Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Philosophy of Highway

I just watched an Hindi movie called Highway directed by Imtiaz Ali. There is something magical about Highway. So deep that the 2-sentence FB status or 2-character Fwitter can hardly measure up to it. It deserves, in my opinion, a full blog entry. As following.

One cannot miss, at the very beginning, to fit Highway into earlier examples of such kidnapper-victim romance. Think Hero with a smashing debut of Jackie Shroff, or the Clint Eastwood-directed A Perfect World. The fitness quotient slowly diminishes, as the movie takes on the roads of Gujrat. We find that like in every strata of society, there are goons with strength/weakness of character. Moreover, that hardly reflects the way one lives. One may live in opulence, like the Tripathis and yet remains a fearsome child-abuser. One may grow up in hardness and still understand that the kidnapped victim means money and hence, should be taken care of. Did Mahavir stayed aloof of Veera only because Veera meant money? Or because, he was strong enough? Or because, he was never interested in girls? We never know. But, the daily dose of media makes one believe that virtues of society are proprietary rights of the economically well-off. This is a false stereotype. This falsehood is established every time a taxi driver is photographed when he/she returns a bag full of valuables to its rightful owner. Well, I digress. The fact that Mahavir behaved, in many a times, like a protector of Veera, could come as a surprise. Let us proceed and take that, as a very normal behaviour.

The movie, takes a turn, when Veera hides herself when a road inspection was being carried on. No, not as many a people would think, Veera (not yet) did love Mahavir. Veera was just confused. She did not want to go back to her life, that she clearly found chaotic despite the so-called socio-economic stability that offers. Veera just could not fit herself in her home. Neither did she knew where to go.

And then, the scenes leading Veera and Mahavir to reunite at the bus-station. I do not know if those sequences were based on serious pre-meditation or ad-hoc but, there the magic starts with the smile of Mahavir.  Soon after, Veera reveals the reason why she wants to stick to him - "there is no plan". This, philosophically, brings forth a concept, known otherwise as Nirvasana. To strike that deeper, let me narrate a short dialogue between two friends that happened in front of me.

A - "All scriptures say, god is blissful. But, what is bliss? How would one seek that without even getting a glimpse of it?"
S - "Some times of life, all of us have tasted bliss."
A - "Really? I do not think I have."
S - "You, too"
A - "How?"
S - "Did you not work long hours on a problem? Did you not put your heart and soul into it?"
A - "Yes, I did."
S - "And worked so strong that any other desire and wish slowly faded away. The only thing that you longed for was a solution."
A - "Yes, I did."
S - "And when it was solved, you experienced, however momentarily, bliss."
A - "Hmm, may be."
S - "And you know why? Those were the moments, where you were desire-less. That is called Nirbasana."

A was dumbstruck.

I can never accept that for Veera, the journey in the movie Highway can be categorised as coming of age. She was not learning, she was not becoming responsible or something. She was just like a free, desire-less bird. And, at the same time, she was not just a happy-go-lucky person either. She takes to the beauty of the road and tries hard to be on that journey. It takes a magic to catch that on-screen. And of course, the most beautiful journey was on the top of a bus, riding through snowy peaks.

Almost like a fairy-tale, possibly, they are cursed that the journey breathes life for them. Destination cannot be set.

Mahavir and Veera were both tasting freedom. Veera, from her life of plan. Mahavir, from his life of chaos. And as fate would have it, their freedom were reaching their limits. When the bus was passing through some low-hanging rocks, they ducked. Was it saying symbolically, that there is a limit, till which freedom can be tasted. The formal rigor of society will crush it, sooner or later.

Cut to the destination scene. Veera sweeping the dusty hut, preparing for the evening snacks, adding a simple touch of beauty to her eyes. Naturally, Mahavir could not restrain his emotions. To take help of water for a masquerade, one cannot help but think of the scenes from the movie Saagar. Kamal Hassan was brilliant but, well Randeep Hooda matched it, I daresay.

And now, how were Veera related to Mahavir? We struggle to fit those. We think that was love. Really? Love as in between a husband and a wife, or a brother and a sister, or a mother and a child? Is it necessary to define every relation in an order? Surely not. And there is where, Highway scores way above Hero. It forms a class of its own. Perfect World is close but, even there, neither the un-planned-ness, nor the rising above the boundaries of relation were there. 

This is the beauty that gets a bit hurt when the movie ends. I knew the police would hunt them. Mahavir had his emotional redemption, he had blood in his hands, he would invariably die. But, Veera. Why she had to find a plan and come back to the mountains? Would not it be much fitting if she would hit the road again - without a plan? Without her being labelled as a lunatic but, a pure free spirit. Thousands of men and women take on the road every year, take monk-hood, go to impossible adventures, explore unknown culture. To label it and end it there is mainstream. Sorry, Mr. Imtiaz Ali, that is a small, tiny loophole, where Highway fails in my eyes.

Barring that, it was a journey worth undertaking.

The image is copied from a website called

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