Veera (Alia Bhatt) is the daughter of a rich, well connected industrialist. She is all set to marry in four days time. The preparations of her wedding are in full swing. Veera feels claustrophobic and sneaks out of the house at night and coerces her finace, Vinay, to take her for a long drive. They stop at a petrol station, and despite Vinay's exhortations, she steps out of the car for a breather.
Right then, they witness a robbery take place at the station. A group of thugs run out, and hijack their car. They throw Vinay out and take Veera along as a hostage. After they discover who the girl is, they decide to ask for ransom. But they have to keep moving for the fear of getting caught. The thugs are also truckers and they hit the road to keep moving and throwing off any attempt to catch them. They know that the girl's father is a big shot and will move the police force to locate the girl.
Veera is turned into a screaming, terrified mess. She calms down somewhat when she finds herself being taken care of. Luckily for her, her main kidnapper, Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) is no rapist. He is gruff and rude though. Once Veera gets used to that, she even begins to enjoy the ride. It looks like a classic case of Stockholm syndrome. But the fact is, Veera is finally getting the freedom she has always craved. As long as she does not try to run away or draw attention to herself, the truckers cum thugs are content to let her do as she pleases.
Mahabir finds he is not able to handle the kidnapping quite well, and wants to be rid of her. But now it is Veera who wants to continue this road-trip. They know this trip is doomed, but they want things to be as they are for a little more time.
On one level, Highway highlights what happens when two different words collide. The super rich never associate with the super poor. The only time they come together is when they need each other, the poor to sell their service and the rich to buy them. The movie depicts what happens when they are forced to be with each other. This is beautifully brought out when Veera speaks in an anglicised Hindi and Ranbir speaks in a Gujjari dialect. Veera discovers that the polished manners of the upper classes hide a crudeness that can make anyone's soul shiver. And that the gruff, seemingly rude behavior of a lower class person cannot mask their basic decency.
On another level, Highway is all about personal freedom. Veera is a rich poor girl. She is surrounded by luxury, yet she feels claustrophobic. Which is why she was out on the highway on the fateful day. It is almost as if her wish to be free was answered when she was taken captive.
Alia Bhatt has put in a no-holds-barred performance. Her baby face is bit of a deterrent. Yet she goes all into the skin of Veera. Randeep Hooda is superb. He has a permanent scowl on his face, he speaks roughly to Veera and is thoroughly irritated by the mess he has fallen into by abducting Veera. Even when he softens towards her, he is so guarded that is painful for him to loosen up.
For years Randeep has toiled in useless movies with his undeniable talent, handsome face and body while lesser talents like John Abraham have forged ahead. I hope this movie is the break he has looked for and he gets good work hereafter.
The director Imtiaz Ali deserves kudos for finally making a film that hits it where it should. I liked Jab We Met, but it was a bit preppy. I did not see Rockstar, and did not think too well of Love Aaj Kal. Here, the direction is superb. Sure, the heroine has too many clothes changes, they are not glamorous, but surely a poor truck driver cannot afford so many new clothes.
An excellent film.
The music is also super. It contains the folk songs of the places they pass by. A Rajasthani-Sindhi devotional song by Sawan Khan, Munje takht chhadayo heer. There is lovely Kashmiri tune used in the film sung by a local artist. You can see in this video how Imtiaz chose the song. A lullaby that Mahaveer thinks of often when pensiv - Sooha Saha. This amazing song that runs in the background as Veeran tries to run away from her captors the first time, Tu Kuja. Even though I find sufi music rather ubiquitous in films these days, it fits right in in this film. I loved Pathaka Guddi