Highway seems like the befitting follow-up for writer-director, Imtiaz Ali, after his previous film Rockstar. If Rockstar dealt with the troubled life of Janardhan Jakad, Highway deals with the troubled life of two people, who together comprise the soul of this road romance (to say the least). Alia Bhatt plays Veera, a rich girl who eventually gets kidnapped by Mahabir (played by Randeep Hooda), a hoodlum living near Delhi. Much of the film starts after this event and slowly takes its own course. Mutually, the feelings begin to develop between Mahabir and Veera; and from that point, the direction their relationship takes is what Highway is emotionally made of. Many among the audience might read ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ here; traces of which cannot be denied, but on a core level this is not a love story between the oppressor and the oppressed, but a love story where both are humans and essentially devoid of love. And when love enters their life, it enables both Mahabir and Veera to discover the meanings of their own lives and helps them in attaining peace. As the name suggests, traveling is the heart of the film and definitely co-exists in a way that it almost stands as the third character in the movie, in sync with the life of both Mahabir and Veera.
They both start connecting with each other in the course of their travels, which is in reality an espionage trip and while journeying through six different states, both the protagonists start opening up to each other and their childhood issues surface. This connection and perception of each other, in a way that makes them both (Mahabir and Veera) realize the humanity in each other and the dissimilarity of their respective worlds is what in its true sense constitutes the soul of Highway. Randeep Hooda has proven himself as an actor before and although Alia will claim most of the limelight, Randeep also gives a highly matured and restrained performance. The kind only talented and experienced actors are capable of. For Alia, this is undeniably her movie and she gives a great performance which might have been difficult to deliver at this age. She clearly does justice to the role of Veera and the credit goes to Imtiaz Ali for this too. He is one of current filmmakers who understands women like no other and has developed a reputation for creating wonderful female characters.
In Highway too, he has kept his reputation alive. One of the most interesting aspect of the movie is its music. This time A.R.Rahman goes minimalistic in his approach, unlike his previous film Rockstar. Listening to the music of Highway, one tends to get the feeling that that the soul behind the music of both the films is almost the same. Highway has some really nice tracks which speak on the behalf of what Mahabir and Veera’s life are made of.
On a sincere note, Highway is a kind of film which might polarize the views again (hopefully this time to a lesser degree than Rockstar). Some might feel the minimalist treatment and a bit of unbelievability of this film quite uninteresting. But this approach stands on the other side of the cinematic range that a filmmaker like Imtiaz Ali employs in his film. We don’t get to see these kinds of films, usually, in the plethora of blockbuster films that are made at present (which are fun too in its own way!) The director has taken this story and has stamped his own signature style over it, but with the difference. The treatment of the film is more purist in its nature and takes Highway closer to pure cinema, the kind of cinema that needs to be appreciated and encouraged too. For instance, the conscious lack of background score and a very stable and secure camerawork efficiently paving way for ‘nature’ to express itself in the movie are one of the defining elements of the movie. Anil Mehta’s cinematography is fantastic. Hope that Highway will be loved by audience and critics alike and gets the appreciation it truly deserves. Definitely one of Imtiaz Ali’s best!