In the lost paradise Highway to Love : Review of the movie "Highway"

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Amidst the beauty and romance
of the Aru Valley near Pahalgam of Kashmir, noted Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali talks about his upcoming movie Highway starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. He talks about his love and passion for movies and also reveals his desire that he has been holding on for almost a decade. He talks passionately about Kashmir and its beauty and the reason it is his favourite place for shooting his movies. A more in depth account of the experience follows. 

‘Picturesque’ is an insignificant word when it comes to describing the breath taking Aru Valley. This is the location for Imtiaz Ali’s upcoming movie highway. This place is about three hours’ drive from Jammu, on the way to Pahalgam and is endowed with breath-taking beauty that could only be thought about in postcards and paintings. But you get a pleasant pinch of reality when you realize that such a marvellous place actually exists in real. From Pahalgam it takes about 30 minutes to reach Aru Valley, but the place where the shooting team is stations requires you to trek for about half an hour. It is commendable on Imtiaz’s part to discover such a beautiful yet disconnected place where nature has been more than generous while blessing it with beauty. As you go, you will be greeted with warm and hospitable yet curious smiles of the locals. 

Imtiaz is staying at a place which is no less than a poet’s abode. With a beautiful river flowing outside providing constant source of inspiration and horses grazing in the background, it is simply marvellous. They day is a bit drizzly, however Imtiaz informs that it has been sunny all the while they were shooting. He adds ‘imagine trekking half an hour with all the equipment’. As we talk sipping Kawa (a Kashmiri drink) with Ali brewing his own coffee, he tells us about his connection and fascination with Kashmir. His exact words are ‘it’s a lovely place and I would settle here in a heartbeat. I shot Rockstar here and I was determined to return here to shoot my next film. After a major race, finally we fixed on this village, which is only a few kilometres from the Aru Valley.’ Imtiaz is a Kashmiri by decent, so we can understand his love for Kashmir, but according to him it’s the locals and the ambience of this place that acts as a magnet for him, pulling him towards it all the time.

Imtiaz reveals that the script of Highway has been with him for quite some time and in fact he wanted it to be his first film, but unfortunately it did not work out and he had to keep making other films. Finally his dreams have come true and he gets to shoot his long-time dream project amidst the beauty of gorgeous Aru Valley. Inspite of the freezing weather Imtiaz insists that we should go and sit in the verandah from where we can witness the beauty of the place. He says that the simplicity of the locals provides him with the solace he needs to concentrate on the movie and complete it without much distraction. These locals are quite busy with their life and are disconnected from the outside world.
Imtiaz has never repeated any actor in his movies and once in a while he introduces a new foreign female actor. When asked what special is it about Alia Bhatt, he remarks that it’s her innocence and beauty that attracts him. He wanted a young girl for the role and luckily happened to watch Student of the Year when he was working on the script of Highway and discovered the perfect actress for the role. For the male actor’s role he was looking for a tough guy and Randeep was the perfect one for it. As our conversation proceeds we are joined by Alia Bhat , the leading actress, Sumit Basu, the production designer and Anil Mehta who is the cinematographer. Aila considers herself lucky to be debuted by Karan Johar and then being followed by Imtiaz’s movie. She says ‘What more could I ask for?’ She says doing this movie has changed her as a person as the director makes her get into the depth of the character and live it in her. This helps make the role more authentic. She also spoke about the shooting so far, all the intense and emotional scenes they shot and how she actually got emotional while shooting them. To add to all this is the beauty of nature around and she feels blessed to wake up to such beauty every morning. 

The conversation then shifts to Anil Mehta who Aila introduces to us. Imtiaz adds how he understands his vision and helps him bring alive his imagination. Mehta tells us how they have been shooting using natural lights and also about the evolving technology which enables them to shoot without going to the actual location. He says it is quite interesting to do so. Imtiaz then introduces Anil Mehta to us. Mehta says that he is usually very choosy about the projects he does, but adds that he was very excited to hear the script. He decided to do it as he had never done such a project before in his career.
There are difficulties of shooting in such a remote location. Imtiaz tells us about the previous day of the shoot when they were shooting till 9 pm. There was no electricity and it was raining. As they were coming down the slippery mountains they had to get some of the equipment on horse-back.
Kashmir has been one of the favourite destinations of Bollywood filmmakers for many decades. Unfortunately due to the unfavourable political situation things have not been going good, but movies like Rockstar have brought it to the limelight again. Filmmakers have now rediscovered the beauty of this place and have been coming back with their crew. All of them testify to the fact that they have fallen in love with the beauty of the place and the hard working and sincere locals living around. 

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