There are movies that awaken the wanderlust in us. It motivates us to just pack our bags and hit the road. Imtiaz Ali’s Highway does just that. Whether it is the arid landscape of Rajasthan or the snow-capped mountains and the pine-filled meandering roads of Himachal Pradesh or the emerald meadows and the gushing streams in Kashmir, the breathtaking locations are so enticing that I wanted the journey of the protagonists, Veera (Alia Bhatt), a bride-to-be, and Mahaveer (Randeep Hooda), a truck driver, to go on, just as Veera says, “Par yeh raasta, yeh bahut accha hai. Mein chahti hoon ki yeh raasta kabhi khatam na ho.”
This movie is not a typical love story between Veera and Mahaveer, but it is all about the spirit of freedom a journey can bring. Those of us who are passionate about travelling can immediately identify with this sense of freedom. The journey of the protagonists begins when Veera, who is out with her fiancé just days before her wedding, is abducted by Mahaveer and his four accomplices. From there on to evade the law, Mahaveer takes to the highway and the journey unfurls for Veera from the horror she feels for her abductors, to distaste and gradually to like and maybe love would have blossomed had it not been for the tragic ending.
This journey is a life changer for Mahaveer and Veera, who comes from an affluent family and has never really travelled with strangers before. From roadside dhabas to a bus ride on the rooftop, nothing is familiar to Veera. Ali delves into the pleasures of unplanned journeys to destinations unknown. The sights are quite new to Veera and she says out aloud: Kaise kaise jageh hain iss country mein”?
While we travel, most of the time we are with strangers and it is up to us how we react to situations or interact with our fellow passengers. Highway’s attempt to capture this essence is noteworthy. When both the protagonists are thrown together how they tackle the situations in the course of their journey is the crux of the story. There are long silences between them except for the ambient sounds, which actually paints a picture of real life; just like how we would take refuge on the road ahead while travelling, its sights and sounds, without bothering to think of the trivial issues of life.
In the serene settings of Aru Valley in Kashmir when Veera sees a house out of nowhere and says it is her dream house, I could relate to it. Who would not want to escape from the bustling city and settle down at a nondescript locale without a routine to follow? She finds peace amid the green meadows, sparkling streams and snow-capped mountains. So did I.
Ali has successfully attempted to capture the spirit of travel, how cathartic the beautiful locales can prove and above all, how our co-passengers can be our friends, with whom we can share our deepest thoughts.
If you love hitting the road at any given time, then Highway will definitely be worth the trip.
Disclaimer: This is not a review of the movie per se, but an attempt to bring out the pleasures and freedom a travel can evoke through celluloid.