Highway- Ek Selfie Aarpar
Take this Selfie..

Umesh Kulkarni

Girish Kulkarni

Movie Review
Highway- Ek Selfie Aarpar:Take this Selfie!

May be I’m behind times. Or the times are truly changing. Coz who’d expect a multi-protagonist Marathi film with an unconventional narrative going house full at a fancy multiplex on the opening night? Bravo, director Umesh Kulkarni, for Highway- ek selfie aar par.

The film is unique in many ways. It’s a slice of life meets Road movie that unfolds a spectrum of stories involving more than 30 main characters. It’s shot almost entirely outdoors- people walking, driving, waiting on the streets; hopping into cabs and buses and trucks; crossing paths, talking, fighting and bonding as they traverse the same road. The variety in the characters in delightful, and so is the depth the writer has accomplished in portraying each of them. Be it a struggling young actor on his first gig as an escort or a popular TV actress on her way to a political event. Be it a pregnant couple whose marriage is on the rocks travelling with thei goldfish ‘ranoji’ or a stuffy NRI traveling alone in an 8-seater car. Each character adds theirown flavor to this casserole of understated drama.

Writer Girish Kulkarni, with his eye for irony and nuanced understanding of human nature, unearths stories hidden deep beneath layers of masks people hide behind. Some of them work, some remain incomplete. But most of them engage the viewer despite the little screen time devoted to each individual story. Real success of the screenwriter (brilliantly translated to the screen my Umesh’s direction) is that the stories do not feel episodic. We move in and out of lives and stories seamlessly, catching glimpses of people going about their business. By and by, their relationships and emotional worlds start taking a shape in our minds. We root for them, care for them, get curious, and can’t wait for what is happening next.

The dialogue is clever and accounts for much of people’s engagement in the film. A combination of Marathi, Hindi, English and even Kannada- it never fails to draw out laughs and giggles. The film keeps it light even in the emotionally charged scenes with a touch of humor.

For the most part, the film succeeds in drawing profoundly real portraits of people who could easily be any one of us. But it does, after the interval, get somewhat unwieldy due to sheer volume of stories it’s trying to tell. Some stories get nowhere- like the one involving a shy boy escort and his rich mistress. And some rush to a resolution- like the one with pregnant couple. The pace of the film also slows down considerably once the vehicles stop moving, and it’s effect can be felt in the audience. Yet, one does enjoy the journey all the way till the end, thanks to the little surprises that crop up from time to time.

For a country with only a slim history of non-traditional narratives esp in the mainstream cinema, Highway stands out in it’s conception as well as execution. While it does lack a certain touch of mastery on the medium especially in terms of screenwriting, it does avoid many pitfalls that films in this genre risk falling into. It neither becomes a non-story bore, nor does it force life-changing climaxes on the simple narratives. Fewer characters and more unusual resolutions would definitely have added to the poetic strengtht and profundity of the film. But Kudos to the team for making this kind of subject matter accessible to mass audience.  

If you are into people and humor, then go take this Selfie. Chances are, you will find yourself somewhere in there.

   Ketki Pandit

Ketki Pandit is a writer/director with MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Also an alumnus of Screenplay Writing at FTII, she is passionate about cinema and stories that shape our world. .

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