Posts Tagged ‘ A.R. Rehman ’

Not Exactly a Highway Review

highway-poster
Highway
Release date: February 21, 2014
Directed by: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda

This isn’t an outright review of Highway. Then why have I started this post just like a review? Because that’s how I wanted it to be. In this absurd sabbatical of sorts, I’ve seen Hasee Toh Phasee and Gunday. HTP was an incredibly enjoyable film and Parineeti Chopra surely showed off all her talents. Then Gunday had so much promise even for a slambang masala entertainer, but it didn’t live up to it.

Why am I writing about other films in a post about Highway? Just to let my all-so-important opinions stay etched here, if either of those two films gets featured on the Best100 or Worst100.

Imtiaz Ali’s films, except for Jab We Met, have left me disappointed. I always witness a graph, a potential for greatness, but the eventual mishmash of umpteen ingredients has left me slighted every time. Entering the cinema hall for Highway had me on the fringe already, I wasn’t expecting a completely perfect film at all.

So Highway starts off with footage from a personal wedding videotape, Veera (Alia Bhatt) is about to get married. From one influential family to the other, that’s how she feels about her marriage. She asks her fiance to take her out for a secret drive. She wants to breathe in the country. During their ride back home, at a petrol pump, she ends up getting tagged along with [kidnapped by] Mahabeer Bhati (Randeep Hooda) and his gang.

Mahabeer has unknowingly picked her up. Like a true Jat (or more like an internetphile defending all his self-righteous views), he defends his mistake. His first mark is that of a hardened criminal who is remorseless and unflinching in even firing a bullet just to make a point. Mahabeer and Veera are different like chalk and cheese. But even chalk and cheese are connected by a thin lineage of calcium and its compounds. Calcium here is a central theme of trauma.

Highway uses the Stockholm Syndrome gimmick only to an extent. There is a reciprocation of those feelings by the captor here. Alia’s character is given the Manic Pixie Dream Girl treatment initially, but thankfully her character shows some purpose and a sense of importance eventually. I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of any song-dance numbers in the first half of the film. Running just about an hour, the before-interval is extremely taut.

Veera’s confession of her demons and fears didn’t evoke the expected emotions from me, as she keeps doing shocking 180 degree turns, coming off as unstable and unsettled. Which was then resolved by the scene where she says to him, “Jahaan se tum mujhe laaye ho main wahaan vaapas nahin jaanaa chaahti. Jahaan bhi le jaa rahe ho wahaan pahunchna nahi chaahti. Par ye raasta, ye bahut achcha hai, main chaahti hun ki ye raasta kabhi khatam na ho.” –this was the point where she emits clarity. From this point onward, it was all Alia for me.

A common complaint that I have with almost 90 per cent of love stories in cinema, to which Silver Linings Playbook is a rare exception, is that the said love between the characters isn’t allowed to flourish, nurture or grow. And I noticed this complaint being raised against Highway as well, to which I strongly disagree. The latent attraction here between the protagonists isn’t physical, it doesn’t harbor on sex slavery, it’s just simple. Simply human. Veera talks to Mahabeer like no one else ever has. No matter how disturbing it may be for him, it captivates him nonetheless.

The use of montages to create a backstory or sympathy at times comes off jarring at first, but the final one, with Veera and Mahabeer’s pasts striding down the hills together is purely moving. The visual imagery of the Himalayas, the barren deserts, and the infinite roads is awe-inspiring, Anil Mehta finely captures them along with Randeep’s scruffy appearance and Alia’s complexity.

For me, what matters more in a film is its ability to make you weep/wail or even just feel a lump in your throat than its ability to make you smile. Unquestionably, making viewers laugh is a Herculean task in itself, and making them cry might even be easier owing to their lowered inhibitions in the darkness of a cinema hall. Highway did both the things for me. Even in a moment where you’re supposed to cry, you won’t help smiling (re: final shot of the film). Again, this wasn’t purely a review. Don’t piss on me if I’ve divulged any vital plot points inadvertently.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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Jab Tak Hai Jaan


Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Release date: November 13, 2012
Directed by: Yash Chopra
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Placed in the midst of ginormous expectations and sour comments over the initial release of its videos, Jab Tak Hai Jaan had a lot of roadblocks as challenges in its way, even before hitting the screens. Did it live up to the expectations? Sure, read on!

Set in London around 10 years ago, Samar Anand (Shahrukh Khan) is a youngster who’s looking for a job to break his family tradition of being an officer in the army because his mother doesn’t want any more military deaths in her family. Or so he says. He does odd jobs and tries to earn as much as he can. And while doing one such cleaning job, he comes across Meera Thapad (Katrina Kaif) heading into a church. She’s got her own way with God where she asks for things and gives up a thing in return to please him.

After a song and a rare smoking sequence featuring our lead actress in her engagement dress, Meera and Samar have their first real conversation. Along the way they pull off the brilliantly captured dance sequence preceding Ishq Shava and the scenery around it. Katrina dances with much oomph and you are pretty much shocked. This is where the protagonists’  feelings get convoluted and the much obscure hurdles now start surfacing. There are no tyrannical fathers and uncles, but there are spiritual (?) issues.

Akira (Anushka Sharma) is a peppy, self-proclaimed ‘heartless bitch’ who bears a stark contrast to Samar and Meera’s approach to love and relationships. She’s not scared of jumping out of relationships and doesn’t care about anything beyond sex.  And she isn’t scared of jumping into ice-cold water for a dare too! Uh, okay. Akira is acquainted with a much calm and serious layer of Samar’s personality as now he defuses bombs without protective gear. But he has his reasons for that. She’s intrigued about him and decides to share this story of a fearless man who’s diffused 98 bombs so far.

What you see in this plot isn’t hunky-dory bubblegum material crap, you get to watch people in their actual habitats: cussing, enjoying, kissing and sharing private humor. Which is where the strength of the film lies, the women aren’t insecure about their man’s choices, and independent in their own element. Meera is grounded yet confident about her decisions, Akira flirts to the extent of picking up Samar to make him get into his element. Yes, there’s the part where Samar calls Akira by ‘Kurosawa’.

Anil Mehta’s cinematography is brilliant and so artistically pleasing that sometimes, you forget there’s also a floundering story playing on the same screen. More than the music, the instrumental theme of JTHJ is more catchy and melodious. Even Challa isn’t a video capturing London’s scenery, it serves a purpose and yes, Shahrukh strums the guitar when the guitar’s playing in the back, unlike the cutsized promos. Saans shows you immaculate chemistry between the characters and I’ve already praised the entire Ishq Shava sequence. There’s light witty comedy as well, but it’s only subtle.

Yash Chopra shows how he’s evolved since his last film Veer-Zaara, he doesn’t hold back from letting his characters cuss like youngsters usually do and making them unpretentious and more real. There is no dancing around trees in chiffon sarees for the heroines and no cringe-in-your-seat moment. Shahrukh shows the shift in his character’s evolution with charm, Katrina looks like a million bucks and retains the grace associated with quintessential Yashraj heroines. Anushka plays her chirpy and upfront brash character smoothly.

Finally, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a love story based on the conflict between a woman’s beliefs and love, and a man’s undying passion. It’s a film laced with its own imperfections and pivotal flaws with the screenplay, although perfectly finished in many departments. Yashji’s final outing as a director is quite watchable.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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