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Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali on what fascinates him about India

December 17, 2013 11:18 IST

Image: Actress Alia Bhatt with local women during the filming of Highway in Kashmir.
Imtiaz Ali

'In Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, the winter population is only around 70 to 75 people because the residents move to places that are not as cold...'

'Kashmir is so multi-textured...'

'Punjab has suffered most after Partition -- the richness of the area was taken away...'

Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali on the experiences, thrills and learnings that his travels through India have brought him.

I am very fascinated about travelling in India. It is only when you are closer to home that you see things you feel in your bones. I don't want to ignore that. I feel we have a very rich heritage.

For my upcoming film, we went into the extreme conditions of Kaza and Tabo in Himachal Pradesh.

When I was in Kaza, there are places where the population is 20,000 to 40,000. And that's in the summer months of June, July and August; the rest of the year the population could be only 70 to 75 people.

In the winter, the residents go away to less cold places and they travel everywhere.

We think only Kashmiris live in Kashmir, but this time I got a chance to travel a lot in Kashmir.

I went to different places and saw there are so many people speaking so many different languages. It is so multi-textured.

I also realised there are so many communities in India which are both Hindu and Muslim. The Gujjars in Kashmir are Muslim while the Gujjars in Haryana are Hindus. The Gujjars in Rajasthan are both Hindus and Muslims.

There are various kinds of divides that have been swept aside because of evident geographical regions.

While shooting Highway, I realised how Punjab has suffered most after Partition -- the richness of the area was taken away. Cities that were connected to Lahore just dried up.

The areas where we filmed in Ferozepur, Faridkot, Makhu etc -- have become the poorest parts of Punjab whereas they were the richest parts of the state once upon a time.

There are houses, bungalows which were very rich before Partition, now all those people have floundered. They had suffered a lot.

What fascinates me about India -- or rather northern India -- is that every 20 kilometers, the language, dialect, music, food, clothes... everything changes.

Imtiaz AliFilmmaker Imtiaz Ali has made successful films like Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar. His forthcoming film Highway was shot in six states -- Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and Punjab.

He spoke to Patcy N.

The complete series: Why I love India