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HIGHWAY - A daring, offbeat masterstroke by a thoughtful director & his new exceptional star Alia Bhatt. (Review By Bobby Sing)

21 Feb, 2014 | Movie Reviews / 2014 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / H

Director Imtiaz Ali wrote a story/screenplay for Abhay Deol’s AHISTA AHISTA (2006), made out of one of his early T.V. serial episodes directed around a decade before. And now after proving himself as a successful director behind three consecutive big hits, he has again converted one of his early T.V. serial episodes into a full length feature film using the same title HIGHWAY with an experimental cast. But honestly, I was not excited enough to know this discouraging fact about its original source since that particular episode was just ok with nothing worth mentioning as per its content and execution. Plus few negative reviews of the film after its special preview in Berlin strengthened my doubts further and I was little disappointed before going for it this Friday expecting just another routine film.
However after watching it I am surprised that how a passionate lover of cinema can slam such a sincere effort by the team breaking all the questionable set norms of our industry. Moreover, how they can discourage the viewers from watching such exceptional films which force you to stop for a while and think about your aimless, superficial lives falsely lived from the so called society’s perspective and not from your own. Probably such reviewers are actually the trade analysts, more concerned about the business of the film than its content, which obviously seems to be the case here. And yes they might be right looking at the project from this commercial angle as it perhaps may not be as successful (or widely seen) as Imtiaz’s last few films opening with a bumper initial. Nevertheless that doesn’t take away any merit from this well-made, thoughtful film and it still remains a must watch, especially for all the young girls who many a times are forced to remain silent hiding many dark, ugly secrets of their own families.
Talking about the attendance in the theater, its sad that today’s viewer chooses the films as per the stars featuring in them whereas in the past, along with the cast, it was the name of the director which actually used to be the key attraction for the audience without any doubt. In other words, it was quite disheartening to see that there was only 10-15% of occupancy in the second show of a film, which was directed by the man behind blockbusters such as ROCKSTAR, LOVE AAJ AUR KAL & JAB WE MET. Surely, the unattractive pairing was the sole reason behind the result and this would not have been the case if it was a big star featuring in the film along with Alia.
But actually that serves as the first big merit of the film which remains an evident example of a ‘Perfect Casting’. In other words here is a director, with whom all the big names of the industry are dying to work with and he chooses Randeep Hooda & Alia Bhatt as his main lead and all fresh names in the supporting cast, purely because of the essential requirements of their respective roles ignoring everything else. And arguably any big star in place of Randeep, with a huge baggage of his superficial aura & chocolate looks would have unintentionally ruined it completely.
Coming to the film, it begins like any other romantic comedy with an odd small framing used for its initial scenes (both at the beginning & post the interval). The kidnapping sequence comes much quicker than one expects and the two are onto their extensive journey within the first 10 minutes of the film only without wasting much time. So the viewer very well knows, what’s going to happen next, which can easily be stated as the major drawback of HIGHWAY in terms of script or concept. Running on a completely predictable pattern, it has no surprising twists to offer right till the final moments. And yet the director holds your attention well with some exceptionally meaningful writing (dialogues), never before kind of gorgeous, breath-taking locations and some highly emotional moments related with Randeep and Alia’s painful childhood.
Post interval the film begins with its most famous track ‘Pataka Guddi’ and Imtiaz very well knows when a song needs to be placed to make a perfect impact on his viewers as desired. The impressive narration continues with few more emotionally moving yet engaging sequences talking about the lead pair but the film never slows down following the usual pattern of a love story. However its only in the moments when HIGHWAY turns into a picturesque travelogue featuring many great natural shots and an inter-state darshan that the viewer starts feeling disconnected for a while before the explosive culmination.
And once it goes into its final 20 minutes, you simply feel zapped on to your seats looking at the shockingly impactful, incredible performance of the talented sensation Alia Bhatt and the girl truly rules over everyone else in the frame quite amazingly. Admittedly the same sub-plot was earlier skillfully used in Mira Nair’s MONSOON WEDDING (2001) too, but Alia certainly portrays it with much more power, emotion and conviction stunning one and all. Now since revealing anything more about the climax will take the magic away so I would just like to describe it as “something which is surely going to give many sleepless nights to all other young actresses in the industry, feeling the future tough competition coming from Alia”.
The girl proves that she has got it all in the genes and the choice of such tough deglamorized role as only her second film is surely an indication of many more extraordinary performances coming soon. Randeep stands tall as a solid silent performer along with Alia and strongly indicates that why he is rated as the obvious choice for such rough roles by the thoughtful directors often. He is surely one of the most under-rated actors we have and he rightly proves the same in many brilliant sequences in the film constantly. The entire supporting cast with all new names is a treat to watch and the fresh faces actually add to the offbeat theme of the film very aptly.
Musically, I personally felt less served than promised (both in sound quality and songs) by the hit team of Rahman-Imtiaz while hearing the soundtrack. But after watching the film it was quite clear that the music was not meant to be a key feature of this particular film. Yet the ultimate sound texture & arrangement remains much less than what is expected from the maestro A. R. Rahman. Among the key tracks, “Pataka Guddi” stands out sung by Nooran Sisters of Punjab and Rahman himself. Showing another bright side of her hidden talent Alia shines in her soulful, innocent rendition of “Sooha Saaha” and few other songs sound good while watching the film without making any kind of major impact Rahman is known for.
Still when you are listening to the tracks while watching the mesmerizing poetic expressions on the screen with a splendid cinematography, it takes you into an enigmatic kind of trance. And the film is truly like a meditative painting on the celluloid or a visual treat to be cherished on the big screen alone.
Getting into the mindset of its director Imtiaz Ali, the talented artist could have made a big budget film post his recent successes with any big star of his choice, without any major hassles. But the fact that he chose to make HIGHWAY (on a story he had already told on the smaller screen around a decade back) shows that he likes to make what he wishes from the inside as a director and not as per the market demand of greedy producers following the infamous 100 crore clubs. And that’s precisely what Indian Cinema desperately needs at this moment in terms of quality movies.
Another fact pointing towards Imtiaz’s strict clear vision is that despite having a composer like A. R. Rahman in his team, he uses fewer songs in the film and keeps minimal background score in most of his important sequences too since that could easily hamper the end result of his scenes without any doubt. Plus interestingly, as there has been a GEET in his every film since JAB WE MET, so one can find traces of her in this latest film too as a trademark feature along with the director wandering in the magnetic landscapes like a SUFI searcher walking with his camera.
Now let me describe why for me HIGHWAY proved to be a brilliant film even when it had a completely predictable and unusual plot which might be unconvincing for many viewers too as far as the logic is concerned.
First of all, when a director decides to go for a new concept, a different storyline moving away from the safe, blind trend of just making a big project with some big stars then it obviously gets some special brownie points for being such daring, path-breaking visionary travelling a lesser known path.
Secondly, this is one of those thought provoking films, which is meant to make you rethink about your own self-made life-cages; you have not been able to break from many years now. A film which gives you a chance to see these cages, accept them and then break them all to be free like never before.
Thirdly, the film has many tiny golden nuggets to be picked up in its insightful dialogues and many finer moments of ecstasy like the way Imtiaz uses the local artists singing a traditional song “Mohey Takhat Chhaddayo Heer” in one of the sequences shot so beautifully. Besides the way its two leading characters express their inner childhood traumas in the final hour deserves to be applauded whole heartedly. Particularly when Randeep talks about the poor husbands who have to send their wives to the rich as their humble offerings and when Alia remembers her mother shamelessly telling her to keep her mouth shut after that inhuman act by an elder. These few scenes deserve to be seen in silence and that is the reason Imtiaz never uses any background music in these sequences quite purposely.
However revealing ‘the three word expression’ which made me appreciate the movie much more in its entirety, I would like to describe the final phase of the film when both Randeep & Alia decide to get away together without making any kind of personal commitments at all.
Now here everyone expects that the couple is going to fall in love next and the same routine drama will be there as usual. But just when the thought is running in your mind, a masterstroke is played by the director and Alia loudly says to Randeep that………,
”Please don’t think I have fallen in love with you, want to live with you or want to marry you like it always happens. No I don’t want any such thing as you might be feeling. But all I want is that this freedom should continue for a little more time and that’s it”
In specific words she says, “Thoda Sa Aur……Bas Kuchh Der Aur!”
And for me that was a great masterstroke, taking the film to another level, ahead than all the clichéd stuff seen before in some similar movies.
To sum it all, for many it might be less than what Imtiaz managed to achieve in his ROCKSTAR. But for few others it would be just equivalent to an enriching journey with many worth relishing moments in its more than two hours of duration. So if you feel the above description inviting enough and wish to see one of the finest performances of the recent times by a young 'one film old' girl named Alia Bhatt then do give it a try and enjoy this HIGHWAY ride as a fresh welcome breeze in our Hindi Cinema.
Rating : 3.5 + 0.5 / 5 (Including an additional 0.5 just for Alia Bhatt’s fabulous 20 minutes act in the climax.)

Tags : Highway Review By Bobby Sing, Highway Film Review By Bobby Sing, Imtiaz Ali Highway Review, New Hindi Films Reviews By Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Bollywood Movies Reviews at bobbytalkscinema.com, Bobby Sing Bollywood Reviews, New Bollywood Movies Reviews, New Bollywood Movies Released, New Hindi Films Reviews, New Hindi Movies Reviews, New Hindi Movies Released, New Bollywood Reviews, Bobby Talks Cinema Review, Reviews By Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews at bobbytalkscinema.com
21 Feb 2014 / Comments ( 14 )

It\'s a brilliant film indeed. I just felt editing could have been more tighter and could have slashed 5 to 10 minutes of the film which could have make it more pacy. Definitely a beautiful film and a refreshing one from the regular bollywood stuff.

Bobby Sing

Hi Jay,
Thanks for writing in and yes it is indeed a briliant film with its few ignorable glitches as pointed out.

Your review is spot on, I am looking for that folk song Mohey Takhat Chhaddayo Heer, it should have been included in movie OST.
Bobby Sing

Hi Shal,
The song is indeed a mesmerising one. However I was wondering that howcome the singers are Rajasthani and they are singing about a Punjab's folk lore HEER.
Anyway you can watch its onshoot diary at the following link too.

Dear Bobbyji,

Agree to u in all aspects n openions abt Highway. I like the movie very much. Another great movie frm Imtiaz Ali.

Especially thanks for ur review (n the one perfect line) which exactly explains, what Highway is all about-

\"A film which gives you a chance to see these cages, accept them and then break them all to be free like never before.\"

Bye, c u at next friday, god bless u....
(watch \"Fandry\" Marathi movie, a masterpiece, if possible)

Bobby Sing

Dear Harshvardhan,
Thanks a lot for your kind appreciation. And yes I am too eager to watch FANDRY and will do it soon.
Keep visiting and Writing in.


amit joshi

Super duper brilliant movie............after a long time a movie made me inspired ..........editing was an important aspect as the Alia\'s parents were never shown till the end (their concern or interaction with police), may be it was intentional but it served the purpose.........it gave viewers to concentrate fully on the couple.

Bobby Sing

Thanks for writing in Amit with your honest appreciation for the movie and that keen observation too.

I never expected Alia Bhatt to deliver such a fantastic performance....The director deserves for getting the best out of her. ..I doubt any other director in future will take out such acting from Alia....even from Kareena after Jab We Met, no director has been able to extract the performance like Imtiaz had done....I think Imtiaz was a little biased towards Alia ...He should focused a little more on Randeep also...It look\'s totally Alia\'s movie...Because of that it Randeep\'s performance takes a back seat and is overshadowed and Alia\'s performance appear more prominent and noticeble...The same happened to Shahid Kapoor in Jab We Met.
Bobby Sing

Thanks Shiraz for posting your comment.
And Yes the movie was actually all about Alia stepping out for her own freedom only which did overshadowed Randeep intentionally.
In fact it was Randeep's death only which became her actual door towards the ultimate liberation as I felt.

I like the film.I like randeep hoonda\'s acting but i still feel randeep hooda not even smiling in this movie.If he is really such a brute, i think the director also should give some space for his character which he missed to give.Only at a single moment we can see a smile in his face,that too in a last before climax.Imtiaz ali given much importance to alia bhatt unlike randeep hooda.I think only that is lacking in this movie.
Bobby Sing

Hi Ramji,
Thanks for writing in and yes a few friends more have also expressed their wish to see more of Randeep Hooda in the film too. But as its the director's call so probably he was really interested to represent it as the story of Veera alone.
Keep Visiting,

Shikhar Kumar

Bobby ji,

I was surprised to see this review and even more surprised that so many people liked this movie.

I watched it now only after I bought the cd at the airport. And if I hadn\'t paid 300 bucks for it, I wouldn\'t have watch it completely !

The movie was boring, there was a new script but no twist and turns. Only thing good about the movie was Randeep hooda whose acting has always been convincing and top of the line. Alia bhatt was as poor as any newcomer starkid actor in bollywood is. She was unable to deliver well in longer dialogues which requires variations and much more maturity.

After the movie I switched to travelxp channel travel documentary and I found both documentary as well as the host much better than Highway and Alia bhatt.


Bobby Sing

Dear Shekhar,
It fine that you didn't like the movie at all, as this certainly is one of the movies which had just extreme opinions about it with no midpoints
Where a few found it to be simply trash, where many rated as a life changing movie saying the right things.

Hence for a change this time you are among the first group and I am from the second.............and its perfectly right.
Coz its variations in thought processes only which can keep the spirit going far away from being boring.

So keep visiting and writing in as always,

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