I watch a movie every Friday with my parents. Well almost every Friday, regardless of what movie it is. This weekly act has earned the stature of a family tradition. Obliging the said tradition, I ended up watching Highway earlier this year. The world, precisely my immediate circle was abuzz with talks about this movie. Yet all I managed to pick up was that it was an Imtiaz Ali movie starring Alia Bhatt. At the end of the day, my WhatsApp status read
Imtiaz Ali needs to see a shrink.
Why was that? Because I hated the movie. A friend who was anxious to watch the movie picked up a casual argument with me over my status. Not wanting to reveal the plot to her, I simply told her that I did not enjoy the movie and hence the status. However she did not give up. It was the next day, the day after that, the one after that but she did not quit her relentless pursuit to make me change my opinion. Her family had watched the movie, they loved it. A couple of her friends termed it philosophical. She just wanted me to say that I was wrong.
Then came Wednesday, we were in an Investment Management lecture when she told me that her friend loved Highway. This friend went ahead to say that the only reason that I disliked the movie could be that I am stupid and it was beyond my mental facilities to understand the nuances in the movie. I had disbelief painted all over my face. Here is a person who hasn’t even watched the movie trying to convince me of its brilliance. And another person who has never even met me commenting on my intellect. Ignoring her remarks I smiled and looked away. I started reading a book on my phone. A while later she snatched my phone from me because she was getting bored. She told me that I was being selfish in ignoring her and our other friend. That I should initiate a conversation that involves all three of us. That I cannot be right about everything every time. Right then, I cried. I cried for two hours. I sat through an English lecture where people were having a heated discussion on ‘IPL and its impact on Indian Cricket’ and I simply cried. The strange thing is that she didn’t even notice me crying.
I will tell you what happened. It was the beginning of things going wrong in my life. I had suffered a grave loss, I went horribly wrong with an essential interview, my finances were going upside down and even my loyal calculator had begun to fail me. When I was called stupid, it validated my worst doubts. Because that was how I was feeling then, ‘Stupid’. The moment I was called selfish, I felt betrayed. I had spent twenty days bottling up all of my emotions because I did not want my sadness to permeate into anybody’s life. I did not want my rage to hurt someone. I was putting forward a strong front. The least that I expected from a friend was to not belittle my efforts.
To me, Highway was a half baked attempt at depicting the emancipation of a young woman. Imtiaz Ali’s female characters are cosetted young women who are restrained by familial expectations, always seeking an opportunity to elope and begin a new life. Yet either they are half witted or half willed to execute an escape. In Highway the protagonist is kidnapped, thus being presented with the sought after escape that she sub consciously longed for. She is gradually drawn to her abductor who drags her, beats her and keeps her under bondage. May be it was the Stockholm Syndrome, even then I had difficulty in accepting her affection. In the end when she steps out of her house in a chauffeur driven car to run a fruit processing plant, a venture financed by her father, I do not see that as liberation.
This is my humble opinion. You ought to have yours, probably different than mine. But that is the beauty of them, opinions are subjective. They are not right or wrong. From your vantage point, the world assumes a color and from mine it assumes another. Is it a reason enough to place ourselves at a conflict?