Life is a highway, even when you get kidnapped and forced to travel in the back of a truck. At least such is the case in Highway, the eerie "Stockholm syndrome" tale of a wealthy industrialist's daughter kidnapped by a traveling gang, an experience that apparently changes her life for the better as she "finds freedom" during the journey and develops an attachment to her kidnapper.
Randeep Hooda, 37, has made a career for the last several years playing nuanced criminals like the kidnapper Mahabir. Playing victim Veera, Alia Bhatt is markedly younger, at 20 years old and one film into the Hindi film industry (the catty high school flick Student of the Year).
The official response to Bhatt's puzzling casting was to say she embodies the sheltered city girl role (in real life, she's the privileged daughter of noted director Mahesh Bhatt, now known for producing endless sequels of erotic thrillers).
On the not-so-puzzling side, the film's well-received music comes from one of India's most celebrated composers, A.R. Rahman, winner of two Oscars (for scoring Slumdog Millionaire), two Grammys and 11 IIFAs, among easily more than a hundred other awards.
And writer-director Imtiaz Ali is one of a rare breed in Bollywood that pops up with a movie only every few years to box office and critical acclaim. He has said Highway, with sweeping views of the north Indian countryside that spawned a behind-the-scenes Web series called Highway Diaries, is a story he has mulled over for some 15 years.
Highway premiered last week at the Berlin International Film Festival to mixed reviews. It opens Friday, with subtitles, in Tampa.
Caitlin E. O'Conner, Times staff writer