- If you haven’t watched Highway, please go ahead and watch it.
- If you have watched Highway, go ahead and read the blog.
- If you like Jackie Shroff, you’re cool.
Right from the trailers, there was no doubt what Highway would be about. Stockholm Syndrome, the scenario when a hostage falls in love with his/her kidnapper.
So clearly, it was just a case of how, and not what.
Highway is a difficult film to ease into. The first ten minutes are montage shots of a truck going through different terrains, and a marriage video where women are selecting sarees for the wedding.
And then, the girl gets kidnapped, and taken hostage.
Journeys have been a leit-motif of Imtiaz Ali films. Jab We Met was about a couple who discover their love for each other over two journeys. Love Aaj Kal spoke about the journeys we need to embark on, for love, illustrated through parallel stories from two generations. And Socha Na Tha was…err…the beginning of Abhay Deol’s journey in cinema.
Now, this is where the problems in the film begin. The girl is kidnapped, and suddenly, she realises that she’s actually enjoying it. Enjoying the grandeur of nature, the open spaces, open air and the smiling sun, and other such first world luxuries.
She’s been manhandled, felt up, gagged, made to sleep in a dumpyard, and yet when she wakes up, she starts talking animatedly.
Here, as a viewer you are wondering: ‘What’s wrong with her? Why is she talking so much?’
Just then, Alia Bhat stops and thinks aloud, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with me? Why am I talking so much?’
A few scenes later, the police are searching the truck, and instead of escaping, she chooses to hide inside the truck. At this juncture, you as a viewer are wondering, ‘Is she going mad? Why didn’t she escape?’
As if on cue, she thinks aloud, ‘Hey! Am I going mad? Why didn’t I escape?’
But in true Bollywood style, these are minor hiccups. As we all know, when lauvv has to happen, lauvv will happen.
And so when the trucker tells her that his mother used to sing him songs as a kid, she tells him, ‘Tum mujhe kaafi cute lagne lage ho.’ To put this in perspective, it is like Scarlett Johansson sending me a friend’s request, and then commenting ‘Oooh, so sexy you are. Proud to be your friend, ya!’ on my pictures.
As befuddled as the viewer, is the poor trucker. Randeep Hooda, playing an intense and brooding man for the absolutely first time in his entire career, fails to understand what’s wrong with the girl.
[INSERT ERIC CLAPTON VIDEO: ‘COCAINE’]
The basic premise of the film is so contrived, it’s hard to empathise with the protagonist. In today’s India, when how we treat women is such a large issue, when sparrows have gone extinct in Delhi in the presence of burly men, would a girl really be enjoy being kidnapped?
Not only does the heroine fall in love, she goes one up, and experiences what I like to call the ‘Bollywood Heroine Chhota Sa Ghar Complex’.
Whenever a rich girl in a Hindi film gets kidnapped, or stranded, she will want to have a small house, away from the rest of the world, just her and the hero – their small house of happiness. An adult version of the House-House game that kids play.
And so the two find a house, and start living in it. She cooks him Maggi, sweeps the house, and prepares a bed for the two of them. And then, shit hits the AC. So our trucker guy, who has killed three men, kidnaps women from roads, and carries a gun in his bag when he travels in a bus, refuses to go into the house. So transformed is the man, that he doesn’t want to make the sexay time with the girl.
I am sure this happens in the People’s Republic of Karan Johar, but in our world, it is simply too far-fetched to believe.
The point about her having a troubled past seems hollow. She could have spoken to her father. He is shown as a sensible, caring person, the only cruel thing he’s ever done is to give her an anaesthetic against her will.
Imtiaz Ali, slowly but surely, has become the King of Unexplained Angst.
In Love Aaj Kal, the hero is torn because the girl he loves (who also loves him back) is getting married to another man. He refuses to do anything about it, and then lands there a week after the marriage.
In Rockstar, our hero is angsty because he whisked away his lover, who was another man’s wife, to the Himalayas. In the Himalayas, he gets the terminally ill woman pregnant, and then is angry when she succumbs to the complications.
And in Highway, a kidnapping serves as a coming-of-age for the woman, who rebels against her life by choosing to live with her kidnapper, who hasn’t even acknowledged his love once, but has threatened to sell her to a brothel twice.
‘Is this love?’
‘Maine na jaana….chutiya banana….’
The other problem area for the film is Alia Bhat’s acting. Saddled with a role that requires an intense portrayal, Alia Bhat flares her nostrils so violently, it would make Hrithik Roshan run and hide behind a curtain.
And AR Rahman is barely used in the film. Most of the film consists of silent, long shots. When you have Rahman, why not use Rahman? It’s like having Tendulkar on your side, and opening the innings with Venkatpathy Raju.
If Socha Na Tha was a breath of fresh air, and Rockstar was a gust of angst, Highway is a farcical fart. A terribly disappointing film that sets an unrealistic premise in front of you, and doesn’t help you unravel it.
Watch Highway only if you can get high on the way. There are some shots of beautiful snow-capped peaks that you wouldn’t normally get to see on YouTube or National Geographic.