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Imtiaz Ali returns to form with Highway

22nd Feb 2014


Director: Imtiaz Ali

Starring: Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda

Imtiaz Ali confuses me. I first sat up and paid attention to him when he made a film in which Kareena Kapoor was actually fun to watch (Jab We Met, 2007). Then came Love Aaj Kal in 2009, which I remember only vaguely, followed by 2011's Rockstar, a jarring melodrama that will forever be ingrained in my head for all the wrong reasons. I thought it safe to assume that Jab We Met was a fluke, and gave up on Ali a little.

So even after I saw the trailer for Highway, I wasn't particularly intrigued. Alia Bhatt of Student of the Year fame? Sure, okay, whatever. Randeep Hooda alone isn't enough to draw me to the theatre, but professional commitments have this way of gently arm-twisting you into doing things you don't always want to. Good thing, too. As it turns out, Highway is a surprisingly captivating movie.

The film opens with Veera (Bhatt) and her fiancé cruising down a highway. Veera keeps wanting to get out of the car and walking around, her worried fiancé doesn't think it's such a good idea. They finally stop at a deserted petrol pump on a highway, and she gets out of the car, only to witness a shooting and be abducted moments later by a gang of thugs, fronted by Mahabir (Hooda).

Stuffed into the back of a truck, she's taken to a hideout when the gang realises that she's the daughter of a wealthy businessman in Delhi and this could be more trouble than it's worth. They travel across what seems like all of North India in Mahabir's truck, with Veera turning from petrified abductee to a slowly unravelling girl succumbing to Stockholm syndrome. The entire movie is a giant road trip, relying entirely on Hooda and Bhatt, who are the only two in the frame a lot of the time, and both of whom deliver excellent performances.

There's something wonderfully subtle about Highway, which is what immediately endeared me to it. AR Rahman's music is so intricately woven into the film that you don't always notice it's there. Bhatt and Hooda can hardly be faulted for anything, Bhatt surprising you with her immense talent, and Hooda delivering what we have come to expect of him. Highway's small flaws lie in its story. In the second half, the movie demands you forgive lapses in logic you didn't really see coming, considering how well the first half developed. On the whole, though, this is still a must-watch this weekend.

-Ravina Rawal

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