Black Widow

Vampire Owl: I hope that we are not speaking about the spiders here.

Vampire Bat: No, none of us vampires are related to spiders, you know.

Vampire Owl: The witches take in a lot spiders.

Vampire Bat: Most of them are killed by the cats in there though.

Vampire Owl: But they are essential part of the dark magic.

Vampire Bat: It is not dark magic, but black magic.

Vampire Owl: You feel that there is a difference between the two.

Vampire Bat: Yes, darkness is not necessarily black, as it can come in different colours.

Vampire Owl: You are talking about darkness being reinvented by the vampire elders.

Vampire Bat: The source is the portal though.

[Gets a paneer momo and three cups of black tea].

What is the movie about? :: Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) are undercover agents of Russia known elsewhere as the Red Guardian and Black Widow, just a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Everything seems to be too natural for them, as a family with parents and two children. The agents successfully disguise as a normal American family in Ohio with their two daughters, and after stealing SHIELD intelligence, manage to escape to Cuba, after going through a tough chase. Soon enough, they are trained vigorously for their possible future missions for this secret organization known as Red Room. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) who had their training in the Red Room to become assassins, continue in their missions to become successful and highly skilled fighters in their own ways. Natasha has become a fugitive for violating the Sokovia Accords, some time after joining the Avengers, after she had left her own team of assassins much earlier to join SHIELD.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Natasha escapes to a safehouse in Norway, while Yelena comes in contact with a former Black Widow who provides a synthetic gas that neutralizes the chemical mind control agent on her, which leads her to understand her actions and move to hiding. She attempts to stop the Red Room, this organization which has been creating assassins by manipulation of the mind. Natasha believes that she had destroyed the Red Room a long time ago, but it seems that it is not the case, as she is hunted by an unknown figure for the vials which were sent to her by her sister. She manages to escape and meet Yelena, only to be attacked by more female assassins, part of the Black Widow programme in the Red Room. Yelena had hoped that someone from Avengers would help her to get rid of the Red Room and free the black widows, but it seems that the superhero team no longer holds strong, and they have to find a few other more effective options.

The defence of Black Widow :: The movie fits in nicely within the list of superhero movies with its own fine deviations. The action scenes definitely make the point, and the two leading ladies make the best part of the movie, and some fine humour is also added in there well. There are surely some fine scenes which stand apart from the others, and not all of them are at the best for the intensity or the use of special effects. The fight scenes when the two sisters meet, and when the black widows fight, are among two of the best. The visuals are really good, as you would expect from a movie like this. The emotional moments are also pretty much working. The film is a fine part of the cinematic universe, but at the same time, it is also good enough to stand alone here. In the end, you do know where to place this movie, and with the final moments after the credits, the same is assured yet again – it is once again that time when you don’t take the eyes away from the screen.

Positives and negatives :: The movie does have perfectly suited cast to work in its favour with a lot of efficiency. The new additions to the cinematic universe are indeed among the best, and we see them joining and blending in so well. We do have hope that there could be a new beginning for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the new entries, even though the Corona virus pandemic threat is forever, and can affect its run in the future too. There are still times when the movie seems to go up and down, seemingly following an inconsistent pattern – the tale could have followed a more straight forward pattern rather than going on like the tides. There could have also been more training sequences of the black widows, and more of their missions might have done the movie more good. A little bit more of Avengers could have also provided the movie with positives. After all, we are never short of hope, as far as superheroes are concerned.

The performers of the soul :: Scarlett Johansson leads the way, as one would expect. We have seen her do what she has done the best in the previous movies. Florence Pugh is the one who comes up with some fine surprises, and if there is another Black Widow, it could only be her – she makes a perfect one indeed. She would have made a fine addition to the team of Avengers on another day, maybe as part of another dimension in future. The action works for both of them really well, and there is also that humour that comes nicely with them around. It is also nice to see Rachel Weisz in such a memorable role again, as she is one actress who was also part of our childhood for quite a long time. David Harbour brings an extra amount of humour in between too, and even when serious, he adds a certain amount of the same. Olga Kurylenko is also present, even though we don’t see much of her, at least not the face. She remains one action star that we can always trust on, one of the last references being the lesser known film, The Courier.

How it finishes :: We know where these Marvel movies go, and this one does have its deviation which seems to work efficiently by its own. As the new action-packed addition to the grand list, it is an entertaining ride that one wouldn’t want to miss, as we already have that feeling of requiring more of Avengers after Infinity War and Endgame. The superheroes and saving the world have been gone for rather too long, and here we have it back in the form of Black Widow. We have been wondering which the movie would bring that power back, as we around here don’t really watch the series. This one also has its own fine surprises to add to the same, as this one is really a fine mixture of things. It is not that easy to make an enjoyable film which can match the predecessors anymore, as Marvel has come up with some of the best already. Well, this some proof about the about the fact that there is always chance to keep the momentum going.

Release date: 9th July 2021
Running time: 134 minutes
Directed by: Cate Shortland
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz

<<< Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Antakshari

Vampire Owl: This reminds us of the great game that we had in the castle.

Vampire Bat: The human game was indeed interesting.

Vampire Owl: Yet, humans play more of the evil games.

Vampire Bat: It is just a part of their evil nature.

Vampire Owl: Evil is part of their nature more than ever these days.

Vampire Bat: Can you guess how many evil humans are in this movie?

Vampire Owl: I am guessing that at least ninety five percent of them will be evil.

Vampire Bat: It is not really a big percentage for any group of humans.

Vampire Owl: Doctor Frankenstein has determined it be as high as ninety nine most of the time.

Vampire Bat: I don’t think that this has anything to do with Mr Frankenstein and his fake experiments of no meaning.

[Gets a chicken samosa and three cups of orange tea].

What is the movie about? :: Circle Inspector Das (Saiju Kurup) is the officer in charge of a police station in the remote area of a hilly terrain, where Srinivas (Sudhi Koppa) joins as a probationary officer while hoping to solve a big case as soon as possible. Das gets into a fight with Vasudevan (Vijay Babu), who is a local leader of a prominent party, and also has multiple business interests. On the very next day, Das’ daughter is almost strangled to death by a man wearing a paper mask, saved only because of his wife Chitra (Priyanka Nair) noticing it at the right time. Despite threatening Das and his family before, Vasudevan denies any kind of involvement in the act, affirming that his problems are solved face to face, and there will be no hiding. Das has the habit of playing antakshari where each person sings a song, and the next person begins with the letter on which the previous person’s song ended. On the day on which his daughter was attacked, he had also received a call from an unknown number asking him to sing a song, or his daughter will be singing instead.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Their senior officer Jayachandran (Binu Pappu) and the local head constable Hariharan (Kottayam Ramesh) are not really fond of Das, as they are on the side of Vasudevan, and do not want him to solve too mysterious a case. He also comes against a strange, mute girl named Nayana (Ishita Singh) who has come to her grandparents’ home from Delhi. There is something about her, as she also seems to be hiding some secrets which nobody would want to know. Das and Srinivas slowly, but effectively connects the dots and finds out that similar murders have happened before, but police had closed the cases. Some of those murders were also considered to be accidents, and the deaths of the fathers after the murders of their children were considered to be accidents or suicides as a result of alcoholism and depression. The two officers end up finding a chain of events which lead a long way back, but will they be able to find the person behind it in time or is there another murder on the path?

The defence of Antakshari :: The movie has a police officer who is rather ordinary, and it has his struggles in finding the psychotic murderer, who is really that crazy as in Forensic, and very unlike the non-psychotic revenge seeker in Anjaam Pathira. The cop doesn’t have that much of a flaw as the protagonist of Memories, but is very much relatable with a usual kind of family and personal problems. The movie is shot nicely, and with some fine performances, leaves scope for a possible sequel – despite the low chances, we hope that such an attempt is made; there are also other similar trials of investigation which can be combined with this one to create a shared universe. Such a sequel can also talk about those elements of this movie which seems lost, and maybe, it can be a serial killer universe instead of a cop universe. This is the kind of movie which Bollywood would use to make a super-cop, but thankfully, we don’t leave it in their hands. The movie doesn’t take the predictable path either, as there seems to be the possibility of fun discovered in taking the road less taken, on the lines of Robert Frost.

The claws of flaw :: Antakshari is quite slow in its progression, and there are characters who don’t really play much of a role in moving the tale forward. A few things also go without explanations. The whole saga of one family with an abusive father, frustrated mother, music-playing son and cat-loving daughter facing a mysterious girl don’t fit in here at all – neither do the broken guitar and dead cat. This is that kind of a family which could have been there for namesake, but so much of time is wasted on them. If a red herring was intended, that should have been a part of the storyline – there was another villain out there who could have served the same. The young engineering student who is in love with a mysterious mute girl makes no sense, even if the vampires were to turn cent percent vegetarian. Without these moments, the movie could have been shorter, and the pacing could have surely been better. This one lets the lost moments go lost rather than get it back and link them. There were so many paths that this film could have taken, that is for sure.

The performers of the soul :: Saiju Kurup shines really well as the police inspector who has this investigation on a personal level rather than anything else, like Joju George of Joseph. He has been one actor who didn’t get enough opportunities to lead, but this is one chance which he holds on to. He is someone who suits this kind of a police officer really well. Sudhi Koppa plays the role of the supporting officer well, and it is also not a role he is stranger to. He is another performer whom we need to see very often, as there seems to be a lot of requirements for quality actors rather than entertainers. Binu Pappu doesn’t have that good and understanding police officer role here, but does this shade with ease. Priyanka Nair who did have some fine roles years ago has another one to remember here. Among all the roles being performed here, Ishita Singh’s role remains the one which doesn’t seem to give us any idea of its purpose of existence – feels like an absurd side around here, even though she suits the character. The rest of the characters mostly just have to play along here, but more notable are the woman and child from the flashback. Vijay Babu has a small role.

How it finishes :: Like Salute, Antakshari is another movie which doesn’t depend on the foolish mass masala to go through investigations by police officers. It is very good and effective because it doesn’t cater to those brainless fans who visit the theatres and get a movie crores of business while losing all their money to petrol, parking fees, highly expensive food and others. This movie is for the others, who look out for the new releases on OTT platforms, as the Corona virus pandemic has shown us that it is indeed the right thing to do. Well, you have the choice not to go to the theatre and watch those foolish dance and music to which insanity is unleashed in between a story – I would call for the lack of the same every time. The mass masala genre itself is a fake thing created for the superstars and their children to call their fans to the theatres and by creating the fake vibes, they make the rest of the audience feel that the movie is fantastic – lets see how long these star kids who fly around beating people and doing dumb romance will go. After that, you can come back to good movies like this one.

Release date: 22nd April 2022 (Sony LIV)
Running time: 122 minutes
Directed by: Vipin Das
Starring: Saiju Kurup, Priyanka Nair, Sudhi Koppa, Vijay Babu, Binu Pappu, Thomas Kunnampuzha, Shabareesh Varma, Sruthy Suresh, Kottayam Ramesh, Boban Samuel, Sandeep Pradeep, Ishita Singh

<<< Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Phobia

Vampire Owl: I hope that she doesn’t have vampirophobia. I really hope that she doesn’t.

Vampire Bat: I believe that the exact term for the same is sanguivoriphobia.

Vampire Owl: What? Who on Earth comes up with such strange names? Who even gets that at first attempt?

Vampire Bat: Well, they call it the fear for blood eaters.

Vampire Owl: How can someone actually eat blood? And we are vegetarian vampires; we have suitable replacements instead.

Vampire Bat: It doesn’t count. Humans are masters of generalisation, and they create opinions based on that.

Vampire Owl: We should have a phobia of them instead – unless they are all dead.

Vampire Bat: You are in no position to call an event which causes human extinction. They have to cause their own downfall.

Vampire Owl: It is something that I have always believed in.

Vampire Bat: Just make sure that Wonder Woman won’t murder you after naming you Ares, the God of War.

[Gets three cups of special tea with Tiger biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: Mehak Deo (Radhika Apte), a talented artist who is quite popular with her friends, attends almost every party in the town, becoming more of the popular girl in the city. But after being molested by a taxi driver on a terrible night, she develops the worst of agoraphobia, which keeps her away from public places and large groups, as she keeps herself inside the house and mostly in her room. Living in the same house as her sister Anusha (Nivedita Bhattacharya), it gets worse for everyone, as her actions remain more and more uncontrollable and unbearable for all. With the eccentric and unpredictable nature affecting Anusha’s little kid too, they all feel done with helping her, because it seems to be of no use, and Mehak herself doesn’t want to be treated, staying inside home without making an attempt to go out for months.

So, what happens next? :: Shaan (Satyadeep Mishra), Mehak’s good friend decides to help her, and gets her to an apartment which is empty for now after its previous occupant decided to move away. He hopes that this change, and life alone will be better for her, and she will start longing to meet people after this. At the new place, she seems to have some visions, and she feels that there is something sinister about these particular visions. She has two neighbours there with whom she gets to talk often, one of them being Nikki (Yashaswini Dayama), who is a graduate student who lives on the flat on the right, while on the left side, there lives Manu (Ankur Vikal) who had anger management issues and is using laughter to fight the same. The latter used to be in a relationship with a woman called Jiah Khurana (Amrit Bagchi) who had left the place.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: It turns out that Jiah was living in the same apartment in which Mahek is living right now. Knowing that the girl had disappeared without telling anyone, and that there is no clue of where she is, Mahek begins to feel that there is a big mystery behind the same. She comes up with the idea that an angry Manu had killed Jiah and has hidden her body in his apartment. Mehak also feels that her visions are from Jiah’s spirit which is trying to tell her something about the demise. Shaan feels that this is all part of her disease, and that she is having so many hallucinations. Her psychiatrist (Faezeh Jalali) also confirms that Mahek’s condition is worsening every day, and there is not much that can be done unless she is taken to a mental asylum. But Nikki is curious, and decides to help Mehak in finding the truth behind the missing girl. Now the question remains about what really is the truth here.

The defence of Phobia :: There is one thing about which you can be cent percent sure, and it is that Phobia won’t be like any other movie which you have seen in Bollywood, and in psychological horror, it explores more territories, and most of these areas are divergent. The story is nicely presented right from the beginning, and it keeps you wondering what is happening, and what is to follow. The visuals nicely match the overall mood of the movie, and there are some scenes which are particularly great and deserves our attention. Radhika Apte is once again too good, as you would expect her to be – she is that kind of an actress who has more in store for us than anyone from Bollywood, and it is a fact that you just can’t ignore. There are moments from her which you are going to remember for so long. The next one to make the impact is Yashaswini Dayama who keep the curious college girl act going on very nicely.

The claws of flaw :: One can say without doubt that Phobia is not a movie for everyone; I am sure that it might have already been established by many others in one way or the other which randomly talking about the flick. There are also logic flaws in this movie, and her living alone in the flat is nothing less than strange, and having a knife near her when she goes into the virtual reality is rather comfortable. The way in which the mystery is finally solved is also rather strange, when it could have taken a rather direct approach. The climax had potential to be something more, and for some reason, it chooses not to live up to the fantastic build-up in the first half, and finish the movie on a high. The audience is left clueless on a lot of occasions, and more scary moments could have been built regarding the neighbour and other residents of the apartments. When you have an apartment where someone with a mental problem living alone, there is always scope for more.

How it finishes :: Phobia demands that you take things differently, and get your thinking procedure to go another way, which has almost no relation with a regular Bollywood movie; all that those movies are, this movie is not. It is where movies like Phobia and Raman Raghav 2.0 scores, and it is also what we strive to have. Otherwise, Bollywood can only focus on biopics, and tales inspired from real life incidents like Neerja, Rustom and Airlift, which they need to keep the ship sailing in the right direction. It is during such times that this movie does go against the flow, and what we can do is to appreciate the effort and watch this movie without second thoughts about how it will make us feel, and how well it can relate when we haven’t watched similar movies before.

Release date: 27th May 2016
Running time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Pavan Kirpalani
Starring: Radhika Apte, Yashaswini Dayama, Satyadeep Mishra, Ankur Vikal, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Amrita Bagchi, Faezeh Jalali, Salone Mehta, Arush Nand, Dinyar Tirandaz, Amit Kumar Pandey, Malhar Goenka

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Asha Black

ashablack (1)

Vampire Owl :: Is she the sister of Jacob Black?

Vampire Bat :: Absolutely not.

Vampire Owl :: Then, is she related to Sirius Black?

Vampire Bat :: I ponder over why you ponder over the name of a movie without making any sense at all. Note the double pondering – you know it is injurious to our vampire brains when not fed enough.

Vampire Owl :: It is because I have become very smart after successfully resisting the urge to watch Bang Bang! – they tried, but I was mentally “owl strong”.

Vampire Bat :: “Owl strong”? What does that even mean? I think that it is racist. I even think that you mentioning black is racist. See, vampire bats are black and you vampire owl is white.

Vampire Owl :: But you are not even brown enough. You should stand under the sun and do the “sun fall on my head” incantation to be even close to be black.

Vampire Bat :: Dude, Fair & Lovely usage among bats is increasing. Soon, they will have white vampire bats. It is all due to seeing the face of Yami Gautam on television during that fairness cream ad and getting addicted.

Vampire Owl :: Holy vampire dragon! White vampire bats? You will look like that cute little white bat from Honduras! Yuck! These fairness creams truly are the greatest brand ambassadors of racism.

Vampire Bat :: Well, can we just call the movie by its Tamil name, Nee Naan Nizhal?

[Goes to the ticket counter].

What is it about? :: We see that there is a series of murders of unrelated men happening in Kuala Lumpur, and the Malaysian police are hoping to find a solution to the same as soon as possible, as the dead are all Indians, and people might soon end up calling it a racist hate crime and would affect the tourism a lot. The man in charge of the investigation is the Assistant Superintendent of Police Anwar Ali (Sarath Kumar), a Tamil Malaysian with a fine track record, and he finds out that these dead people had one common friend with whom they chatted – Asha Black. The other story is about Rohit (Arjun Lal) who is working with a music troupe consisting of his best friends, and is highly attracted to one girl with the nickname Asha Black (Ishita) who sends him a friend request and chats with him so often. As he seems to have almost no interest in his life in India any more, his friends ask him to go to Malaysia and meet the girl of his dreams rather than ruining his life in dreams. But as he reaches Malaysia, he understands more about the girl, and also what all happens around here, and it changes his life.

The defence of Asha Black :: The movie takes charge of a social message here, and it is a bold step by a director doing his first movie. There is complete and absolutely clear success in the way the social message is given to the audience here. The movie’s change from a romantic drama to a dark thriller is also easier, as the somewhat parallel narratives are used a lot in this movie, and this darkness is something that we are perfectly aware of right from the beginning. The way in which certain cartoon-like style is adapted for telling flashback of the mysterious girl is nicely done, and unlike a few other movies which used the same, it works here a lot better as the detail of the illustrations is nice and realistic to the characters. The cinematography is nice, and the theme of the movie has been given a lot of care as it never forgets what it is planning to do with its message, and even as there are things lost, this message is not among them. The characterization also doesn’t falter, and even as some people will question a few characters, I would say that they are the best like that. It even deals with the sensitive stuff like porn and paedophilia without going to the extremes.

The claws of flaw :: The message takes over the movie and becomes better than the movie itself – even as that would mean that the message is better conveyed, it degrades the movie as the work that it is, and sometimes message demands even more from the movie, and thus some scenes are created for further support to the message which gets better in the expense of the visual medium. Yes, that makes the movie slower and having more sequences than it should have, and those which involve our hero’s chat love story is rather too stretched, and the addition of songs doesn’t help much there. The thriller effect goes for a walk there and rarely comes back, as this becomes that drama with a small romantic side. There is a certain slowness rising now and then, even as I wouldn’t go on to call that a drag, as might be necessary to make the end much more effective with an extra emotional touch. The search for Asha Black should have been more detailed and so should have been the investigation, and the mystery around her should have been revealed in a more beautiful and yet emotional way. This could have been more interesting as a movie, no doubt.

Performers of the soul :: The movie has Arjun Lal of Thanmathra fame as the hero, or rather the romantic star of this movie, and he has done a good job, especially in the second half as he challenges more than one thing. There is a long path ahead of him, and this is just a start; a good one. Manoj K. Jayan is good as usual in yet another supporting role here as the man who helps our hero in his quest. Isthita has limited things to do as Asha other than being the symbol which is Asha Black, and she also has done enough. I did wish that Bhagath Manuel had a bigger role, and also had better lines. Sarath Kumar is nicely in control of his role, even as the investigation sequences had more power rather than just moving along. Kottayam Nazeer doesn’t really have his usual funny elements working in this one, and it is a disappointment. Overall, I would say that the performances are neat, but not much to cheer for there. There could have been more, but this is still quite satisfactory.

Soul exploration :: Some people might think that this movie is more of a seminar, but never in any moment that this movie directly goes to that level. What it has is its titular character Asha Black whose profile name completely reflects the darker side of the life that she is forced into, with incidents during her childhood and the lack of care from her parents. At the same time, we see a few others who choose that path because of being part of that generation which doesn’t care for their parents. Belonging to the former group and without hope, Asha Black is the symbol of the youth who are on a darker path due to circumstances, and as online world becomes more of a relief for them, what had followed them in real life comes to them there too, and just like lightning striking with all its speed and might, destroys the whole thing. It is the “black” areas of the internet that the movie focuses on along with the evils paedophilia and porn, and the tale is that of the innocent who is caught in a dilemma with asha or hope to be loved. Its message is powerful, emotional and worthy of being watched by families who don’t care for their kids or fails to watch their actions and instruct them. They are preyed upon by the shades of technology – take care of them!

How it finishes :: Asha Black is not everyone’s cup of tea. It doesn’t have the flavour that everyone would want to put in their tea, and the result is a possibility of liking or not liking this movie, but nobody can challenge the power of its message which is strong as well as relevant. Coming from a debutante director, it is indeed a wonderful effort, as the movie seems to have tried with all its heart to send the right message to its audience which should hopefully consist of the family, especially the parents and the teenage children. This movie, just like Mummy & Me is a need of the age, and even as this can’t considered that good as that Jeethu Jospeph movie, the message is even stronger in this one. It does have mostly positive and mixed opinions from the audience, but not that much from critics for whom this is just negative or almost mixed, and lets hope that this movie does good enough – it has disappeared from some theatres, and I had to travel far to catch it; hope it stays where it is now, for at least one more week, because it deserves it, and it is out duty appreciate such works for the effort itself its Tamil version is also there, as Nee Naan Nizhal.

Release date: 10th October 2014
Running time: 120 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: John Robinson
Starring: Arjun Lal, Bhagath Manuel, Sarath Kumar, Manoj K Jayan, Ishita, Devan, Lakshmipriya, Kottayam Nazeer, Riza Bawa

ashablack

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Highway

highwayy

The eternal wait :: The one question that I had to ask myself is “On the second day of October, what did the movie Besharam give to me”? It did take away seventy rupees, but I am not talking about that. The answer is a lack of interest in Hindi movies since that Gandhi Jayanthi had come up with terror which had me watch no Hindi movie at all for almost five months (yes, not even on the television). So, it was a necessity that I wait for sometime so that such disaster won’t happen too soon. But there is no denying the fact that I almost watched Jai Ho, but the show was housefull. There are not many movies that have been as hyped as Highway despite having no big male star right in the middle of the story. I always knew that the best thing would be to watch my next Bollywood movie in the form of Highway rather than any other. There have been so much talks about this movie like “what is it going to be?”, “what story will it tell?”, “Alia Bhatt should be so awesome in it, so its a sure watch?”, “isn’t it about Stockholm syndrome?” and so on. The Vampire Bat had heard so much or rather too much about the movie, and he finally decided to fly to the theatre on a motor-bike.

What is it about? :: Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) is kidnapped just before her wedding as she goes on a night ride with her fiancee trying to keep away the pressures and tension of the big function. She is kidnapped by a group of criminals as they stop at a petrol pump. But as the gang realizes that she is the daughter of a rich and powerful man with links to the government, police and the army, they decide to cancel their plans. But Mahabir Bhati (Randeep Hooda) is not ready to give up as he takes her on a road trip away from the place so that they won’t be tracked. Even as she is initially bound and gagged by them, Veera gets more and more comfortable with her captors, and a bond develops between Mahabir and her. She feels free even as she is a captive, and feels so happy. She even refuses to escape when there is chance and feels that she should be with him for so much longer. She herself says that she doesn’t want the journey to end, as she has no desire to go back or go where the journey ends. But how long till her people finds them and the travel diary is put to a quick end?

The defence of Highway :: Most of the Keralites should remember a pseudo-travel movie with the long name Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and a big drag which begins with about fifteen minutes into it and ends only when the story finishes. Highway is far ahead of that one in almost all aspects, the most important ones being the acting and the visuals. Highway is a visually superior movie with its awesome locations, especially as it has succeeded in capturing the beauty of the paradise which is Kashmir. The beauty of nature becomes more and more joyful to watch as the movie moves on to the latter part of the second half, and it gets stronger and stronger by the time it reaches the end. Its messages of finding oneself and reaching beyond one’s fear are also stronger than ever. It’s use of the two protagonists, a man and woman, both having traumatic childhood works so well to touch our hearts. There is so much honesty in the way these are portrayed too, as there is no addition of stupid masala which makes worthless movies super-hits.

The claws of flaw :: The movie drags a lot, and shows potential to keep dragging. From the beginning itself, the movie seems to make the viewers feel that there is not much to come, even as it is wrong. The character of the lady protagonist is rather too far-fetched to make one believe. She seems rather crazy at times (loosely reminding us of the semi-kidnapped lady protagonist of the Malayalam movie Kilukkam), and her attachment towards a criminal who keeps threatening her comes rather too soon. Except for one or two songs which are okay, the music fails to get the attention of the viewers, and there are times when they come when not needed. There is also the use of other languages or may be variations of Hindi which was rather difficult to follow. There was the need for subtitles at least in it comes rather South. The movie takes one away from any kind of usual entertainment which is usually looked for in such a flick. It won’t give anyone the exaggeration that they might look for in a love story as this keeps that side plain and simple.

Performers of the soul :: Well, most of us won’t identify the faces in the movie other than that of Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt. The former (he is the reason why I lament missing John Day which had only one late night show here – who cares for good thrillers with non-superstars who can act, right?) comes up with a powerful performance of brilliance, even as there are less dialogues for him; we can strongly believe that this portrayal by him will be appreciated. We can surely expect a lot more from him. Alia Bhatt is there as the centre of everything, right from the beginning to the end. Even as there is some struggle, she seems to be custom made for the role, seeming to be in so much ease with her character. There are occasions when one would wonder if she does rather too much or a lot more than needed, but that should have come with the character. It is hard to believe that this is only her second movie, and I had missed her first one, Student of the Year. She remains incredibly cute throughout the movie and makes it impossible for any other actress to come up with a better performance in such a role soon. She is so dynamic and full of energy that just her presence keeps the whole thing working so well.

Soul exploration :: The movie is the story of two people whose lives get connected by just one act of crime, a kidnap. It comes up with a lot of things to think about, and it remains so close to being a movie of the soul even if not there completely. Even as not all of them remain close to the truths about life, it is evident that there is a clear attempt to bring to the scene as much humanity as possible; not without its troubles, not in the absence of the good side, yet not abandoning the darker side which tries to get closer to the human soul with more power than ever before. Stockholm syndrome is explored from one side while it continues to be a travel diary as a whole. There are realizations being made about life, and it changes both the kidnapper and the kidnapped in a journey which goes on for kilometres. As Saint Augustine of Hippo says “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

How it finishes :: As the movie for which we have been long waiting for, Highway mostly delivers, thanks to the performances of the leading actors, the visuals and the message that it delivers. Despite the drag and the occasional inability to connect, the movie thrives in simplicity and that humanity which are its own Kraken and Leviathan in the huge ocean of movies this weekend. It’s emptiness is not of the soul, but of the physical world, and that is one void that everyone can afford to avoid. As Robert Frost says, when two roads diverge, you have to choose the one less traveled, and here it is Highway, and even as it might not go as expected, this one makes the difference, and there is no doubt about. But let me tell you, happiness is highly subjective, just like the opinions on this movie seems to be – ask Alia Bhatt’s character in Highway and she reiterates money can’t buy you happiness, or even anything close to that. So, if you are making a choice, think about all these factors mentioned above.

Release date: 21st February 2014
Running time: 133 minutes
Directed by: Imtiaz Ali
Starring: Randeep Hooda, Alia Bhatt, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Pradeep Nagar, Durgesh Kumar, Arjun Malhotra

highway copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.