Sunday, March 30, 2014

Highway - Road to Liberation

“In the end, what we regret the most are the chances we never took.”

You walk into a dimly-lit movie hall expecting to be entertained, that’s it, nothing more than that, and then 2 hours and 13 minutes later, you walk out as a completely different and changed person.
Well, that’s what Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ did to me. It may not be a commercially successful film (yet) and might have got polarized reactions but it’s beautifully assembled, ambitious, holistic in its approach and most importantly touched me at a very personal level.
Judging a film or for that matter any art form is totally subjective, one can’t say, this movie or performance is better than that or this music is better than this and that. It’s a very personal choice; it might take you just a second to fall in love with a performance or couple of notes to fall for a musical piece. I remember in 2011, when ‘Rockstar’ had come out; it had got quite a lot of flak for its disjointed narratives, excessive flashbacks, many criticized its editing and some even when to the extent of saying “There were too many songs!” Now for a Rahman fan like me that definitely is something that would anger me to the point of no return but even through all that, I waved the “Rockstar was more soul, less logic” banner and stayed wholeheartedly with the movie. If you ask me, what made me connect with that film? I would have to say that every single flaw that got mentioned, each one of those “too many” songs, every bit of the lead character’s vulnerability and anger, their confusion regarding relationships and marriages, every single chaotic upheaval of the lead character somehow connected with me.

The same happened with me when I watched Imtiaz Ali’s latest ‘Highway’, it's strong and involving, it reaches beyond Bollywood clich├ęs, transforming what could have been an ordinary road-trip movie into something with so much potential. Unlike the loud and splashy melodrama that comes out majority of the time, this one’s very thoughtful and subtle in its story and approach. It’s a tale of suffering, loss, pain and most importantly, it’s about self-discovery. It smashes all the commercial adornments of a typical Hindi film.

One main thought that lingered on as I walked out after watching the movie was “What is the true meaning of freedom and liberation?” Like in the case of Alia Bhatt’s character Veera in ‘Highway’, she found her true freedom on being a captive; her true liberation was [SPOILER] when her captor whom she falls in love with, dies in her arms [SPOILER]. To others liberation could be anything, a trip to Spain, buying your dream home, quitting your job and heading towards doing something that you truly have passion for. Everything and anything could be liberating.   
The character in ‘Highway’ takes us from carefreeness to vulnerability, petrification to liberation, all this on a 2 hours and 13 minute road-trip. Imtiaz Ali has always had travel as a recurring motive in all of his films. It is said that when you want to know someone, travel with that person. When you want to know yourself, travel. When you don’t know, what to do with your life, travel.

As much as I hate being or hearing preachy stuff, this movie did make me ask myself “Am I living my life?” “Have I been facing my fears?” “What would I regret not doing if today was my last day on this planet?” “Am I living a life that I chose or the one that I was steered into by the expectations of my family and friends?” and “Does traveling really have that much impact on a person?” The answers varied from noes and yeses but one thing which I couldn’t figure out was, “Why travel?” and then it hit me, I do need to get out of my comfort zone, all of us do. 

All of us need that one trip that just turns their lives around. That one trip that slows time for us which takes us away from our automated and monotonous routine, that one trip that helps us gain those important perspectives about life, that one trip that pushes us into a torrent of apparently uncomfortable situations like forcing us to meet and greet new people from completely diverse lifestyles and cultures or hike our way around a mountain where no one speaks our language, a second of “Culture shock” can leave an everlasting positive impact on us, it compels us to give back, share, help out and appreciate life.

We are not guaranteed old age. Without injecting too much of my personal opinion, I just have to say, stop living by the views that society imposes on you, those are just the expressions of a group that is already deeply conforming. At the end of it all, it is your choice to live how you wish.
Go for it and have no regrets. Always choose to buy experience over external objects.

Live for today. Take the Highway you feared.  

“The Purpose of life is to LIVE it.”  - Roosevelt
Special mention to the following books, movies and articles that made me want to write this piece.

Highway – Directed by Imtiaz Ali
Into The Wild – Book written by Jon Krakauer/ Movie directed by Sean Penn
Anything and Everything written by Bill Bryson 
On the Road - written by Jack Kerouac
Into thin Air - written by Jon Krakauer   
Bunch of Ted Talks, Articles on  Quora , Elitedaily and livelearnevolve