‘Highway’…road to nowhere

MUMBAI: A road movie is a genre with its roots in the United States (US) where it became more popular with the post World War II auto boom and peaked in the 60s when a lot of things changed in how the youth looked at life. America had the road, the spirit of adventure and the type of cars and bikes coupled with social movements which did not tie one down. In India, road movies are rare and far in-between and gained some momentum only thanks to inspiration through easy accessibility to DVDs. Despite a few attempts in the last decade or so, the only memorable Indian road movie I can think of is the 1972 Mahmood film, Bombay To Goa. (I would even call Mahmood’s Sadhu Aur Shaitaan a road movie; so what if it was shot only within Bombay limits!) Probably because it was not a DVD inspired film and if it was inspired from external forces, it was very well adapted to suit the Indian taste. A road movie formula is one where the lead characters come of age, grow or improve in the process of the journey.

Highway, going by the definition of a road movie, is a copybook road movie as far as its characters go. The tough as tungsten male protagonist melts like a candle while the female matures enough to break all shackles of social norms and bindings. The problem with Highway is that, while the rules of road movies are already laid down for it, sadly, the content for the length of the film acceptable to Indian audience, where you can’t remain indifferent to romance and fitting in songs, does not come with the formula. Probably, that is why the percentage of Hindi road movies working at the box office is so small. (Some films I can recall: Bombay To Goa, Ginny Aur Johny, Chalo Dilli, Zindagi Na MIlegi Dobara, Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahi and Daud)

Producers: Sajid Nadiadwala, Imtiaz Ali.

Director: Imtiaz Ali.

Cast: Randeep Hooda, Alia Bhatt.

Randeep Hooda works for a gang which is for hire; they commit crimes on contract basis. On a mission to loot a petrol pump, Hooda comes across Alia Bhatt who is out to get some fresh air with her boyfriend. To make good his escape, Hooda dumps Alia’s boyfriend but takes her as a hostage till he reaches his partners and own vehicle. Kidnapping Alia was not on his agenda and why he does not dump her is a question. Alia comes from the house of a very influential man in Delhi and the gang members expect trouble. On account of this, Hooda decides to go on his own and demand ransom for Alia. This is a road movie so instead of cooling his heels in one place, he just takes his truck around the country (except Southern parts). In the era of electronic surveillance, he manages to hide from the authorities merely by changing the number plates of his truck; description of the vehicle does not matter.

While Hooda may give Alia a slap or two, he never tries any sort of mischief with her. As expected, Alia is drawn towards him and won’t let him go. She does not want to go home where she is being molested by an uncle since she was nine. She wants to hang around with Hooda and keep travelling. They end up somewhere in the mountains, borrow a house and set up a kitchen with Maggi noodles! By now you have had enough and decide that if the police won’t find them, you yourself will call them when there is a bang. The police who did not manage to nab him while he roamed about the highways of India, passing state check posts, finally find him in this remote mountain and without warning just shoot him down.

There is nothing such as a story in this movie. This has been shown in a number of films where the captive falls for the goon. Otherwise, this film is a kind of Bharat Darshan taking you to places you would not go to otherwise. In a weatherman’s parlance, the film is 133 minutes but feels like 300 and with just two characters to carry it off, offers no distraction except change of scenery.

Highway is touted to be aimed at the gentry audience but one would assume even gentry go to cinema for entertainment, which this film is lacking.

Darr @ the Mall

Stolen ideas…

Horror has not really been a favourite Indian genre and neither are there original writers for this breed of film. The preference here is mainly feel good fare or soaps or romance. Obviously, the ‘inspiration’ has to come from Hollywood films. Horror movies don’t have repeat value, in most cases does not even gain a first-time audience, provides no scope for music which is a must in Indian movies and, generally, don’t entertain. In which case, why would anybody want to make one is a mystery! As suspected, Darr @ The Mall comes from a 1989 Hollywood film called Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge.

Contiloe Entertainment is a TV content providing company making a foray into film production and the film will be learning experience for the company.

Producers: MSM Media Motion Pictures, Contiloe Entertainment.

Director: Pavan Kriplani.

Cast: Jimmy Shergill, Nushrat Bharucha, Arif Zakaria, Asif Basra.

Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge was about one Eric Matthews who lives in a huge house which burns down; Eric is reported dead but he has been able to save his girlfriend. Soon, a mall comes up where his house was. Eric is not dead though badly burnt. He haunts the mall, killing people, especially those who set an eye on his girlfriend.

Darr @ The Mall is about a mall, ironically called Amity Mall, that has come up at a location where an orphanage run by a kindly nun stood once. The orphanage burns down killing the nun as well as all the children save for one child who, though wounded, manages to escape. A mall has come up where the orphanage stood. Soon, the mall is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Workers and sentries get killed at random at the mall. As a result, nobody is willing to take charge of the security at this mall when Jimmy Shergill, an ex-army man, gets an offer he can’t refuse. He accepts the job at the mall.

Even as Shergill takes charge, the killing spree continues though no harm comes to him. From the sundry staff, the killing progresses to the families of the owners. To salvage the reputation of the mall, the owners decide on an evening party at the mall paving way for an item number too! That evening, which is never-ending for the viewer in this film, lasts most of the film. There are purposeless killings and illogical incidents. Why, when the culprits are available for the picking, does the revenge seeker kill innocent sentries and others?

Darr @ The Mall is a poorly written horror film where nothing works. While in the original, it was a private property, an orphanage is not owned by the orphans, and just by killing its inhabitants one can’t take over the premises! This is a pathetic effort by Pavan Kriplani. There is no horror, only gore to pass of as horror. Writer director Kriplani is totally at a loss with this project. While the rest are caricatures, it is sad to see Shergill being totally wasted in this whim of fancy. Excuses have been created to fit in a few songs but in vain. Editing is poor. Photography is passable. Background score is jarring.

Darr @ The Mall stands no chance at the box office.

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