other man-made entity has it’s foibles. However the impact of the film is such that these faults seem insignificant. Highway is a must-watch movie for the magnificent portrayal of the landscape, skilful direction and remarkable performances by the cast.