The world we live in is complex. But the life we lead can be simple. It’s up to us to choose what kind of life we want to lead in this highly complex world.
The enormous expectations of the society are a burden for all of us & with every passing minute we spend in this spiral society, the chances of us getting sucked into a vortex of complexity are high. Depending on which layer of the society one’s circumstances push them into, these complexities do have different dimensions. If you are born in an affluent family of a multimillionaire industrialist, who has enough clout over the central cabinet ministers, then these dimensions you get to live by, such as a highly sheltered & a prison like life, are entirely different from those that someone else has to live by, who let’s say is actually a someone who is born in a daily laborer’s family, who is in need of that extra income to feed his family, thus forcing him to ‘rent out’ his wife to make his ends meet.
But the similarity is that both their lives are complex in their own ways, because of what their circumstances have forced them to be part of.
Imtiaz Ali’s Highway is truly a meandering travel on emotionally bumpy terrains, around these complex dimensions, taking you to a cinematically logical conclusion that if you choose to lead a simple life, you may actually be able to do so. The movie is certainly my most favorite movie of the 3 movies I have seen of his. Rockstar was on a different plane with a much more grandeur theme, which occasionally failed to strike the right chord with me, while Jab We Met was a very well made Rom-com. But Highway was a ride worth driving till the end.
Take for example the sequence, when Veera is sitting on a rock right smack in the middle of a flowing glacial river, with swirls all around her and she suddenly goes through her emotions in a desolate & an uncontrolled way – She would laugh for no apparent reason and cry for no apparent reason, so detached from her own conscience, yet her subconscious mind keeps reminding her that she is doing something that is not real. Or the sequence when Mahabir lets her run for her escape early on in the story and Veera runs almost to a point of breathlessness, under the stars, with her feet on top of scaled salt pans and after a while, she hits a point of no return emotionally, comes to a complete realization, only to run back to her captor. These are turbulences that the character goes through. Her struggle, insecurity around understanding what happened to her as a child was actually sexual molestation, realization of the freedom she has and the confusion amidst all as to what she thought was freedom till then. We get to see glimpses of similar struggles that Mahabir goes through and the dimensions of his struggle are much more layered. On one hand he is battling his guilt (crime and murder) and on the other hand, he is also haunted by his early childhood, of seeing his mother go through what she did with a sense of helplessness. We get to experience his loneliness and his surrender to the inevitable. We get to see his vulnerability at the end, when he lets go off his burden and we get to see the momentary happiness that swipes his face before he gets killed.
Finally when Veera decides to confront her outer demons in her own house, we all feel relieved. We feel relieved for the choice she has made. She chooses to lead a simple life, breaking away all the shackles of the sheltered rich life, she once never knew she was leading. To me, Highway is not so much about Stockholm syndrome as everyone is talking about. It really is about the journey Veera and Mahabir take to make the choices they end up making.
Both Aliaa and Randeep have delivered brilliant performances. Aliaa has more scope to showcase a range of emotions, while Randeep’s character keeps his real inner personality in check, for the most part of the movie. Along with these two, the only other on screen star who has made me want to go back and watch the movie again, to make mental notes of the locations, is Anil Mehta, the DOP. What an astounding work he has done! Every shot, every angle, every corner and every scenic setting is fresh in my memory.
Yes, I could argue that Imtiaz Ali should not have succumbed to the conventional Bollywoodish compulsion to end this movie on a logical note – but he did it with minimal compromises. And for that he should get some credit.
Last but not the least, AR Rahman’s music score couldn’t have been more apt for a movie like this. The script was so challenging to scope out a memorable background score and yet, Rahman has managed to convert these challenges into golden opportunities to showcase his skills. Imtiaz does great service to Rahman’s songs by using all songs in their entirety, except may be the last few minutes when “Mahi Ve” was cut short. Watching the movie on screen with subtitles made it easier for me to appreciate Irshad Kamil’s words. Irshad has set himself a new target to reach in terms of lyrical stardom. He deserves it.
Highway is an emotional ride that taunts you with destinations that you know are real but are challenging to reach. Go watch it because it’s only the journey that matters and not the destination.