I loved the nightly power outages in India which was a fairly regular occurrence in the 1990s. The darkness would bring life to a standstill. No TV, no cooking, no studying, no reading newspapers. Every family member felt secure in the darkness, in a strange sort of way, to say what they really felt. Marathi film Highway (2015) reminded me of that kind of stillness. The stillness and introspection that is necessary in our lives. Our lives move at a breakneck speed without us even realizing it. There are deadlines to be met, knowledge to be gained, decisions to be taken. We often forget to look inside ourselves to be aware of our feelings. We have distanced ourselves from our inner self and people close.
Kapoor And Sons (2016) deals with a similar theme, where a dysfunctional family is sort of forced under one roof, to resolve their differences. No one understands the other. They fight and argue based on their own perception of other’s lives.
Kapoor And Sons feels like a close inspection of one of the multiple stories of Highway which includes people from all spheres of the society — rich, middle class and poor — traveling across the Mumbai-Pune highway. A married couple on the brink of a divorce. An NRI man on his way to meet his dying dad. An upper class woman taking a masseur on a clandestine weekend trip. A prostitute traveling with her mother. These are just some of the stories in this colorful world of Mumbai-Pune highway. Their journeys overlap, crash against each other and some steer clear of anyone’s path. The beauty of Highway is, it never engages in contrivances or co-incidences. All of it is as random as life actually is.
The conflicts in Kapoor and Sons and Highway are borne out of misunderstanding and lack of introspection of one’s actions. Every character in both the movies is grappling with suppressed emotions. Rajat Kapoor knows what he is doing is wrong. Neither parent understands Arjun’s dejection in Kapoor and Sons. Girish Kulkarni (who has also written the film) in Highway is trying to weigh the repercussions of his past. His frustration boils and spills over on his driver who hasn’t had a decent sleep for a while. In both films, the characters don’t empathize, thinking only from their perspective.
This rat race comes to a complete halt in the second half of Highway. The Mumbai-Pune highway is completely blocked due to traffic jam. Characters for once leave their respective vehicles and the emotional baggage that they were holding on to so tightly. Sunil Barve’s character at this point thinks of life as more than just his career in the most serene place of Khandala Hills.
The traffic jam forces characters to engage in conversations and explore a completely new side. A beautiful scene of Girish and Renuka Shahane, sitting at the edge of the highway involves both characters coming to terms that they are not the only ones who are messed up. They understand that their co-passengers too have dark secrets and are fighting similar insecurities.
In Kapoor and Sons, the grandfather and the kids figure out how wild they all are, over a conversation smoking a joint. Dadu’s character is the equivalent of the traffic jam of Highway. He brings the family together which revives the romance between Ratna Pathak’s and Rajat Kapoor’s characters. Dadu is the voice of stability that makes them realize all of them are a family. Damaged, battered, but still a family.
Both films are structurally similar, with layered characters that are revealed as the film progresses. For instance, the prostitute’s yearning for a family in Highway or Rahul’s intentions towards Arjun’s novel in Kapoor and Sons. These are completely character-driven movies, focusing on internal human conflicts more than plot. We knew how the films were going to end but still fall in love with the characters because they are deeply relatable. They mirror our emotions and desires.
People may be bunch of weaknesses but if you consider them your own, you find it easier to accept them. That’s one beautiful takeaway from Highway.
Conflicts are resolved when you understand and feel the crisis the other person is going through. Both Highway and Kapoor and Sons present that lovely thought. Of accepting people around you first and then having a dialogue to resolve conflicts. Kapoor and Sons does it within a nuclear family, at a micro level and Highway on a macro level.
By Shridhar Kulkarni