'I thought I'd be a sportsperson'

Honest portrayal

Imtiaz Ali seems to have the Midas touch – any film that the director makes tends to become an overnight hit, be it a Jab We Met or Rockstar. With his recent venture Highway hitting the screens, he talks to Metrolife about the inspiration behind the film, working with Alia Bhatt and the personal journey he
embarked on.

The story for the film has been ‘swimming in Imtiaz’s mind’ for close to 15 years, he reveals. “Sometimes, it takes that long for something to become a story. In 1999, I made a short episode for a TV series called Rishtey, which just touched upon this story. I suffered from the fact that I couldn’t do justice to it and it kept nagging me. I made various attempts at making it in my last seven years of directing but now, it’s finally done!” shares Imtiaz.

Speaking further about Highway, he adds, “One of the threats is that it will be mistaken for a conventional love story. Sure, two people meet on the highway, sing songs and want to end up together but there’s a dacoit who stops them and abducts the girl. The issue in the film isn’t about the girl trying to be with that man; it’s about a girl who doesn’t want to go home. There’s a song in the film which describes how she doesn’t remember what she’s leaving behind or isn’t looking at what she’s travelling towards. It’s essentially about her journey, which eventually has to end.”

Asked whether 20-year-old Alia Bhatt was the right choice for the role, he replies, “I’ve often thought about guys and girls who have grown up in cities and never been exposed to anything else. I figured that if one of them was taken out of their comfort zone, they’d probably have something interesting to say. When I met Alia, I realised that she would make this story luminous.”

The highway driving, long shoots and rough terrains understandably took a toll on the cast and crew. But it was also a transformative journey for each one of them.
“None of us had actually been away from civilisation for so long. Most people in the film industry who make movies like this are some sort of misfits in society. They’re all drifters and it was like a surrogate family because that was the only way to be. But as a personal transformation, I’ve learnt not to stress as much on politeness as truthfulness.” he shares.

Work aside, what kind of person is Imtiaz Ali without the director’s hat on? “I’m a really nice, simple guy. I thought I’d be a sportsperson in my life. Unfortunately, there wasn’t too much scope. At least that’s what my drama teacher used to say!” he laughs.

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