'Highway' review: Alia Bhatt falters in many places

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Imtiaz Ali’s romancing the road is of a piece with his favourite plot device. Imtiaz Ali’s romancing the road is of a piece with his favourite plot device.
SummaryAlia Bhatt's 'Highway' is a patchy ride, with the occasional high spot.

Movie Review: Highway

Star Cast: Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Ratings: **

A couple of damaged strangers seeking redemption via a road journey is the premise of Imtiaz Ali’s latest ‘Highway’. The director’s attempt to move away from his trademark candyfloss-ness has mixed results: this is perhaps the most picturesque road movie I have seen coming out of Bollywood, but the story struggles with its twin threads and uneven tone. ‘Highway’ is a patchy ride, with the occasional high spot.

Imtiaz Ali’s romancing the road is of a piece with his favourite plot device. This director is happiest and most-happy making when his characters are on the move, the breeze rustling their hair. In his latest, he tells the story of ‘jab’ Veera and Mahavir met, but there is a gap between what he wants his characters to be and the actors who play them. It becomes jab they met, not jab we met.

Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) is a rich, cossetted bride-to-be. And Mahabir Bhatti (Randeep Hooda) is a criminalised, uncouth truck driver. This unlikely couple is thrown together, first reluctantly then companionably, for days at a stretch, as they rattle down the highway. They progress from fear to dislike to like to a kind of love, but it’s more a meander, and believability is a casualty.

Alia Bhatt has walked past her babydoll cosmetic debut in ‘Student Of The Year’ for a demanding role. Her Veera is effortlessly fresh-faced, absurdly young, scrubbed and vulnerable. But the sense of terror and dread that would make the character credible is never fully present.

She displays potential—especially in a harrowing scene in which she tells her companion of a secret that devastated her childhood — but she can’t really convince us that the thread of snot coursing through her tears is not artful. And in other places, she evokes incredulity: a high society Delhi girl in clothes that do not wear any ‘kaajal’ that differs in smudge-size as she rolls about in sand and mud? A body language coach (mentioned in the credits) is not enough: an actor who insists on being taken seriously needs to be

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