| Imtiaz Ali in Calcutta on Monday
He cant wait to dig into the biryani at Aminia in the city he has always loved. From the strapping lad who would make frequent train trips to the city from Dhatkidih, his hometown in Jamshedpur, to the superhit director of Jab We Met, Imtiaz Ali has changed very little. Thats the verdict from his dear friend Anurag Kashyap, who also happens to be his neighbour in Mumbai. t2 bribed Imtiaz with his favourite cup of black tea before he agreed to talk love aaj and pyaar kal in one of the office rooms of INOX (City Centre)...
First things first... have you seen the Taiwanese film Three Times, that Love Aaj Kal is said to be a copy of?
No, unfortunately, I havent seen Three Times yet. Anurag has. He has seen my film also and he feels theres nothing in common. I dont know... people must have got some impression after watching the Love Aaj Kal promo. But its strange that without seeing the film people are saying that its a take-off from another movie. Its not.
How did you come up with this concept of showing love in two time zones?
Everywhere you go, you will always have this debate between the older and newer generations, where the older people will say: Hamare zamane mein pyaar bahut pure hua karta tha. The younger generation takes pride in the fact that they are more practical in their approach. They find it stupid that the older people would be ready to marry another person without even knowing her name. Also the love now is oriented towards sex a lot. So, there has always been this debate in houses and colonies which love is better and the funny bit is both the generations are convinced that the other is wrong. And as I have grown, I have realised that its not right to dismiss any one point of view. So, showing the two together does make for an interesting story.
Given the fact that you are just 38, do you take sides with todays love in the film?
No, I dont take sides. I dont send across a message. My primary intention is to entertain because thats the industry I am in. I definitely dont want to do anything irresponsible by misleading anybody or hurting anybody. The purpose is not a message but if I look at the movie, I feel that it says love remains the same, no matter what the time is. You may call it stupid or sublime but the feeling of the heart is the same.
Why did you pick the 1960s as the other time period?
My father was a young man in the 60s. He must have been going through the days of his early romance in the 60s. I guess, when you talk about the older generation, you are talking about the times of your dad.
How did you research the period?
From pictures, from movies that were made at that time, from the stories my parents have told me, from the stories my grandparents have told me as to how aangan mein woh ladka aata tha and how my mother used to go and meet him. You know, as we are growing older, my mom has become one of my closest friends and she has even told me the passionate romantic stories of her life, most of them related to my dad! She paints a picture when she talks. So all that has been there in my mind. That definitely was the basis of the story.
| Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone in Love Aaj Kal
That must make Love Aaj Kal such a personal film...
Films are always personal no matter what they say to bullshit you. Also, so many things happen subliminally. You do something and then you think in retrospect that the idea must have come from the story your mother told you.
You have Saif playing the lover in both the stories but you havent put Deepika in the 1960s one. Why?
See, the connection in the story is that Rishi Kapoor approaches Saif and starts talking to him. He says: You remind me of me... when I was young, I looked a lot like you. Thats why Saif plays the young Rishi Kapoor. I wanted the same actor to play both the parts because then the only difference will be the time.
How much of Calcutta is there in the film?
Calcutta comes intermittently in the movie... in the first and the second half. It comes in slices. Whats more interesting is the way Calcutta has been used in the romantic montages. We have intercut between the trams of Calcutta and the trams of San Francisco, the Howrah bridge and the Golden Gate. Calcutta sure has some of the most romantic moments of Love Aaj Kal. The fact that we shot in the city has been justified. It is the love destination for Veer Singh (Sardar Saif, the young Rishi Kapoor) and therefore for the movie. I have been close enough to Calcutta to know why and when the Sikhs had moved to Calcutta and how they found their bases over here.
You seem to have a lot of problems, in hindsight, with your big movie Jab We Met...
Yes, I find a lot of defects (see box) when I watch the film now. I went with the flow when I wrote it. Also, very honestly, I have never been very happy with anything I have done. And I feel that the films should just release before I start feeling really disappointed with them.
Did Saif the producer make any difference to your film?
He brought along with him a vision. Having worked in the industry for a long time, a guy feels he can contribute to the kind of movies that are being made. As an actor you can only play parts that are being given to you. And Saif is trying to bring in his aesthetics to his productions.
The last time we spoke, you had just started shooting Love Aaj Kal and you spoke about Deepikas silence, the reason you cast her over Kareena. Did that conviction pay off?
Yes, I think so. She is the kind of girl you would want to do everything for. When you see the movie, you look at her and you will see where she is and how much of herself she has given into the performance. I know that my neck is on the line because I have cast her. I think it was the right decision.
Whats the next step for you? Would you now ideally like to make a film with a Hrithik or a Shah Rukh?
I think, theres only one struggle and that is to tell the best story you can tell. Once you have that, it will find its own way. If its good enough, it will be made. Thats what I believe. And whoever it wants to reach, it will reach. You have to be patient. Like I waited for many years after Socha Na Tha. Its a little random, yaar! You dont really know how it works. We have all gone to Mumbai and taken our chances. Right now, for instance, I dont have any story on my mind. I have to find the right story. It can be for a Rs 1 crore film or a Rs 100 crore film, it might have Shah Rukh Khan or just about anybody, but you have to do it right. Once you have the story, just listen to it. And it will tell you everything.
Loopholes: he looks back at JAB WE MET
In the second half, it was convenient that Geet goes back home and is unable to tell her parents over the period of the whole day that she is actually with Anshuman and not with Aditya
lIn the first half, you have Aditya sauntering away, not knowing where he is going and is seen almost jumping off the train. Soon after that he is having a good time with Geet. He doesnt look like the guy who ever set out to kill himself an hour back. He thawed too easily!
Then in the station scene, Geet has just been accosted by this gentleman who has been suggestive. Then she is outside standing with women and she doesnt know they are prostitutes. Its a bit strange because its pretty obvious from the way they are dressed. And this girl is not someone whos lived in palaces... she is from the streets. Then Geet gets into a hotel which is called Hotel Decent and still she doesnt understand that the manager thinks she is a prostitute. Too difficult to digest!
Also, I have never seen railway stations so empty. I have travelled at 4 in the morning. I have never seen any station where just one tamatarwaali is creating so much fuss.