Imtiaz Ali’s heroines have a tendency to run away, from the secure and smothering home, love, marriage and relationships, all for self-discovery. So does the child-woman Veera (Alia Bhatt) in Highway. A midnight whim, a petrol pump shootout and she is on a journey—from Ajmer to Reckong Peo—to find herself with her kidnapper Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) for company.
On paper there’s lots going for this love story. The class divides, the rifts of the surnames—the Tripathi (Brahmin) girl and the Bhati (Gujjar) boy—are surmounted by the shared demons of childhood. There is also the unspoken assertion that the dark and murky shadow of patriarchy looms large and threatens all, be they rich or poor. Ali manages to keep these social nuances rather measured, restrained and subtle in much of the first half of the film.
Even cinematically, instead of the big sweeping scenes, it’s the small moments and quirky encounters between totally at-odds characters that Ali whips up ever so cannily. Like a flurry of sorrys from Veera making Mahabir shout back: “Hum yahan tameez dikhane aaye hain?” There is something terribly likeable about the togetherness of the impassive, brooding Mahabir and the chirpy, on-the-edge Veera and also a poignancy that their companionship is, after all, fleeting. It makes Veera say that she doesn’t have marriage and family dreams for themselves. “Bas thoda door aur tumhare saath chalna hai (I have to walk just a little further with you)”.
There are some standout scenes—the superb use of Gujjar lingo and display of machismo in the confrontation of the rustic hoodlums early on in the film, capped by a compelling turn from curly-haired, sinister Hemant Mohar. Then there is another hoodlum, played by Durgesh Kumar, warming up to Veera by quietly telling her that he can also feel the salt in the air, like her. And Mahabir admonishing him: “Laad mein mat aa baake (Don’t get affectionate towards her)”.
Sadly, towards the last quarter, Highway begins to turn into an alarmingly different film. Ali consciously forgets the power of the implicit to drum up a significant social issue in the most obvious, pat and melodramatic manner.
The film unravels sloppily in the rather convenient, ham-fisted climax and the loud, cringe-inducing statement-making. Even the use of Rahman’s pleasant score gets lopsided between the film’s two halves, so much so that the songs got lost on me. But the landscape towers and hits you in the face. The film can ignite any restless, peripatetic soul. I surely want to hit the highway soon.
The movie review of Highway (Mar 3) was good, but did not mention the amazing acting by Alia Bhat. This is a young lady who will probably be the most versatile actress of her generation. In fact, I haven’t seen a better Hindi movie in the past one year.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
A bit disappointing that there is no cooment by the reviewer about the amazing acting by Alia Bhatt.This is a young lady who will probably be the most versatile actress of her generation.
I haven't seen a better Hindi movie for the last 12 months.
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