Imtiaz Ali’s 2014 film Highway transformed Alia Bhatt’s career. The film, starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, overturned numerous norms of Indian filmmaking.
Highway, Imtiaz Ali’s unique road trip film, has been out for nearly eight years. With Highway, the director, known for his lighthearted romantic comedies Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal, as well as his dark romantic drama Rockstar, ventured into the uncharted ground. The film might have gone wrong, but Imtiaz’s narrative and directing pleased both the audience and reviewers. The film also cast Alia Bhatt in a new light, drastically reshaping her Bollywood career.
In a nutshell, Highway is the narrative of a girl and her captor falling in love. However, it is not Beauty and the Beast, and the characters have various layers that discreetly explain their behavior. Alia’s Veera, who feels stifled in her city life, curiously finds comfort and release with her captor, played by Randeep Hooda. Veera looks to be suffering from a textbook example of Stockholm Syndrome, a syndrome in which hostages form a psychological attachment with their captors while being held captive. Later in the story, the narrative shifts dramatically to explain why a well-mannered girl with all the comforts at her disposal at home feels more alive with her captor.
The highway began on a very realistic note, with Veera trying to find some serenity among the craziness of wedding traditions. Rewatching the film gives a different sense since you know how the storyline will alter dramatically in only a few seconds. It almost seems like a horror film, with you wanting to scream at Veera to stop acting like a daredevil and endangering her life. However, every time you see it again, the following few moments strike you with the same intensity as the first time. Veera’s disdain is palpable in the incredibly unpleasant yet oddly true sequences in which one of her kidnappers touches her without her permission. Mahabir, whose intentions were to send Veera to a brothel if the ransom was not paid, intervenes in this situation, leaving you to question whether this is the occurrence that lead Veera to feel secure with him despite their hostage-captor connection.
These moments also show Alia’s acting ability, as she smoothly transitions into Veera’s part in just her second film. Veera in Highway was a far cry from Shanaya in her debut film, Student Of The Year. Since then, the actress has done several characters, but Veera, not Alia, will be seen in this road trip drama. Alia also has a wonderful connection with the screen, making you feel lighter when Veera begins chattering constantly, powerful when she stands up to her kidnapper for a place in the front of the vehicle and bewildered when she chooses to hide from the police rather than save her life.
Imtiaz demonstrated empathy as a writer and director at the moment when Veera confides in Mahabir about being a victim of sexual abuse as a youngster. Imtiaz and Alia were both excellent in depicting the delicate scenario, which unfortunately is a true tale for many women. You feel for Veera, but you also feel for numerous others who have been in similar circumstances, and you can’t help but admire how the problem was handled.
The following 30 minutes of Highway depict Alia falling in love with Mahabir while being oblivious of his intentions. As he remembers his mother being exploited as a sex slave, we discover layers to Mahabir’s character that reflects his blind contempt for the affluent. Though Alia is the star of the picture, Randeep impresses in his sequences, notably when Mahabir breaks down in Veera’s arms and makes you think he is falling for her. They establish a home for themselves in the mountains, but things quickly spiral out of control, and the cops shoot Mahabir dead.