Tag Archives: Imtiaz Ali

‘Highway’ my attempt to have more elbow room: Imtiaz Ali

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz Ali in London (6)Imtiaz Ali says he braced himself for a free fall while working on his experimental road drama Highway but the director is happy that the risk has paid off.

The film, starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, was made on a budget of Rs 18.25 crore. Ali says the film earned Rs 15.50 crore before its release and made Rs 22.38 crore from 800 screens in its first week of release. The director, who turned producer for Highway with his Window Seat Films, says the project was his attempt to have more creative freedom.

“With ‘Highway’ I was trying to plant a seed. How else do you create an elbow room for yourself? I want to direct what I feel is interesting not what is supposed to be my zone. I don’t want it to be narrow. It was a huge risk as I was into completely uncharted territory but luckily it paid off,” Ali said in an interview.

Things started falling into place when Sajid Nadiadwala pitched in by turning a presenter while AR Rahman came on board for music again after collaborating with Ali on Rockstar. Still assailed by doubts, Ali says he promised himself that he will abandon the project midway if the story did not come together as it was an open script.

“I took money from Sajid bhai hoping that I will manage to return it and if I don’t I will pay him by working. I have always tried to make profitable films because people’s offices shut down if films fail and I will do everything to avoid that. This is why I wanted Highway to be my risk alone,” says Imtiaz.

The journey has not ended for Ali with the release of the film as he has been touring cities and gouging audience response by visiting cinema halls.

“The audience has responded and connected with the story on an emotional level with both Alia and Randeep’s characters. It is very important to have honest feedback and that comes directly from those who have just watched your film. This is why I have been travelling even now,” he said.

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz in London (1)Ali was trying to make the film for a long time and now that it has released, he says there is a certain vacuum.

“There is always a vacuum at the end of a film. I was trying to make it for so long and I know that I have made it there is a certain kind of emotional gratification that has happened,” Imtiaz said.

The ‘Jab We Met’ director says the lessons he learnt while directing ‘Highway’ will impact the course of his future films. His next will have Ranbir Kapoor after Rockstar.

“I am now zoning towards the other film. I think I will go into it quickly. It is again something that I have been thinking for a while now. It is projection of something that is very personal but it is told in a story telling type of way. I don’t know how it will turn out,” says Ali.

The director says he has to begin from zero as the previous versions of the story were lost when his computer crashed.

“All the other versions have been erased and I have to begin from zero which in a way is good. I will be able to recall what is important while the decorations would be gone. I am glad about it,” he said.


Interview: Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz Ali talk about ‘Highway’

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz in London (1)Director Imtiaz Ali (Love Aaj Kal) and Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt (Student Of The Year) flew into London after the world premiere of their new film, Highway, at the International Berlin Film Festival.

The duo spoke to Bollywood Reporter Sunny Malik about the much-awaited film, produced by Sajid Nadiawala Productions and presented by Disney UTV, with original motion picture soundtrack composed by Grammy award-winner A.R. Rahman.


How important is the UK success of Highway for you since everyone in India is more focused on the domestic box office?
Imtiaz Ali : I think, there is a democratic aspect in movie exhibition. All people are the same. The more people we can reach, the better it is for us. The UK has been a huge market for Indian films historically. We would like to see Highway do well here. It is quite important to me. 

You have just flown in from Berlin where the film premiered. Did you pick up any German words?
Imtiaz Ali: We didn’t pick up any German words but a lot of German food (laughs).
Alia Bhatt: We had German sausages called Currywurst.

The premiere in Berlin had a huge audience. Don’t you find it dangerous to show it to so many people and journalists one week in advance?
Imtiaz Ali: When you make a movie, it will eventually be seen by people. It needs to come out whenever it does. It’s such a public display that you can’t be secretive about it at all.

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz in London (6)Love Aaj Kal earned over £1M back in 2009 and Student Of The Year was a big hit as well. Do you feel the pressure because of certain expectations?
Alia Bhatt: I don’t feel that I am prey to that yet. I don’t feel that people have a lot of expectations. There are expectations of me to deliver in general as people can take any situation to pull you down. The general pressure exists but a good film will always do well. Whether it is in the UK, back home in India or in Berlin. if you connect to the emotions then a film will go beyond that.

Alia stunned everyone when she sang Ishq Wala Love while meeting fans at Cineworld, Feltham for Student Of The Year in 2012. When did you discover her singing talent?
Imtiaz Ali: I discovered her singing abilities during the shoot of Highway. We used to have these impromptu parties during the shoots where Alia would sing. We all were surprised when she sang and that is when I suggested to A.R. Rahman that she should sing a song for the soundtrack. We went into the studio and she sang it. I told her that she took lesser time than what usually singers take while recording songs. It’s a matter of great happiness for me because there is a greater sense of ownership that comes when she sings her own songs and I’d like her to get a sense of ownership over this film.

Were you nervous while recording the song?
Alia Bhatt: I was nervous but I was extremely happy as well. I was so happy that I actually can’t describe it and I don’t think anyone will understand that (laughs).

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz in London (5)How are you now choosing your films?
Alia Bhatt: I don’t have that sorted out yet. I don’t know what I am looking for or what I need yet. I am just one film old. I went with my gut instinct. I don’t believe in calculating too much. I haven’t figured that out yet.

How did you decide on casting Alia Bhatt after working with stars like Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor?
Imtiaz Ali: The only thing that I keep in mind is the character and the actors that are suitable and available to play the part. It doesn’t matter who you have worked with before. It doesn’t matter which films you have done before in my case. When I meet a person and I feel that this is my best and safest option, I go with that.

You have had an association with Eros International and Shree Ashtavanayak in the past. Why did you decide to co-produce this film with Sajid Nadiawala?
Imtiaz Ali: I’d like to be as independent as possible. I want to be a small player that can attach to anybody and make a movie. I feel that different type of collaborations are needed to make a good film. I am working with Sajid Nadiawala on this film and another one. After that, I don’t know yet. The world is open. 

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz in London (4)Your first co-stars, Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan, have taken the easier route and have done a rom-com and comedy film respectively. Did people around you tell you not do a different film like Highway so early in your career?
Alia Bhatt: I didn’t actually discuss it with anyone.

Not even you father, Mahesh Bhatt?
Alia Bhatt: He actually told me that I must to do this film when he met Imtiaz (laughs). There was no discussion there. Once the trailer was out, I did get a lot of feedback that it’s a risk and that I should have waited before doing such a film. At the same time, people were surprised and that is always nice. People like surprises. Let’s see how it goes. I didn’t calculate and didn’t think. I just feel it’s a good journey for me.

Karan Johar loves to pamper his stars. How different was it working with Imtiaz compared to him?
Alia Bhatt: The difference was that we were shooting different films. I am a very likable person so people treat me nicely (laughs).

You have shot films in Europe like Rockstar and Love Aaj Kal. Why did you decide to shoot this films completely in India?
Imtiaz Ali: The story demanded it to be shot in India. You just go with the location that goes with the story.

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz in London (2)What is next for you after Highway?
Alia Bhatt: My film produced by Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiawala, Two States, with Arjun Kapoor releases on 18th April and I think, I am going to be back in London to promote the film, hopefully.
Imtiaz Ali: There is a story I am working on. I will probably start shooting for it in July.

The film stars Deepika and Ranbir Kapoor right?
Imtiaz Ali: Ranbir is in the film. I have to yet confirm everything else.


Director Imtiaz Ali follows his instincts in ‘Highway’

On the Highway! Randeep Hooda, Alia Bhatt, Imtiaz Ali on location- shooting for Ali's next film, 'Highway'The journey of Highway has been a liberating one, not only for the actors but for director Imtiaz Ali as well, who took off with the cast and crew with a raw script in hand.

The ace director filled in the dialogues, as their journey progressed.

“In order to keep it raw, I shot the film in a chronological manner. This also helped in character progression,” said Imtiaz Ali. He chose to shoot along the Highways of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. The director followed the same sequence in the film, as well. As Imtiaz followed his instincts, the journey unfolded with the characters evolving naturally.

However, shooting it this way presented difficulties. “We used a lot of natural light, so we had to depend on the sun a lot. There were days when it was cloudy and we couldn’t do much.”

Armed with a skeletal script, the cast and crew travelled through six north Indian states and 15 towns and cities. The film stars Randeep Hooda and Alia in lead roles.

Highway, produced by Window Seat Films and presented by Sajid Nadiadwala, will be released worldwide by UTV Motion Pictures. The music of the film has been composed by A.R. Rahman.

Highway will release in UK cinemas on 21st February, 2014.

Watch Maahi Ve from the film here:

‘Highway’ soundtrack released

Imtiaz Ali,  Alia Bhatt and A R Rahman at a song recording for HighwayAfter creating waves on all platforms, the soundtrack of Imtiaz Ali’s new film Highway, composed by A R Rahman with lyrics by Irshad Kamil, is now available for digital download. The film, presented by Sajid Nadiadwala, stars Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda as they take the road across six states of India.

The Highway original motion picture soundtrack has nine tracks.

Patakha Guddi, sung by the Nooran sisters- Jyoti and Sultana, is a Punjabi song celebrating the wild spirit of Alia’s character Veera. The male version of Patakha Guddi has been sung by Rahman himself which moves from Sufi tones to a hard rock number.

Rahman also sings Maahi Ve which is a ballad picturised on Alia and Randeep as they go through this journey together.

Alia takes the microphone singing the lilting lullaby Sooha Saaha where she is joined by Zeb Bangash from the popular duo musicians Zeb and Haniya. Haniya plays the ukulele in the song.

Kahaan Hoon Main has been sung by Jonita Gandhi and is a soulful song of self-discovery.

Wanna Mash Up? written by Kash and Krissy and sung by Kash, Krissy and Suvi Suresh is a surprise – a groovy western dance number all in English with rap and reggae.

Implosive Silence is a musical piece which tries to capture the sounds in Alia’s character Veera’s head as she travels on the Highway. It has vocals by Jonita Gandhi.

The opening refrain of Tu Kuja is from the famous Persian phrase but thereafter it is a pure Hindi song inspired by the Amir Khusro song ‘Kirpa karo Maharaj‘ in praise of Moinuddin Chisti. The track is beautifully sung by Sunidhi Chauhan.

Heera sung by Shweta Pandit are traditional couplets by Sant Kabir.

According to Imtiaz, “We have played on melody and simplicity – trying to get right the balance between lyrics and music.”

“Really enjoyed working with Imtiaz and his team again …May God bless us with love and success!” adds the maestro A R Rahman.

Click on the image to download the soundtrack:

Highway will release in UK cinemas on 21st February, 2014 through Disney UTV.


Alia Bhatt sings for ‘Highway’

Imtiaz Ali,  Alia Bhatt and A R Rahman at a song recording for Highway

She’s not only the film’s leading lady but Alia Bhatt has sung one of the songs in Imtiaz Ali’s soon to release film, Highway. The music of the film has been composed by the maestro A.R. Rahman and he’s got Alia to sing a very soulful lullaby, Sooha Saha. Zeb Bangash, of the famous Pakistani duo Zeb & Haniya, shares vocals with Alia in the song.

In the film Veera (Alia’s character) and Mahabir (played by Randeep) take the road and traverse through six states of northern India. As the journey moves from the plains of Panjab to the hills of Himachal, Veera sings this lullaby, which reminds Mahabir of his childhood. Both Imtiaz and Rahman agreed that if Alia sang a stanza herself, it would add more poignance to the scene.

“We have this lullaby, Sooha Saha in Highway..Imtiaz said Alia has a great voice and I didn’t trust him.Then she learned the song and sang to me and I was pretty impressed with her natural ability too. We guided her a little bit to perfect the singing. She did it twice and then we got it almost right and now it sounds great,” says A.R. Rahman

An excited Alia Bhatt adds, “It was unreal.. I am a bathroom singer but to have the opportunity to sing a song composed by Rahman sir was unbelievable.. This film is so close to my heart not just for acting but for singing too now! “

Highway, produced by Window Seat Films and presented by Sajid Nadiadwala, will be released worldwide by UTV Motion Pictures. The music of the film will be available on T-Series.

will release in UK cinemas on 21st February, 2014.


‘Patakha Guddi’ from ‘Highway’ by A.R. Rahman released

The first song of Imtiaz Ali’s Highway, Patakha Guddi, has been released by Disney UTV and T-series.

The music of the film has been composed by Oscar-award winning music composer A.R. Rahman and ever since the film’s trailer came out, all eyes and ears have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the soundtrack.

Patakha Guddi, written by Irshad Kamil and sung by the Nooran sisters from Panjab, is picturised on Highway’s leading lady, Alia Bhatt, who plays the role of Veera in the film. As she traverses through the roads of northern India, Veera gradually comes into her own and lets loose. Patakha Guddi celebrates her free spirit.

Alia Bhatt shooting for Highway in Ferozpur,  PunjabSays Imtiaz: “Patakha Guddi is about freedom. It is also about purity and wildness. Who better than the wild children of Panjabi music – Sultana and Jyoti Nooran – to sing the track? After Rockstar, it was great to collaborate with Rahman Sir again and we have tried to keep the Highway album melodious, simple and heartfelt.”

Adds lyricist Irshad Kamil: “Patakha Guddi gives the fragrance of Punjab with its piousness and free spirit. The lyrics take the flight according to the growth of Veera’s (Alia) character in the film. The song has raw energy in its composition, singing and even in the choice of words.”

Highway, produced by Window Seat Films and presented by Sajid Nadiadwala, will be released worldwide and in UK cinemas by UTV Motion Pictures on 21st February 2014.

The music of the film will be available on T-Series.

‘Highway Diaries’…of landslides on the way to Tabo

Highway Diaries_Tabo2

Films capture journeys but in Imtiaz Ali’s much-awaited Highway, the journey has made the film.

Presented by Sajid Nadiadwala and starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, the film traverses six states of north India and captures the landscape of the different regions as it goes along.

Highway Diaries are short video snippets that capture the journey of the film and all the exciting experiences that the cast and crew had during its making.

In the latest episode of Highway Diaries, the crew of the film is seen driving through the narrow and perilous roads of the Himachal with continuous landslides, on their way to Tabo. Suddenly a big stone falls from the mountains and smashes the wind screen of one of their cars, forcing them to stop and wait for the machines to clear the road.

The dangers of the road are overshadowed by the stunning panorama that these higher reaches of Himachal offers. The video diary ends with Alia Bhatt delivering her lines that rightly describe the breathtaking location, “Tumne kabhi bataya nahi ki duniya aisi bhi hai, unbelievable!”

Watch this episode of Highway Diaries here:

Highway will release in UK cinemas through Disney UTV on 21st February 2014.

A little more salt for Alia

Alia Bhatt Shooting for   Highway at Aru Valley, Kashmir, 12-05-2013Shooting for Imtiaz Ali’s Highway has taken Alia Bhatt to several places in north India, be it Kashmir or Punjab.

Rajasthan also plays an important role in the film. One of the places the film’s crew set up, their shoot was a salt factory in Sambhar (Jaipur).

Born and brought up in a city like Mumbai, the world of Sambhar, where anything and everything has over a pinch of salt, was a revelation for Alia.

Highway took me to all these amazing places that I probably wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise. Sambhar, the salt factory was the most beautiful and the weirdest experience for me. I celebrated my birthday there as well… in many ways, I think it was here that I truly started feeling like Veera (her character in the film),” says Alia.

Highway releases in UK cinemas through Disney UTV on 21st February 2014. 

“We have had a charmed journey” – Imtiaz Ali

Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz Ali Shooting for Highway at Aru Valley, Kashmir, 12-05-2013The shoot for Imtiaz Ali’s film ‘Highway‘, starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda with music by A.R. Rahman, was wrapped on May 28. The film, presented by Sajid Nadiadwala, will release on December 13, 2013.

Despite a really challenging shoot across six Indian states, Highway wrapped up proceedings eight days in advance. Although the entire shoot was planned for 60 days, Imtiaz and team finished the same in 52 days.

Along the way they had to face extreme weather conditions and negotiate very difficult terrain. From the sub-zero temperatures of snow-clad upper Himachal to the near 50 degree centigrade highs in the last schedule in Gurgaon; from bus and train travel in Rajashtan to hotels with no electricity or water in Kaza (Himachal) and treacherous treks in heavy rains in Kashmir, there were roadblocks all along the ‘Highway‘. Yet the passion and commitment were such that the shoot was completed well within time.

“The shooting of Highway was fast and furious and the completion of shooting was an emotional event for the unit. We have shot this film at unusual places, we have had to support and help each other very often to get by because many places were too remote to have facilities. Highway united all of us. We have had a charmed journey. We hope the audience has the same.”, said Imtiaz

Says Alia, “The experience of shooting for Highway was intense and extremely fulfilling..if I start talking about the film I won’t stop, so I’d rather save my emotions for myself to know.”

For Sajid Nadiadwala, presenting ‘Highway’, is a matter of great pride, “The film was mounted and executed in a very short time and I am so happy that its shoot has been completed well within schedule. It makes me very happy, proud and responsible that Imtiaz has left the release and distribution of his first production completely to me.”

With Imtiaz’s magic and A.R. Rahman’s amazing music, ‘Highway‘ will be one film to watch out for this December!”

Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’ routes back to TV

Imtiaz Ali explaining a shot to Alia, Gurgaon  Imtiaz Ali’s Highway is all set to release on 13th of December, 2013, but not many people know that he had directed an episode of the same name, which aired on a TV channel in the early 2000s.

“I had made Highway on Rishtey on Zee TV. It was a forty five minute slot. The episode was well received but i felt that the story had a lot more to say. It had power and magnificence which i could not do justice to. More than a decade later the story was still with me and I was still desperate to go into it. So this time I jumped in,” said Imtiaz.

“It is a story of two opposite people united by fate. I had wanted Highway to be my first film. I am very glad that it did not happen that time. I think I understand the story much better now,” he added

Imtiaz Ali and A.R. Rahman team up again

Imtiaz Ali & Anil Mehta(DoP) having lunch at a Dhaba near Alwar, Rajasthan, 10.03.2013
Imtiaz Ali

After successful collaboration on ‘Rockstar’, Imtiaz Ali and A. R. Rahman are all geared up for Highway. The director was initially a little hesitant to ask the music maestro to compose the music for the film as A. R. Rahman was extremely occupied and had a choc-a-bloc schedule lined up.

Talking about his association with Rahman, Imtiaz said, “We started this film in a big hurry. So, I did not want to trouble him but we stay in touch and I mentioned the story to him one day. We talked about it for a while and he was onboard.”

The duo is sure to recreate the same magic in the upcoming film, but clearly states that the nature of Rockstar and Highway is completely different. Talking about Highway, Imtiaz further adds, “This story is played out on a large and very picturesque terrain. In this kind of journey you feel certain things that can’t be expressed except through music. Most of the songs play in the background in ‘Highway‘.”

‘Highway’ is set in six different states and captures the journey of two completely opposite people who are thrown together by fate. Starring Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt, the film is slated to release on 13th of December, 2013.

‘Highway’ to release on 13th December 2013

Imtiaz Ali explaining a shot to Alia, Gurgaon

Imtiaz Ali’s much-awaited next film Highway has a destination date – 13th December 2013. The film starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda which traverses through the roads of six Indian states and has music by maestro A.R. Rahman is well into its second schedule and is readying itself to reach a theatre near you on the second Friday of the last month of 2013.

Highway is a film very close to Imtiaz’s heart, one he wanted to make before any other film. And after all these years the storyteller is finally on the road making his pet project.

“There’s a story in you for years, a world you can’t wait to get into – that’s Highway,” says Imtiaz.

After Kareena Kapoor as Geet in Jab We Met and Deepika Padukone as Meera in Love Aaj Kal, this time it is Alia Bhatt who is set to enthrall audiences. Although Imtiaz had an older character in mind, the moment he met Alia he knew she is his Veera (name of Alia’s character in the film) and she has not only lived up to but gone beyond his expectations.

Also, everyone’s waiting to hear what Rahman does with Imtiaz after creating music history with Rockstar. Ironically Imtiaz didn’t even want to bother Rahman for this one thinking he must be very busy. But once Rahman heard the concept of Highway he himself volunteered enthusiastically: “I’m on, if you want me!”

From then on the two of them are trying to match the film musically to the varied vistas of the film – from Delhi to Rajasthan, Haryana to Himachal, Punjab to Kashmir.

Sajid Nadiadwala, who’s presenting and releasing Highway worldwide, is very excited to announce the release date for the film.

“Come to think of it, it was only last December that we agreed to go ahead with the film. And to start the shoot in March and then stick to the schedules despite being such a tough shoot is quite incredible….come December 13th, 2013, you have to take the Highway!”


Alia Bhatt and Imtiaz Ali on location- shooting for Highway in Punjab,28.03.2013

Alia sitting on the Highway in Faridkot, Punjab-27.03.2013

Imtiaz Ali brings Kashmiri wedding rituals onscreen with Rockstar!

Director Imtiaz Ali has gone to great lengths to make sure everything shown in Shree Ashtavinayak Cinevision and Eros International’s Rockstar is as authentic as possible. The buzz is that for the first time ever on screen a Kashmiri Pandit wedding will be shown, with all its rituals and traditions!

During the recce, Imtiaz had asked the line producer to make him meet a Kashmiri Pandit family in order to maintain authenticity. His house was located in a small hindu settlement in Srinagar and the team went all the way to his house, sat for 3 hours with his wife over tea to understand all the nitty gritties of kashmiri weddings. Great care was taken to make sure everything that would appear on screen was completely accurate and as real as possible!

They then walked to the very popular Kheer Bhawani temple, met the priest and watched his own daughter’s wedding video to have a visual understanding of the rituals. The designers Manish Malhotra and Akki Narula roamed around the streets for hours to get the traditional attire perfect to the T.

Right from the way food is served in the tram (copper plates) to the traditional Dejhor which is Kashmiri jewellery worn in the ears (symbol of a married woman) along with the shaneel fyran (velvet dress/outfit), the intricate henna pattern and the tarang (cap) the girl wears during the wedding rituals, etc, were painstakingly researched for the shoot.

In fact, during the shoot, the locals who were part of the scene were given full freedom to inform Imtiaz if something was going wrong and wasn’t part of the tradition!

The Ranbir Kapoor- Nargis Fakhri starrer releases on 11.11.11