There is something about re-heating biryani on a long weekend that lends itself to watching a Hindi film. I watched Highway recently, during the Adelaide Cup weekend.
The first thing I have to say is, thank you to the spirits of Bollywood past for making it possible for me to see both Hema Malini and Alia Bhatt in the same lifetime. Such a paradigm shift takes far more time in most other cases. Alia, with her crooked features, her too long nose, her boyish appearance and her understated acting is as far removed as possible from La Malini’s doll-like perfection and in your face femininity. I also realize that one must have a Hema Malini to arrive at an Alia, just as Hillary Swank had her way to Hollywood and an Oscar smoothed by the Mansfields of the past.
Unfortunately, Alia is no Swank. For my money, she needs to work on many aspects of her acting before she gets accepted by audiences like Hema was. She may never become the star that the older woman still is. She will give us a number of great performances if she does not become type cast. She has the kind of pliable, unrecognizable non-face that is essential for any actor that wants to act.
I loved the film. Not for Alia, or Randeep Hooda’s brooding performance which is adequate but nothing more. Both main characters are shadowed by a couple of the minor characters like Adoo. They seemed more alive and real to me than those of the hero and the heroine. The real star for me however was the surrounding country as they go on their doomed journey. From the start on deserted city streets, to the steep cobbled lanes in the mountains, the film manages to showcase India in all her rough edged beauty. The wide vistas, the cathedral-like trees that shade highways, the faces of the manganiyars singing at a truckstop; these are the takeaway moments for me. Perhaps for that reason, I find myself picking the scene where Alia’s character asks, why go on holiday, if all one does on holidays is stay inside the hotel, as one of my favourite scenes from the film.
The film deals with an idea that is fresh and the director has cleverly made an understated piece that allows for little display of histrionics. If this is the way Hindi films are going, I am excited for all those of us who love watching them. A round of applause is due to Rahman and the music, with most of it going to Patakha Guddi by the Nooran sisters. In all, not a film to be missed, especially if you like road trips and new plot lines.
Follow the link to hear the song: http://youtu.be/cprez2G15LI