Rating: 2.5/5 Stars (Two and half stars)
Director: Imtiaz Ali
What’s Good: A.R Rahman’s captivating music and the enchanting cinematography.
What’s Bad: A depressingly mediocre screenplay and warped chemistry of its lead pair.
Loo break: Shockingly too many.
Watch or Not?: I feel cheated by Imtiaz Ali because Highway isn’t anything even remotely close to what we usually expect from the filmmaker after terrific works like Jab We Met and Rockstar. With Highway he undeniably slips. It is a frustrating film that will leave you angry. Imtiaz clearly wasted his caliber over leisurely making a movie that is strictly respectable for its lack of connection and conviction. The film’s hero is A.R Rahman and everyone else puts up an infuriatingly washed out show as compared to him. Let’s just settle with saying that it was a proficiently thought film that we see moving inevitably towards death, putting us through excruciating heartbreak and pain through its run time. Mr Ali, what on earth happened to you?
Highway Review: Script Analysis
From the onstart itself I have had a problem with the perception of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ in this film. It is revealed much later in the story that Alia’s character Veera comes with an emotional baggage as heavy as Mahabir’s to justify the connection between the duo. However experimenting with the volatile idea here doesn’t reap much good for the movie as a whole. Not only is the angle unconvincing and stark, it is unbelievable and horridly lame to say the least. I personally cannot identify freedom that doesn’t assure a sense of security. And feeling free and ecstatic with someone who is brutal isn’t identifiable. Though commendably it is a refreshing drift attempted on part of Ali, it isn’t good enough to save the film.
Alia’s Veera is a restructured version of Geet from Jab We Met. She is over-the-top whacky, on-the-edge impulsive and so adorable that you flow with her. Alia impersonates a similar premise but perhaps her character is written so sketchily that it fails to replicate a similar resonance. At many points the script fails to justify many of its high tension points. There is a scene where Mahabir asks Alia to run away from him and she failing to do that returns. A kidnapped girl returning back to the one who captivated her is bizarre. At another point, she hides when the police searches Mahabir’s truck when she could have easily busted Mahabir. Understandably, the intention was to show how Alia despises the primness of her elite life but the scene came off as incredibly stupid.
Just before the interval strikes, out of the blue Veera tells Mahabir a deep secret from her childhood, which clearly most around her must have insisted she shushes up on. She hugs Mahabir to seek comfort and he allows her. While all is hunky dory in this affair, even if I cast aside my feelings about the chain of instances, the first most emotional moment of the film seems forced and wobbly.
The story turns to a newer leaf post interval. In the first half, I was perhaps hoping that the build up is leading to some good, after interval it took me little time to realize the predictable climax. The film transforms into slides from a travel catalogue suddenly. A girl with traumatic past, a man from the proletariat section of the society and the tug of affection between these strangers are all given a miss. The focus shifts drastically towards capturing the natural landscapes more than the emotional one. It will be a cliched line but the climax is one you can predict from far away and is handled carelessly. It is only or the last 15 minutes, the film manages to wrap up thunderously evening out the bad aftertaste that we would walked out with.
Highway Review: Star Performances
Randeep Hooda is brooding and fearsome for most part. Ever since the actor’s advent in the industry, he has carefully selected roles which allow him to perfect the act of snarling and grunting. Hooda is damn good in the first half and in the rest he just repeats it all to the extent of overdoing it.
Alia Bhatt never got out of playing her bimbo character from Student Of The Year and the actress plays Veera with a similar quotient of nascent energy. However rendering the same excitement in tackling a sensitive film like this, it would have been advisable to tone down the ecstatic drift of story to find something more serene and meaningful. I would have easily said she is a terrible actress especially after watching the scene in which she runs to take the bus with Randeep, yelling, screeching, her nostrils flaring enough to make me laugh. But in the last 15 minutes she steals the thunder proving her mettle with the ease of a pro.
Highway Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Imtiaz Ali left me heartbroken this time. Adapting a meandering script that prefers making you think rather that meting out fun instantaneously, the screenplay shatters rapidly over its runtime. There are only sprinkles of Ali’s trademark genius served to us. Besides that, it has multiple lapses which hampers the film gravely in the long run. Not only does he risk working on a story that brings back horrendous glimpses out of the mosaic of Indian social life and horrifyingly educate you on the details of abduction of women, he tries his hand at delivering a love story that isn’t one bit convincing. As a woman who identifies closely with these issues, broaching a subject like this with shots of gagging and screaming infuses fear inside us to the core.
Highway can be defined as a quicksand of muddled up mess which resorts to fascinating landscapes and soulful music everytime the story begins to gear up towards intensity and loses grip over emotions. Let’s not even get into the logic defying moments of the story, the most striking one being a top honcho’s daughter goes missing and no one recognizes her at all. But defending its dissipating premise in the garb of Rahman’s mystically well done score isn’t what is expected of Ali.
Ali’s predictable climax and bumpy storytelling would all have gone down well but this time even the earnestness seemed a little low for the film. He wasn’t in his best avatar as all the dramatic moments reduce to contrived writing and shockingly it is the first time I have felt that the filmmaker’s work is amateurish. By far, this is his worst work.
Highway Review: The Last Word
Highway whips up all the ingredients required for an intriguing film but goes wrong as a whole. It is bold subject handled flimsily and doesn’t come close to believable. There is excessive heavy handedness in the screenplay and somehow the effortless ease that signifies the beauty of Imtiaz’s films is absolutely missing from it. There is far too much of incoherence in the screenplay to bear and though it tried its hand at adding varied hues to multiple layers of the story, one cannot disagree to the fact that it is only Rahman’s divine music and the pristine cinematography that works here. It left me baffled and numb especially because I expect better from Ali. It is heartbreakingly mediocre and I am settling for ratings which translate the same. It is a lenient 2.5/5 for Highway.
Highway releases on 21st February, 2014.
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