‘Veera is still in my system’

Imtiaz Ali on his women, his way and Highway

Published on:February 28, 2014 12:06 am


You told the same story of Highway on TV 15 years ago. What was left unsaid that you wanted to say again?
The story just didn’t leave me. This was the only Rishtey (episodic Zee TV show) that I did. Somehow I’ve never been able to tell a story in 45 minutes. Some yearning was there to tell this story in a better way because I understood it much better.

What do you make of the polarised response that the film is getting?
It’s not as polarised as Rockstar, which really divided people between love and hate. The response to this is emotional.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the relationship between Veera and Mahabir. Are they lovers? She mothers him, he watches out for her as a father would. In your head what relationship do they share?
I’m anyway intrigued about relationships. There are some lovers who are more friends, while some husband-wives are more like siblings. In my head, Veera and Mahabir are victims. They have both lost out on their childhood and they unite on a level of empathy. I don’t see them as lovers. If people want to define love as getting married and having children then it’s not a love story, but if love is about giving comfort and affection to each other then it is a love story. In my head, Veera wants freedom and she feels Mahabir is a part of her journey and he will get her that freedom.

This is something in all your films — the women that you write always want to be free but why is it that they attain that freedom through a man? Heer did that with Jordan in Rockstar and in Highway Veera does the same with Mahabir.
Rockstar’s Heer was really sorted and wanted to have as much fun as she could before she got married. In Veera’s case, the man (Mahabir) is actually a tool for her to be out there on the highway but as the journey goes on, he makes himself redundant by dying. In a way, his death sets her free.

The big emotional moment — when Veera reveals her big secret to Mahabir — came out of the blue. Didn’t you want to prepare the audience for this moment?
She just needed to say it. She was pressured by the fact that she didn’t run away when she had the chance. It was her necessity. She didn’t think it through so she just blurted it out.

There’s some criticism about Veera’s reaction to her kidnapping. She seemed to accept it quite easily.
What option did she have? She was beaten up, she ran, she cried, she had her catharsis, she came back. In a way she feels free that she’s rid of the curse of making a choice, yet she asserts herself. There is no rulebook of how people should behave.

In all your films, marriage is a trigger to life altering realisations. Why?
Marriage is difficult because it comes with too …continued »

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