Imtiaz Ali began his career directing TV shows and gradually moved on to Bollywood films. Highway is his fifth film.
What was the inspiration behind Highway?
I have been thinking about the story of Highway for a long period of time, from before I even made my first film. So for almost a decade I have been thinking about this primary story of a girl finding herself a misfit in society because she can’t trust the people that she is supposed to trust, because of certain false values in our society. An idea that also intrigued me was that sometimes you feel safer to completely trust a stranger than trusting the people that you are supposed to trust. And sometimes a tragedy taking you away from your familiar surroundings is the biggest gift that life can give you. These ideas and thoughts eventually led to the creation of Highway.
In your film the character of Veera rebels against the dominant societal norms. This sort of rebellion currently seems to be a theme in many films from India such as Queen and Fandry.
It is a growth of society and the growth of filmmakers like myself. But most of all, I think it is the growth and development of the audience that accepts and enjoys this kind of subject matter in mainstream Indian cinema. It is because of that, that people like myself and Vikas Bahl (the director of Queen), and all of us are able to make these kind of films.
How would you summarise your journey as a director?
Highway is my fifth film. After making Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar, I thought I should make the film that I have always wanted to make, in the way I wanted to make it: to keep it very tender and personal. And I deliberately stayed away from the camera equipment like the trolley and the crane. We had a very basic way of shooting the film. We basically took a caravan of some cars and trucks that were actually on the highway. We were stopping, shooting, and then putting actors back on the caravan and moving on. It was like a rolling circus. This whole process also taught me to rely on myself and not so much on equipment or infrastructure to create a scene.
What are your views on the Indian Film Industry?
I think it is essentially a gathering of dreamers and drifters. A place that is very fair. A place where people laugh loudly and speak from their heart, and make mistakes and try to be as professional as they can. I came as an outsider to the Bombay film industry that is often misunderstood and there are a lot of negative things being said about it, at the core of it, it values you for who you are.
Which is your favorite film?
My favourite films are sourced from my childhood. Sholay is the film that I loved the most.
Who is that one actor or director to watch out for?
Ranbir Kapoor. People already recognize him as a good actor, but I have a feeling that he is going to go beyond everybody’s expectations in his journey as an actor.