Dressed casually in a black shirt and jeans, his curly mop of hair resting on his forehead, a calm Imtiaz Ali walks in amid the ongoing Osian's 'filmo-mania', maddening media rush, and fans queuing up outside the VIP lounge to catch a glimpse of this unassuming guy who comes across as someone really romantic. But, sadly enough, he bursts the romantic bubble!
Priya Rajendran catches up with director Imtiaz Ali...
You have done theatre in your college days. What is the difference between working in a theatre and a movie?
In theatre, one just needs the actors, actresses, mike, a stage and an audience. But when one makes a transition to cinema, camera, equipment and technicians come to the fore. It gets more expensive to make a movie. Though essentially, my role of a storyteller is the one that remains the same!! (laughs)
Referring to this year's Osians, a new category has been created - 'New Stream' cinema. Your take on it?
New Stream essentially means it's a new stream of cinema. But over the years, cinema has undergone so many changes. For instance, 1960s had something called new stream and its back yet again. And we (directors, actors, film technicians) are all here in this festival, to recognise new trends and make our cinema more effective in reaching out to the masses.
Whether it is
Socha Na Tha,
Jab We Metor
Love Aaj Kal, your theme has revolved around romance.
Seriously, there is no deliberate reason for this. Maybe I just want to discover love. I guess this stems from the fact that when I was young, I came to know that there is a quantity called love, which is common for everyone, is constant and unchanging. But as I grew older, I started understanding that there is nothing, which is really uniform, and that confusion led me to explore love. I feel that there are so many aspects to it: what is love for one person is not the same for the other and love at one point for someone may change at a later time for another. So, I just got confused by this word, and so I do not even use it in my personal life or in my movies, you will never see any of the characters saying 'I love you' really seriously.
Are you a romantic yourself? And is there a reflection of your personality in your films?
(Smiles) No, I am not. But, I love traveling by trains and you would have noticed that I have my characters traveling by trains too. Though, I don't even feel that my movies are romantic. How romantic is it for a Geet Dhillon to realise that she is in love with Aditya because he is better than my other boyfriend, so might as well hang out with him. That also happens at the end of the movie. Love Aaj Kal is a purer love story. It's not as if I am a romantic person and not that it spills on to my movies or something. That's not the case at all. I really do not know what the relationship is, but I tend to be pretty hardhearted and unromantic in real life.
The Tamil remake of
Jab We Met - Kandein Kadhalai, is going to be made. Tell us why you chose Tamil.
My cameramen and sound recorders were Tamilians. When we were shooting on the sets of
Jab We Met
in Punjab, there were also these annas (brother in Tamil) who used to say ki yeh film Tamil
mein hota to kaisa hota
…That was at the back of my mind when I decided and coincidentally, some people from the Tamil film industry approached us for making this movie in Tamil and of course, I was pretty excited about it. They invited me for the music launch and I attended it. I met the lead pair Bharath and Tamanna and the director Kannan. I just hope it turns out even better than
Jab We Met
Are your characters a reflection of people whom you have met in real life?
Sort of. For instance, I have met a lot of girls while traveling, who find this necessity to talk about everything that comes to their mind and they feel their mind is buzzing with God-sent brilliant ideas and it's their responsibility to share it with whoever happens to be around. They just keep talking and I have met lot of these girls in Delhi buses for instance and many of them are from Shahdara. And they continually talk. Five minutes of chat and she will say that
main kal nahi aa rahi kyunki meri
…and you are bedazzled! She would go ahead and say that
yeh mat samajhna ki main
kar rahi hoon
main aisi-waisi ladki nahi hoon
. It is so beautiful to see someone so uninhibited. Many unihibited girls whom I have met are Punjabis. That aspect comes into Geet Dhillon. There have been many girls on train who wished there was an accident and would spend more time with you, but that never really happened.
Do you think
Jab We Methas typecast you?
Jab We Met
was nothing in the first two weeks of release. In fact it was nothing in theatricals in comparison to
Love Aaj Kal
. It's only in a period of two years that people have really started to talk so much about it and I love when people say that they loved
Jab We Met
. But it took time. I think it will take
Love Aaj Kal
more time to establish itself with audience. I don't think I need to prove to everyone that I am different.
You acted in Anurag Kashyap's
Black Friday? Do you wish to do more acting?
I enjoyed doing it. But, frankly speaking, the acting ka keeda was there in me as long as I was in college doing plays! I am not one of those directors who would want to be in front of the camera. I have done enough acting in theatre.
Who according to you in Bollywood - is the real romantic hero?
Dilip Kumar, though he is not acting anymore, because he was the only hero who could look the girl in the eye in a way - to trigger romantic emotions and rise goose bumps too.
Do you think realistic cinema (real locales) is on the rise now? How difficult is it to treat realistic cinema? For instance, a producer insists that the movie must have an item dance number.
Yes. It's getting better credit now. I am a person of common taste. What I like is also what people tend to like and I think that is a boon. I don't want to push myself into a narrow space while making movies, which would probably be only seen by intellectuals with beards. I do think out of all means of communication, cinema is the most expensive and cinema needs to recover costs that have gone behind making the movie. Otherwise this art form will die. I need the film to recover my money as well. I don't make creative compromises for commercialisation. Though, even I enjoy song and dance sequences.
How do you manage to portray curses so aesthetically in your movies? For instance, Geet cursing in
Jab We Metand Meera in
Love Aaj Kal…
It is all shot with a lot of my interest and affection, and the intention is not to make it titillating.
Any memorable moments while shooting for
Love Aaj Kal?
The movie's art director falling into the Hooghly river where he almost drowned. Another was the scene at the end where Deepika says a very filmy dialogue to Saif. This dialogue was being made fun of, by both the actors right before the shoot and the best part was that they didn't even realise that they are saying the dialogue - it was so natural! I have seen people being very filmy at times and that's because they are so passionate at that moment that it becomes totally justified to turn filmy.
And where does Rahul Khanna's character disappear in 'Love Aaj Kal'?
(Laughs) It is not necessary to show everything and make it all obvious. It should definitely be audience discretion to imagine the ending.
Movies that inspired you in your filmmaking…
During my college days, I loved
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar
, and many commercial movies. Later on, I watched Shyam Benegal movies, one of them was
. Bimal Roy's
Do Bigha Zameen
and Vijay Anand's
Would you like to enter television?
I am not very familiar with it and have not watched it since five years! Though, I will be very happy doing a travel show on TV.