There’s a monologue in Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ where the movie’s protagonist Veera undergoes a self-realization and expresses to her hitherto adversary:
“Jahaan se tum mujhe le aaye ho, main wahaan wapis jaana nahi chahti. (I don't wish to return to where you've got me from.)
Jahaan bhi le ja rahe ho, wahaan pahuchna nahi chahti. (I don't wish to reach where you're taking me.)
Par..ye raasta bahut achha hai. (But..this journey is very nice.)
Main chahti hu ki ye raasta kabhi khatm na ho. (I wish this journey never ends.)”
With this heartfelt quote Veera not only articulated her own feelings, she successfully articulated the emotions of an entire corporate generation that most of us are either a part of or very soon will be. We become so engrossed in trying to create money for a better future that we completely forget that there is a whole wide world outside of our cubicle which is waiting to be explored.
They say art imitates life, but there come these pieces of art once in a blue moon that perfectly reflect our lives, our aspirations, our passions; those either inspire us or make us feel miserable beyond repair. Highway’s director constantly manages to do both to us.
The Distinct Canvas of Imtiaz Ali
Welcome to the world of Imtiaz Ali, ladies & gentlemen. The world that’s drastically different from what’s offered to us by other filmmakers. Even though Indian cinema has transcended several centuries in the past few decades in terms of realism on the silver screen, it still takes creative liberties very often because Bollywood is, after all, synonymous for entertainment only.
Ali, on the other hand, takes his craft extremely seriously and for that he consistently shuns commercial attires off his movies and puts in innuendos straight out of life even though works with bankable stars. Since his movies are but direct interpretations of life on screen only, he frequently showcases the innate human desire to travel far & wide; and he showcases it god-damn-well.
Songs of the Little Road
Now let’s revisit the opening of this piece of text. Alia Bhatt might have had a number of beautiful quotes about traveling in Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway,’ but she is far from alone if you refer to Ali’s rich oeuvre on the subject. Let’s take a moment and look at his filmography once.
My God, that’s one enviable list. At least one prime character in each movie travels and comes back transformed without even realizing so.
In ‘Socha Na Tha,’ we can possibly credit the trip to Goa where Abhay Deol’s character realizes that he has something more than mere friendship in his heart for Aisha Takia’s character.
‘Jab We Met’ has extensive traveling. In fact, the alternate title of the movie was ‘Punjab Mail’ - an ode to traveling together modifying the main characters’ destinies.
‘Love Aaj Kal’ has the turbaned Saif Ali Khan traveling across the country to pursue his love.
‘Rockstar’ has stunning imagery from Kashmir where ultimately Ranbir’s and Nargis’ characters realize that they’re in love.
‘Highway’ is entirely based on the concept of a road trip.
‘Tamasha’ arguably had the most interesting integration of travel amongst all his movies. Here Ranbir’s otherwise ‘restrained’ persona can afford to be a different, a freer, person altogether when he is traveling.
Follow the pattern here? Get what's happening here?
Why Travel is Not a Part of Life But Life Itself?
"Through travel, you discover a new aspect to your personality. You discover things which you wouldn't seated in the confines of your home."
That's Imtiaz Ali's quote only. And you'd find a flurry of his quotes on travel if you Google them. So the fact of the matter is, this is one film director who is serious about portraying the true human nature of not wanting to stay put in one place for long. And he's not taking his movie characters to the Alps for an impulsive song & dance routine like the Chopras of the past, he's actually giving the journey the importance it deserves. And he's doing it regularly, movie after movie.
Ali's cinema's subtle/direct insertion of the significance of traveling in daily lives is awe-inspiring. We haven't seen such flavour in any other director's movies across the world. His movies make you sit up and take notice by perpetuating the fact over & over again that traveling is not what you indulge in only if you need a break with friends or family, he informs affront that a human being needs to travel in order to continually evolve. Travel is not fast food that you consume once in a while to escape, travel is in fact the food cooked by your mother which is necessary for basic survival.
Travel is not a part of life but life itself.
Ali's next venture is called 'The Ring' in which Shah Rukh Khan is reportedly playing a tourist guide who charms a vacationing Anushka Sharma. We naturally expect the very same essence that we have always found in his earlier movies.
Here's rendering more power to this man making a difference slowly but surely. Here's to Imtiaz Ali - Our perennial travel inspiration.