I’ll admit that when it comes to an Imtiaz Ali film, I find it hard to be objective. Because to me, all of his work seems to make perfect sense in terms of what he wants to say, satisfies the critic and film fan within and always turns out to be more than a one time watch. And pleasingly, Highway is no exception to this rule; now that we are familiar with Ali’s visual vocabulary and aware of what he is capable of, it only seems fair that he is able to experiment and let his creativity run wild, creating an accomplished piece of work in the process.
Yes, there are flaws but there is too much good to see here to dwell on the negative – whether it is the story of Veera and Mahabir, the beautiful cinematography that makes the viewer feel like they are on a road trip or even the sound design which has a narrative of its own – each layer is rich and thoughtfully crafted and certainly merits a few viewings to get the intended effect. Rahman’s spellbinding music is the perfect companion on the journey which takes the audience to a different world, especially in the second half.
I was also wowed by the two lead performances – Hooda is superb as Mahabir, with every growl and grimace pitch perfect. Even in the more emotional scenes, Hooda is firmly entrenched in character and never once drops the energy nor demeanor he carefully builds up – certainly a career best. Similarly, Bhatt is a revelation as Veera, giving her a rawness and fragility but also a likeability – I didn’t find her annoying and have to commend her for putting herself out of her comfort zone and largely succeeding in the risk she takes with such an interesting role.
Needless to say, Highway is one of those wonderful films that only come once every often and does not really allow indifference as a reaction – you will either love it or hate it. I obviously loved it and cannot wait to watch it again which I rarely want to do with most films. Highway also cements Ali’s reputation as one of the finest directors working in Hindi cinema today – this is a film I would be proud to show to any film lover and sincerely hope it finds the appreciative and encouraging audience that it truly deserves.
Destined to be one of the best films of 2014 and perhaps beyond – unmissable.