The beauty of any road trip or self-discovery movies is the character transformation across the course of the movie. Sometimes it is so subtle and classy that you cannot help but appreciate the writing and direction that has gone behind it. With Imtiaz Ali behind the pen and camera, I expected the same out of ‘Highway’. But I would say I was little disappointed.
Veera (Alia Bhatt), daughter of a very rich and influential man, gets abducted by Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) and his gang of thugs in a shoot-out at a petrol pump. When Mahabir realizes that this kidnapping would easily catch the attention of the law, he flees with Veera and his accomplices in a journey across several states. Shot extremely beautifully, the picturesque landscapes integrate well into the story and one cannot stop admiring the cinematography. What follows in the plot is a typical case of Stockholm syndrome. Veera, seems to enjoy coming out the nauseating and as we slowly discover, troubling milieu of her home. But what is unconvincing is her extremely quick and rapid transformation from a troubled kidnapped victim to a happy and cheerful co-traveler.
Both the lead characters are haunted by their pasts and in turn find solace in each other’s company though Mahabir is much reluctant to show the same. There are a few moments in the movie which stay with you after the film is over. One of them particularly is my favorite where a sad and distraught Veera after revealing a secret from her troubled past tells Mahabir that “Jahan se tum mujhe laaye ho wahan mein wapas nahi jaana chahti, Jahaa bhi le jaa rahe ho wahaa pahunchna nahi chahti. par ye rasta, yeh bahut achha hai, main chahti hoon ki yeh raasta kabhi khatam na ho” (Please don’t take me back to the place where you have brought me from, please don’t take me to the place where you are taking me now. But this road, this is amazing. I wish it never ended).
The performances are natural and refreshing. I could not have imagined Alia Bhatt playing such a mature role. Kudos to Ali for casting her and extracting such a performance out of her, She does a fabulouseat job. And so does Randip Hooda who is effortless as Mahabir. AR Rahman’s background score is soothing and the song ‘Patakha Guddi’ has become one of my favorites. Anil Mehta’s cinematography is remarkable and is the highlight of the movie. The weakest link in the chain is the script which is not something you expect out of Imtiaz Ali, especially for a story that he claims stayed with him for over 15 years, Or maybe I expected a tad bit too much from him.