By Deepika Joshi (Delhi)
Highway – An Alternate Perspective
Browsing through the various reviews of the movie Highway I was surprised to see how safely the critics had missed the profoundness and depth in the movie.
As Imtiaz Ali’s baby, the underlying theme of the movie remains the same as his previous ventures, except the idea narrated in a different manner. The theme of an individual’s clash against society and societal norms underlie the previous movies of the director in RockStar and Jab We Met. The idea becomes more and more explicit in the director’s successive movies. In Jab We Met Heer refuses to conform to what is expected of her, in RockStar it is an artist’s refusal (or rather inability) to understand the norms and ‘morality’ of society. In Highway, it is Veera’s coming of age, a metaphorical bildungsroman and her journey of the realization of the chains that have been surrounding her that forms the thread running in the movie. It is the event of her kidnapping by Mahabir, a hardcore criminal, wherein starts her journey of self-realization.
The movie is replete with spiritual symbolisms. In their small hut amidst the mountains, the duo is beyond society, beyond the idea of ‘civilization’ living in spontaneity with the flow of life. At a point she confesses to seeing her life as a movie and herself as a spectator (this is a state of being pure witness to one’s being where one is detached to sorrows and happiness of one’s life). Or say Veera discovering her wings through travelling, going places, following her bliss without any care in the world, feeling the grass beneath her feet, or the water from the bore well, or going into a mad fit of dance in the middle of the road. These are aspects that a person with spiritual tilt would be unable to miss. However, in the end, it is the society which puts a full stop to her romance and mad dance with life.
Heera’s bildungsroman is parallel to Plato’s cave allegory where after spending all his life in cave and perceiving the shadows as reality, the individual is dazzled by the real world outside. Similarly after spending her life in an upper class household where she is more of an ornament to the family, the event of kidnapping brings her the realization of chains that she had been living with all the while.
There are a substantial number of scenes where one finds parallels to RockStar. For example, where Veera wants to visit a mountain and Mahabir asks her to go and trek instead of contemplating the idea is analogous to the slightly comical discussion before the first kiss between the protagonists in RockStar at the outskirts of the Prague city (the choice of the scene at the outskirts of the city (intentional or unintentional) by the director was quite intelligent as the suburbs are seen as a place of transgression where the ‘morality’ of the city doesn’t hold). Or for example while going through the mountains where she sits in a rock in the middle of a stream and goes into a fit of laughter. The scene can be seen as experiencing an LSD trip where, having an experience of self-realization, wondering over the sublime aspect of nature. It is analogous to another scene in RockStar, close to an acid trip that Janardan experiences while sitting on a bathtub and visuals around him with a song in the background.
In RockStar it was an artist’s clash against society who is unable to conform or even grasp the society’s ideas of right and wrong. Heer is another individual who does understand all but refuses to revolt. She suffers trying to conform, only secretly following her heart with Janardan, and dies in the end. Highway then becomes a sequel to RockStar where Veera makes a full blown revolt against the society, that Heer was never able to and also survives in the end despite all adversities.
In the director we have an artist who has touched a topic, of fathomless depth, forming the core of our very being. His movies ideas are abound with spiritual metaphors. A lot of reviews talked about this and that but the spiritual and deep philosophical importance of the movie, which could have been touched upon.