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Bollywood Review

Highway review: 'Imtiaz Ali's film will touch you at your core'

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Director: Imtiaz Ali; Screenwriter: Imtiaz Ali; Starring: Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda; Running time: 133 mins; Certificate: 12A


Highway is touted as a road movie, yet is it so much more - offering an exploration into the damaged psyche of a kidnap victim and her captor who become inexplicably bonded by their childhood traumas.

Caught up in the throes of her wedding preparations, Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) goes for a late night drive with her fiancée in a bid to escape the chaos of their impending nuptials. A brief stop at a petrol pump leaves them caught in the crossfire during a robbery by a group of small-time bandits lead by Mahabir Bhati (Randeep Hood).

Bundled into their car and unaware of Mahabir's plans to sell her into prostitution, Veera bonds to her captor in her need for survival. As they travel across deserts and highways, she finds her freedom in captivity.

Bhatt is the great surprise of this movie. At 20 years old and in only her second film, she delivers a performance far beyond her years, deftly portraying the alternating angst, agony and near delirium of a character besieged as she is by the traumas of her past.

Her deeply nuanced performance - and ability to grasp the internal conflict of the deeply wounded Veera amidst a myriad of emotions - renders her performance so powerful.

Still of Alia Bhatt in Highway

© UTV Motion Pictures

Alia Bhatt in Highway


Bhatt's childlike demeanour and vulnerability makes her growing attachment to two-times murderer Mahabir all the more poignant, as she confounds and charms her kidnappers with her impudence. As she clings to Mahabir, you realise she clings onto the barest glimmer of freedom that he represents.

Bearing the full weight of this intense drama on her young shoulders, Bhatt trashes the idea of the star kid riding on their family name. She is simply a natural acting talent with the capacity for brilliance.

Randeep Hooda is the perfect foil for Bhatt, transforming from a roguish thug to a man who for a moment, is permitted to savour the possibility of a normal life in which he too is deserving of love. Hooda manifests his character completely, delicately unravelling his internal conflict and investing Mahabir with humanity.

There's a reason young actors hanker for a chance to work with Imtiaz Ali. His characters are so well-defined that they appear to walk off the page. They are intensely human, and Ali takes us on a journey into their very hearts, delving into their soul to expose fragilities that remind us of our own.

Highway movie poster
His innate understanding of the medium of cinema and the art of storytelling renders his work devoid of artifice and pretence - and whatever the premise, Ali's story touches you at your core.

Ali executes this tale with such evident tenderness that every scene is rich with meaning, subtly conveyed. The natural beauty of the unfolding landscape serves as a silent witness to Veera's realisations, a stunning backdrop and a guide on her journey.

Highway's unconventional camerawork gives it the feel of an independent movie, yet it manages to traverse a chasm into the commercial realm.

Thankfully, there are no jarring song and dance numbers. The understated performances, the silence and the shifting terrain are enough to tell this story.

It's exemplary filmmaking, and the hope is that audiences will take a detour from the confines of commercial Bollywood and embrace this wholly edifying experience. Highway will move you in ways you would have never expected.

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