He might be one of the top directors in Bollywood today, but not many know that Imtiaz Ali “started off as a theatre actor” in Delhi. Much later, in 2007, the 44-year-old made his Bollywood acting debut with director Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday. He played the role of Yakub Memon in the film. However, Imtiaz says that acting was never really his first love.
“Initially, I acted for a few years in theatre. Then I also started directing [for the stage]. It was while I was working in theatre that I realised that I liked direction more,” says the film-maker, who had even founded a theatre group called Ibtida, when he was studying in Hindu College in Delhi.
He adds, “By the time I came to Mumbai, I was very clear about not wanting to act. I knew I wanted to take up direction, and I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to handle both. I wanted to do one thing properly,” says Imtiaz, who hasn’t acted in a film since Black Friday.
On another note, several B-Town actors have expressed their wish to work with Imtiaz. When asked if this kind of popularity leads to any extra pressure, Imtiaz says, “No, I don’t take any pressure. Usually, if I have a story, then I am the one who approaches the actors. So, for example, if I feel that Hrithik (Roshan) is going to be good for a certain film, then I will approach him. When I am focused on what I am looking for, then the rest of the world doesn’t matter (smiles),” he says.