It’s past midnight. There’s a slight nip in the air. Mehboob Studios in Bandra (W), which is always bustling with energy, is peaceful, except for one of the floors. It was occupied by film-maker Imtiaz Ali, who is shooting for his next film, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma.
As we sit down with the film-maker, and talk to him about his new movie, he says, “I am not supposed to talk about it, but I am having a great time. Working with SRK and Anushka has been fantastic.”
At the same time, Imtiaz is also excited about his maiden production venture, Love In Tokyo (LIT), which is an Indo-Japanese project. It will be co-produced by a Japanese entertainment conglomerate, Shochiku. Interestingly, Imtiaz’s brother, Arif Ali (who directed Lekar Hum Deewana Dil; 2014), will be directing the film. “Right from the movie’s inception, it was clear that I won’t be directing it. But, I would create a situation for someone else to direct it. Soon, we zeroed in on Arif. I developed the storyline with him. He wrote the script thereafter,” says the film-maker.
The 45-year-old is “looking forward” to working with his brother because he thinks “very differently” from him. “Arif has a clear and distinct set of ideas. I liked his debut film although it didn’t do well. As my debut film (Socha Na Tha; 2005) also didn’t do very well, I know that this industry gives you many chances. I feel that as a writer, he has a lot to offer. He has a creative mind,” he says.
Does the film have anything to do with the 1966 Joy Mukherjee-Asha Parekh starrer film by the same name? “What I liked about the Japanese style of working is that before approached me to make this film, they had already acquired all the rights to the original film. They thought the title is good and wanted to use it. The movie has nothing to do with the original film in terms of the storyline etc., except for the title,” Imtiaz clarifies.
In his career spanning 11 years, Imtiaz has directed a number of hit films such as Jab We Met (2007), Love Aaj Kal (2009) and Highway (2014). Ask him if he feels any kind of pressure to deliver, and he says nonchalantly, “I am here for the excitement of my work. The pressure of others’ expectations doesn’t bother me. The pressure that comes along with my own excitement kills me. I don’t analyse anything else. There are so many things that I want to do, and I am thankful to the forces that I get the opportunity to do them. I hope audiences like LIT too. It may lead to more expectations, but so be it,” he says.
While Imtiaz is “happy” about teaming up with his brother, Arif, he is confident about the latter reaching “his potential as a creative person”. He adds, “Let me be candid, usually, if one brother [who is already established] works with his sibling as a director, the perception is that the latter might not be that good. This has happened many times [in Bollywood], that the brother who comes in later outshines the other sibling. We have seen the same in so many cases like the Anands [Dev Anand and his brothers] and the Kapoors [Raj Kapoor and family].”
A contemporary love story, Love In Tokyo will be “almost entirely” shot in Japan. The film will feature a mix of Indian as well as Japanese actors besides a number of other collaborations in the technical department. Imtiaz says that since Japan “lends itself to seasons in a drastic manner”, the film’s shoot will begin in the second half of this year.
“Till now, I have only directed films, except for Highway (2014), which I also produced. I have no ambition to produce films, to make money or to have a big empire. But there are films that require a certain kind of sensitivity in terms of production and once in a while, I will produce only those films and perhaps not even direct [them],” he says.
The Jab We Met (2007) director feels he wants to make a film, which appeals to the Asian countries. “It happened in a very organic way over three-four years, since the time I went to Japan for the first time and met the Japanese Company’s CEO. We discussed about Asian countries being quite alike. Although we eat western food and wear western clothes, our values are very desi and eastern that way. So, there are a lot of similarities [between both the cultures] but the languages are different. We can relate to the same emotions. So, the idea was, ‘can we talk about these people together?’ That’s how it began,” he says.