When was the last time you were so engrossed in a movie that it took hours to grapple with the real world? The movie, ‘Highway’ is a 133-minute meditation session which will leave you in a zen-like stupor, as if someone just woke you up from a blissful dream you’d wish had never ended.
Circa 1991, the posters of ‘Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin’, a road movie starring Pooja Bhatt and Aamir Khan proclaimed: A journey into a woman’s heart. Year 2014, the same line is a befitting description for ‘Highway’, a road movie starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda (Both in their career-best performance).
To begin with, ‘Highway’ isn’t a ‘movie’, it’s a ‘journey’, isn’t an ‘escape’ but ‘retreat’, isn’t ‘experience’ but ‘meditation’. The film is about a girl being kidnapped by four unruly men and taken from Delhi to Rajasthan, to Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
Far from such itinerary-like description, ‘Highway’ is about the journey than the destinations highlighted in the promos. Director Imtiaz Ali chooses to keep the script aligned with this core philosophy of life being about journey rather than destination. In an interview, Imtiaz Ali said that all he had was a basic storyline and the entire script was ready after the shoot was over. This random approach lends a raw tone to this film, where a line inscribed on the truck does the talking instead of the characters mouthing smart one-liners.
Any director in his place would have been tempted to brief his cinematographer to do a National-Geographic-Channel way of capturing the destinations Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) and Mahabir Bhati (Randeep Hooda) travel to. Had it been so, ‘Highway’ would have ended up being a video promo of some Tours & Travel Company. Thankfully, we’re spared of such inanities, and also the melodrama usually doled out in a film with a strong social message.
‘Music is the silence between the notes’ – this quote defines the background score of ‘Highway’ composed by maestro AR Rahman. Silences were never so eloquent in a film and music was never so silent.
Cinematographer Anil Mehta keeps things surprisingly simple and refreshingly restrained, which means you won’t find those fancy filters, fish-eye shots, colour-corrected landscapes and sunlight on snow-capped mountains. The highways appear the way we see or our handycam captures them.
Each moment of this journey is real, except for the fact that the transition of Alia Bhatt’s character from a scared-to-death rich girl to a hopelessly-in-love woman is way too abrupt. But once you buy the idea of a prey falling in love with the hunter, you’re in for a great time.
Nevertheless, the film’s message lingers on your mind and makes you ponder over unanswered questions. Lines like ‘Bandook se do log marte hain, ek jise goli lagti hai aur doosra jo goli chalaata hain’ refuse to leave you hours after leaving the auditorium. To sum it up, ‘Highway’ is a journey that takes you to undiscovered destinations within. Go, explore.