It’s past midnight on Tuesday (December 1), he’s had a long day that’s yet to end, but Imtiaz Ali looks relaxed. “I am a bit relieved,” says the director, whose latest release that stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone has been doing well at the box office. Here, the 44-year-old opens up about his new film, his inspirations, and more.
Are you now used to the pressure a film-maker feels before and after his film’s release?
No, I feel the same amount of pressure [even now]. However, I don’t take too much pressure in life about things I need to feel pressurised about. I have always considered this a defect, but it has always saved me. Till a film finally releases, something or the other is always happening. There are enough opportunities to keep myself busy. So, it’s not that with more and more films, I am becoming relaxed.
Were you worried about your film’s box-office performance?
I am not a numbers person. But it gave me great happiness when I saw people in my team happy with the way the film opened. I am also happy with the number of people it is reaching. Before leaving for the UK (on November 30), Ranbir had said to me, “It has reached the audience.” But I feel the process is still on.
What motivates you to take up a new film?
Every movie has different motivations. I want to be a film-maker who is able to make different kinds of movies. Right now, I feel like making a fun film that is irresponsible and, maybe, cheap (smiles), with no philosophical thought. I feel that you need to escape from your reputation all the time. There’s a feeling that my films have a lot of meaningful stuff. So, now, I want to make a meaningless film (laughs).
That’s the attempt. Let’s see how meaningless I can get (smiles). It still has to be an interesting film. I have some stories, but I don’t know exactly what it is going to be. I have to give it some time and thought.
It is believed you bring a lot of your emotions into your films....
Yes, certain emotions that I have personally connected with at some point in my life become seeds for my films. That is especially the case with my new film. But the film isn’t autobiographical. I don’t come from the kind of family that Ved (Ranbir’s character in the film) does, but I can understand him. I have felt the power of stories in my life.
What’s more important for you — the appreciation of the audience or box-office numbers?
To me, the audience’s reaction matters the most. And, by that, I mean the number of people who have enjoyed the film. That is followed by box-office figures, as that is proof of how well a film has been received. My expectations are very idealistic; I think that people should love my movies, and feel happy after watching them.
You have become a brand. Is that pressurising?
No. Instead, I feel lucky that I have received, and continue to receive, a lot of love from the audience. I have got a lot of positive reactions for my new film, and I am extremely thankful for that.
Were you expecting such a positive reaction to your new film?
I have taken a lot of risks with this movie. It’s not a very ‘safe’ film. But, I think that has worked. It’s believed that audiences are under-developed in our country; that they are stupid, and you have to dumb things down for them. But I am so happy to reaffirm my notion that it’s actually the film-makers who are unable to reach them. They (the audiences) catch each and every emotion and thought.
Many feel that you are probably the best director when it comes to romantic films…
The audience labels you. I will be classified, commented upon, and put into a category by the audience. Whatever it is, I am fine with it, as long as I am allowed to make the film that I want to make. Audiences, till now, have been showing me the green signal in that respect.
At this stage in your career, what keeps you going?
Stories motivate me. Of course, I feel good when someone recognises me. But that’s not the main reason I am here. What has got me here is the intoxication of the work that I do; the intoxication of telling a story cuts through everything else.
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