I can’t recall the last time I went to watch a movie for the second time in a theater. In fact, I don’t think it had ever happened. Never have I been so compelled and moved by a film or a character to make the effort and pay the price just to get a second glimpse on the big screen. I’m quite surprised at myself for feeling so strongly about a film to the point that I feel guilty. There are so many things going on in the world that I should be obligated to feel strongly about other than a fictional movie. But I guess that is the charm and power of cinema. You walk in the theater to get away from your life for couple of hours and sink into others’ lives without becoming invested in it. I got the short end of stick when I walked out of the theater after watching the recent Bollywood movie called ‘Highway’. I went home heavy heart with tears running down my cold cheeks. Irritation bubbled inside me towards the director for such an abrupt end to a beautiful journey. Unlike those sequel movies, this has an end and this was the end. The characters will never reappear in a sequel movie. This was the end we had to accept.
It’s a story about a young woman who’s true journey towards self-discovery begins after being kidnapped by a couple of hoodlums for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Veera is the daughter of a well-known and powerful businessman. All her life, she has known nothing but comfort and well-being so much so that she felt trapped and longed for an adventure outside her regular life in the city. Mahabir Bhaati, the kidnapper, has had the polar opposite life from Veera. All his life he has known hardship and struggle. Raised in living conditions below par and abused by his father, the only comfort he has felt and known is in the arms of his mother who he knew was being abused and sold by his father to rich power players in exchange for money. Scarred by this trauma, he grew up to despise the upper-class. After Mahabir discovers the identity of his victim, he seeks this as an opportunity to seek revenge to the powerful people who has done him wrong. He takes Veera on a long road trip journey with no apparent destination. It’s the story about how their relationship blossoms throughout the journey.
The real reason I went back to see it a second time was because of Mahabir Bhaati, played so beautifully by Randeep Hooda. I was unable to get this character out of my mind. I felt such a strong empathy towards Mahabir that I have never before felt for any character. In fact, I don’t think I have ever delved so deeply into a character before especially in Bollywood movies. I usually watch Bollywood movies when I don’t want to think. And most Bollywood movies don’t really delve deep into the characters anyway – or maybe it’s just me not paying close attention. But this one struck an emotional cord inside me. I have to give kudos to Imtiaz Ali for creating this enigmatic yet endearing character. However, the full credit goes to Randeep Hooda for his raw and sincere performance that he made the character so believable and real. Alia Bhaat has outdone herself as Veera considering this is her second movie. I believed her soul was still innocent despite being sexually abused at such a young age.
But let’s get back to Mahabir for a bit. After all, he is the reason I went back. There is so much depth in his character. Despite his rugged exterior and tough guy behavior, he also has an innocent soul within him. Even though he kidnapped Veera, he never looked at her in a wrong light nor did he attempt to touch her in a wrong way. I think that is why they connected. They both saw through each other for the pureness left inside them despite facing trauma and abuse in their childhood. It’s strange and fascinating how abused children grow up to be. Some become abusers themselves but some become defenders. Mahabir became the latter. When one of his hoodlum friends tries to get touchy-touchy with Veera, he confronts him that such behavior is unacceptable. He is a man of integrity. Even though he is angry at life itself for what it has thrown on him, he still remains principled when it comes to defending someone’s honor. I think it has a lot to do with his mother issue. Veera is extremely expressive, both physically and emotionally. She shares her traumatic childhood story with Mahabir and is the one to reach out physically through form of hugs and little brushes here & there. Her openness and willingness sort of forces him to open up as well. One peculiar thought crossed my mind that may be Mahabir has not had any physical or sexual relationship with any woman so far. And it is understandable even though he might be in his 30’s. Men who see their mother gets abused and raped will have extremely difficult time forming physical and emotional relationship. Just a floating thought since he flinches every time she tries to touch him. I think this made me appreciate the character more and made him more endearing. But it’s just my perception since this fact is never revealed in the movie. I’d like to believe so. I truly had an urge to know more about Mahabir’s character. The back story as well as how his relationship with Veera develops and the way it affects him. Unfortunately, we never get to see that. And to me that is when the movie gets a bit disappointing. We are taken through this glorious journey of self-discovery but just leaves off brushing the tip. Just when we were getting to the best part of the meal, it is snatched and thrown away. That is exactly how I felt. Sort of cheated actually. But I understand the director’s point of view. He showed us the reality. We don’t always get the things we want in life. Some things just gets left off unanswered.