Bollywood’s latest attempt to push the envelope is a feminist coming-of-age road movie exploring Stockholm Syndrome – the psychological condition in which a hostage develops empathy for their kidnapper.
Veera (Alia Bhatt) is a young, rich and sheltered Delhi woman who is abducted by the lowly Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) on the eve of her love-marriage. They go on the run in his truck through the north of India and bond in the process. It is during captivity that Veera learns to be free and finds her true path in life. Meanwhile, the police give chase.
Unlike Hollywood, which has explored the hostage-in-love theme several times, this is uncharted terrain for Hindi cinema. Director Imtiaz Ali generally succeeds in telling a touching tale of an ill-starred relationship, aided by jaw-dropping cinematography of the rural landscape.
Alas, the film is unable to fully escape the trappings of the ‘formula’. It’s too long, the narrative lacks subtlety and the ‘troubled souls’ characterisation is lazy: fragile Veera was abused as a child whilst broody Mahabir has mummy issues. Double-Oscar winner A R Rahman’s folksy soundtrack is a bonus but doesn’t help the pace of the journey.
Competent performances from the lead pair bring a genuine heart to proceedings, raising 'Highway' above its shortcomings. The result is a roadworthy trip.