Today morning, we were discussing reviews versus blogs. It started with a personal and candid post (Dad, We’re In Nebraska) by Rahul Desai. If you have seen Nebraska, do read it. It’s a strange feeling when you can identify your life with a film. And sometimes, it’s liberating in more ways than one. Today evening, we received another personal piece by @kuhukuro. This one is about Highway. An honest, brave, and candid open letter to the filmmaker whose film had an impact on her as it mirrors her life. Do read.
I am not a film critic, nor can I boast of being very cinema-savvy. But I have been insane enough to source my philosophies from cinematic moments. Films have been thriving territories for epiphanies. Highway comes at a point in my life when I am delving in the art of being ruthlessly honest to my feelings, of asserting myself, and of exploring a newer version of myself. This one is a film that resonates with me for various reasons.
For starters, I was also sexually abused as a child, and the perpetrator was a close relative. I could relate to the lingering and stealthy effect of the trauma depicted on screen. I also disclosed this fact to my family after entering adulthood. The film’s portrayal of the family’s reaction mirrored my situation. Watching Veera intrepidly telling it like it is and being unapologetically ‘herself’ in the last scene was heart-wrenching yet therapeutic for me. I have not allowed myself that outburst though. Not yet.
Last year, my father succumbed to his mental illness and committed suicide. I know what you mean when you say that Bhaati’s death was the ultimate liberation for Veera. My dad’s death had a similar effect on me. I faced one of my worst fears. Nothing really terrifies me anymore. It incidentally also happened to be the year when I confronted the reality of my troubled marriage. Two trips that followed set me free in many ways. The salt pan scene in the film set against the ‘Tu Kuja’ soundtrack echoed my sense of self-inquiry. After watching this film, I was even more convinced that a journey from which you don’t completely return was exactly what I needed. Unlikely confidants, unlikely confidences, and accidental yet gratifying connections were a part of my journey as well.
The journey in ‘Highway’ unfolds like a map of tragedies that exist in us, unfurls. It was a catharsis to observe the metaphorical ride from fragility to strength to nerve. I was nodding my head vigorously in agreement while watching the moments on screen where the lines between terror and wonder blurred for Veera. I noticed that Veera climbed many rocks in the film – big and small. I am assuming it metaphorically indicated overcoming obstacles and the joy of small victories. Many people couldn’t fathom Veera’s behavior – laughing interspersed with crying, and then questioning herself aloud like she was having an out-of-body experience. According to my reading, her emotional reactions were a part of the process of shedding the repressed parts of herself, and, embarking on the confusing yet exhilarating expedition of letting her real feelings come to the fore. Liberation is a strange and an idiosyncratic process.
The silent scenes in the film aptly mirrored the way a meditative stillness seizes our inner world, when we travel. Then you stumble upon moments that break you before they make you. They unshackle. They teach you to trust your gut. It is important for life to whirl you around and turn your world upside down oftentimes.
Memory is not something that fades in my case. It looms large and I crouch in its towering shadow. This time I have decided to soar higher than this menacing force. Patakha Gudi has egged me on to unleash that spirit, which was hitherto tucked away and silenced.
I have just begun the task of developing my own vocabulary to express who I am. Thanks to Highway, I am propelling myself further in the direction of dismantling norms that don’t serve me.
Before I sound like a gushing obsessive fanatic, I should wrap it up. Your film will be a part of the trajectory that is turning me into a functional, healthy, and a fulfilled woman. Thank-you Imtiaz, Thank-you Highway. I know I will get there soon. Along the way, I will live like I mean it.