He has just wrapped up the shooting of his latest film Highway, and travelled through six states for it. But, as we caught up with director Imtiaz Ali in Delhi recently, we saw none of that work fatigue showing. In fact, he chatted over cups of black tea, about the things close to his heart.
Highway was the first film you wanted to make. Has it changed from the time when you first thought of making it, to now?
The fact that Highway stayed with me for over 15 years, despite the fact that I made several attempts to make the film but couldn’t, means a lot. Having said that, Highway, as I have made it now, is completely different from what I wanted to make back then. The film now is more simple, uncluttered and has none of the false drama that I had thought of creating back then.
Most of your films, be it Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and now Highway, have a physical journey of the protagonist that translates into an emotional journey. Is that a conscious effort?
A journey, and here I mean a physical journey, is interesting because it is only when you are out of your known periphery that you are actually able to do the things that are there within you but things that you would never express otherwise. In our hearts, all of us are travellers, we want to chuck everything and hit the road, but how many of us can actually do that? It’s all very cool to strum your guitar and sing Sadda Haq and feel liberated but in reality the only way to feel freedom is by breaking the inertia of rest ... by putting yourself amidst the unkown. I guess I try to show this need to break out of the mould, through my films. I urge people to break rules.
Your films have simple stories. What inspires you?
I like to tell an organic story and that story could be inspired from anywhere. I think a lot of my stories come from my travels. When I travel, I observe people. Say if I see a girl on a train and then she gets off at a station, I think of the things that could have happened on the journey if she had not got down, or the possibilities if I got down at that station with her. So, while the inspiration is often a real incident, the story that I finally have is what I imagine it to be, and then it is backed by my research.
Your best friend in Bollywood is perhaps Ranbir Kapoor?
Ranbir and I are infected by the same disease — films! We can spend 4-5 hours at a stretch just drinking tea and discussing all kinds of stuff — from films to girls. But most of all, we discuss incidents that could be turned into good films. Ranbir will go, ‘Sir issey acchhi film ban sakti hai…’ and then we will dissect the story. So, Ranbir is not just my friend but also a collaborator. We keep thinking of things we can do together. And hopefully, we’ll do another film together very soon.