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“To know thyself is the greatest discovery of all.” There are several different ways to connect with yourself, discover your identity and feel your existence. Travel is one of them. An unplanned travel across vast expanse of sands, lush green landscapes, running brooks, rolling valleys, and imposing hills towards an unknown destination is full of epiphany and euphoria. The theme of travel, self-discovery and soulfulness is the story of Highway directed by Imtiaz Ali.
Highway is the cinematic story of a road trip through the six states of India – Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. The physical journey undertaken by a girl along with her kidnapper is a journey from confinement to freedom, from silence to eloquence, from hibernation to awareness, from ignorance to knowledge, from ugliness to beauty, and from darkness to light.
The unexpected and unplanned journey on the highways of the north and northeast states of the country introduces the girl to an unseen, outer world. The journey is physically outbound and mentally inbound. During the travel, she hears the call of the mountains, feels the mild blow of the wind, wonders at the infinity of the desert, catches an eyeful of the sky, speaks to the floating clouds, gazes at the twinkling stars, hums the song of the glacial stream, and realizes that she does exist.
The desolation of desert in Rajasthan depicts her deep-rooted feelings of emptiness and loneliness, while the wind blowing over green fields fills her with eloquence and emotional sprightliness. In contrast to these, she finds the peace of mind in the calm ambience of Aru Valley in Kashmir where she feels empowered and confident amidst snow-clad, majestic mountains.
The journey begins from the highway of urban Delhi and ends at a never-never land in Kashmir. It paces through the aridity of Rajasthan, the roughness of Haryana and the greenery of Punjab. Breathing in the air of freedom, the protagonist feels refreshed and relaxed. She evolves into an empowered woman with an overwhelming sense of individuality and a strong voice of protest. Travel makes her feel one with the beauty, power and soul of nature.
Travel not only enriches and empowers the girl but also makes his kidnapper feel human within. While journeying together the girl and her kidnapper, who are from absolutely different backgrounds, develop an indefinable relationship, the bond of feelings and empathy for each other. She not only enjoys the bliss of nature herself but makes him live the moments of joy with her as well. In her company, the kidnapper unmasks himself from mercilessness and discovers his hidden human self.
Imtiaz Ali’s Highway takes the travelers, who are in search of self-identity, individuality, freedom and aims in life, on a ride which most of us wish to never end. The frames of the movie capture the beauty of the six Indian states in different shades, different moods, in different emotions and different hues. It celebrates the transforming, edifying and enlightening power of travel which shows us the passage to our souls through the beating heart of nature.
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