Highway (2014)

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In Bondage…She Found Freedom

Imagine then the daughter of a rich and powerful industrialist with strong connections within the corridors of power. It is just four days until her wedding. Her name is Veera Tripathi and she feels stifled, or trapped. On an impulse, she asks her fiancé to pick her up in his car later that night, so she can sneak out and they can experience some freedom. They weren’t eloping, and as the fiancé tells Veera – he’d rather they were in their homes than cruising around in the middle of the night.

They eventually stop at an all night convenience store/filling station. Veera steps out of the car, against her boy friend’s wishes. Just to stretch her legs. Maybe use the restroom. She had no idea that by doing so, the rest of her life would change forever.

Veera unknowingly had stepped out of the car and into an ongoing robbery. Shots are fired, the thieves come rushing out and see her, a lone woman standing there. They grab her, and use her as a shield to make an escape.

She’s bound, she’s gagged, and she’s blindfolded. She can be ransomed later is the thought. Eventually there will be a problem coming up soon – I promise. When the thieves reach their rendezvous location and they meet their boss, and he gets her name, he becomes furious. Tripathi is a powerful man, and he will be able to marshal all the forces he needs to rescue his daughter. This boss becomes so furious that he orders them to swap their car for one of his trucks and go far, far away. Attempting to ransom her would be fatal.

So Mahabir Bhati (played by Randeep Hooda), and three of his men head out into the night. Veera is played by Alia Bhatt, and she has no idea where they are or what her fate might be. But eventually they make camp in an abandoned factory. Veera is unbound, and released as she will have to eat, relieve her self and eventually sleep. Besides, where can she go, they are in the middle of nowhere…

So the journey begins. The film is called Highway. It was written and directed by Imtiaz Ali and it was released in the USA on February 21, 2014, the same day it opened across India.

In a word, I’ll call this a terrific film. The story is wafer thin – Rich girl is abducted, and eventually she some how bonds with her captor. While they travel on India’s back roads and local highways, they’re on an inner journey as well; an infinite journey to discovery of the unknown and unforeseeable future on life’s highway.

The film is not long on dialogue, or conversation – but from the moment of the abduction, is emotionally charged.

For Veera, she’s seeing an India that she wasn’t aware of, and it excites her. Just to be able see a field like this, and run through it, was all so very new to her. From Delhi southwest into Rajasthan,then northerly into Haryana, then continuing northward into Punjab, through HP, and finally and eventually up to Pahalgam, in Jammu-Kashmir.

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We travel through the dusty plains, across scorched and barren deserts, and follow narrow roads high in the mountains. While this is no travelogue as we never sight-see, or do what tourists do, we go through some amazing places. I say amazing because all of their cameras, and sound recording equipment had to be carried into some difficult terrains and places.

Not caring what’s left behind, Not seeing what lies ahead,

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I ask myself – Where am I?

Finding myself amidst lost desires, firm desires, shaky pursuits,

in all of this … where am I?

You will see places that are not all that far from the top of the world. As we travel through Northern India, you will see that the Veera changes. She and Mahabir will develop a bond. Veera’s exhilaration becomes ours as well as we too are seeing places we will never see in person.

Alia Bhatt’s performance is extraordinary. She goes from a rich man’s daughter to a hostage, to a not unwilling fellow on a journey, to a woman who does not want to go back to her old life. Nor did she want this journey to end either.

Hooda, as Mahabir is more closed off. He’s all business at first but he can’t help but notice as Veera comes alive before his eyes But this not a simple tale about falling in love. In fact, he is resistant to her, but not for the reasons you might think. He is attracted to her, and seriously, but as he tells her – We have no future, I have no future.

Showing her his hands, he says, I have killed three men with these hands. I am a dead man.

Both Veera and Mahabir have deep secrets about events that happened in the past but continue to shape their lives even today. We will come to learn about these, and you will be shocked. But the film is much more than that.

I can’t say enough about the on-location shooting and cinematography, and the vibrant, exciting, and captivating musical score by A.R. Rahman. This is a film that not only carries you along as you relate to the characters, but you don’t want to take your eyes off the screen, as the music sweeps you along.

I’m going to rate this film at four point seven five. I cannot find any fault with the acting, the directing, the visuals, or the music. Of course with so much of the film’s time spent on the highways, it takes a while before the characters reveal their inner selves. But in all honesty, that’s not much of a complaint.

Have a look at this video montage which plays under the song Patakha Guddi. There are no subtitles but based on what you’ve just read, you won’t need them, as the expressions on Alia’s and Randeep’s faces give you all you need.

Recommended. Really. You can buy the DVD at Amazon.com

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