It seems that it takes time for directors to arrive at a place they can make movies their way, saying stories they have always wanted to say. Highway is perhaps the best movie we have seen from Imtiaz Ali’s repertoire.
We thought it was Rockstar, not for Ranbir Kapoor or how much moolah it managed to rake in, but for the sheer emotional crisis he brought out through so many scenes in the movie. Jab We Met was better than Love Aaj Kal, but amidst all of this, Highway takes you away.
Veera (Alia Bhatt) gets kidnapped in a freak moment by Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) and his men. They cannot let Veera go, though kidnapping was not really a part of the game plan, so the journey begins.
Breaking the movie down to the very basics, it will seem that Ali celebrates the Stockholm Syndrome (the psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them - from wiki, sue me!).
Mahabir is violent towards Veera initially, but he isn’t nasty. His violence also reduces over the time they spend together. And that is because Mahabir, the seasoned, always angry, rough criminal for hire is dealing with a loose cannon in the form of Veera.
Veera tries to escape just once and returns because she is in the middle of nowhere. She doesn’t return because she wants to go back to her picture perfect life. The fact that she doesn’t want to return hits her when she hides from the police. And then there is really no going back.
In my understanding of the dynamics between Veera and Mahabir, Veera has more to gain from her time on the run because her life back at her posh home, never made much sense to her. She always breathed easier in the open and the open road brings her to life. She is fun, animated, real. A good million miles away from the fluff that perched pretty on the couch at Koffee with Karan. I so wish Alia was Veera in real life.
Veera doesn’t empathise with Mahabir because she can’t, she sympathises. In that measure, Highway is a lovely Bollywood movie about that psychological phenomenon. But for what human minds are worth, let’s just try and understand for a little while that we also connect with unnatural people (like kidnappers perhaps) because they can get us to a state that goes with us intrinsically. Like finding the right drug for a chronic disease (I perhaps might have taken that analogy a bit too far). Veera stays and loves because she feels free. Transgression from the Stockholm theory? I surely think so.
I found a lot of what was going through my head play out in the movie and that is exactly why I did not think Ali is making light of a serious issue (like kidnapping). In a parallel universe perhaps he is, but that I am going to ignore now.
Ali can make his female leads act like their life depends on it, and he does it again with Alia Bhatt. The girl can act, so perhaps Highway could serve as a reminder to all other directors to not make Alia play the Clueless-prototype.
Hooda is clearly one of the most under-used actors in B’wood and he proves his mettle again. When Mahabir breaks down in the movie and Veera tries to stop him from crying, he simply says he hasn’t had a chance to cry before and he thus wants to do it now - you will feel it hit you right between the eyes. Though the return of the two protagonists as children at the end of the movie is a little retarded.
Highway is perfect, in a lot of ways. Music, acting and the people. Don’t miss it.