Cast: Randeep Hooda, Alia Bhatt
Director: Imtiaz Ali
It’s a road less travelled so per se expect a bumpy ride. Especially since the ensuing drama will challenge your understanding of human psychology and raise questions about your beliefs about love. Stunningly alive panoramic vistas, rustic earthy vibrant atmosphere, a few strongly gravitating dramatic moments and a complementary elemental musical score can do little to make this long-drawn poorly scripted effort bearable. ‘Highway’ was a script that Imtiaz Ali kept at bay while churning out his hit efforts – now we know why!
The script could have definitely done better with a few more re-writes- especially with reference to character curves. Even a director like Imtiaz Ali who is better known for his penchant for creating unusual, non-conformist love stories , should have known better than to tread amateurishly where this particularly almost-love-story about a troubled soon-to-be-married young girl and her equally troubled, brutish kidnapper.
The young girl in question is Vera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt), who gets kidnapped while playing hooky away from the claustrophobic hype and hoopla of her own wedding preparations. The kidnappers have just emerged from a hold-up at a petrol pump, Vera is bundled into their truck and taken on a long road trip that begins somewhere in central India and ends at the extreme north of the country. For a brief while the drama is riveting but within a few more minutes thereafter, it begins to get topsy-turvy.
After one feeble, unsuccessful attempt at escape Vera inexplicably takes it into her head to cosy-up to the gang’s boss man Mahabir Bhatti (Randeep Hooda), and things change drastically. Taking a leaf out of the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ the girl is shown as developing feelings for her kidnapper who is mostly way out-of-her wave length-and not just physically.
After experiencing fear for a very brief while she suddenly begins to look on the forced trip as one long adventure and even expresses a wish for it to continue forever. She doesn’t want to go home because there are hidden nightmares which her family would be loath to unearth. And in all this time there’s no cop shown as searching for the kidnapped girl who belongs to one of city’s most influential families.
Logic of course goes for a toss as far as the script and character studies go. It’s a sort of borrowing from ‘Monsoon Wedding,’ set on a road trip to nowhere, basically. Vera is abysmally written while the hoodlum is also given short-shrift. Alia and Randeep though, strive hard to make things believable – unfortunately it’s too tough a task and credibility suffers big time here. Anil Mehta’s all-enveloping cinematography also makes in-roads into character definition but with silly ridiculous dialogues and traditional clueless plotting holding fort here, there’s really nothing new to hope for.
The heroine’s shift from the initial pangs of fright to feelings of oneness with her captor appears rushed and is untenable. The gangster’s troubled mind is never concretely established either.
Sound quality is excellent and the minimal background score fills-up a few of the gaps. Rahman’s folksy score also provides interim relief. But overall this is still a long-drawn out ya ‘r’wn!