Imtiaz Ali. As the filmmaker turns 49 today, I want to say that he is not just a director or writer but an emotion. including me, so many other people admire him because his stories have much more to tell than we think we are seeking.
From Socha Na Tha to Love Aaj Kal 2020, Imtiaz Ali has always explored stories that were inside us but we never knew they were. Watching his films, his characters there’s always a strong sense of relatability. The way he tells those stories, the way he brings out the passion on-screen, it looks like he is talking about us only. Be it Janardhan Jakhar or JJ from Rockstar, be it Ved or Tara, Aditya or Geet, Laila, or Majnu, every character written by him carries something which is a part of us. And when it comes right in front of us on big screen nothing can match that feeling.
There are a lot of films and stories which we relate to but watching an Imtiaz Ali film is therapeutic. The way he deals with even the darkest of human emotions, it feels like someone has healed an old wound of ours which even we didn’t want to touch.
If you are still reading this piece, you’d agree that you have always found urself in Imtiaz Ali’s film characters. However, this piece is not about how the audience relates to his films, but how Imtiaz himself takes parts of him while writing the characters of his movies. As a keen observer of Imtiaz Ali films and his interviews, I’ve always felt that the character(s) I am watching in any of his movies may have something to do with Imtiaz himself.
I remember in one of his interviews, Imtiaz Ali once said that he is usually very protective of his thoughts and don’t really feel like making them public. But when he starts writing the scripts, his thoughts itself come out and when he watches the film he feels very embarrassed to see his characters reflecting him.
At times we’ve all felt like that! We protect our feelings but as soon as we find solace in someone we speak everything like we have lost all the control on ourselves. Imtiaz finds that solace when he writes, I think.
While watching his films, I’ve always felt that his characters have one common unprocessed emotion. An emotion that they haven’t yet dealt with properly. The emotion of finding spiritual peace! Love is the most sacred emotion we all know and it’s natural that most of us tend to find peace in love. But instead, love takes us on a stormy drive. His characters have always dealt with that stormy drive while on their chase of peace.
When Aditya (Jab We Met) tries to run away from his circumstances and he doesn’t even know where he is going, he meets Geet. He wasn’t even looking forward to meet a talkative person like her or had the capacity to deal with at that point of time. But somehow he finds out through Geet only that she’s his way out. He helps her in a way that helps him opening many tough knots in his mind. As he goes along with a storm like Geet, he discovers life and love.
Same with JJ aka Jordan who chases Heer to give him a heartbreak which could make him a Rockstar. But when he gets the heartbreak, he can’t deal with the storm. Even Harry who despite trying all the methods to resist Sejal finds himself helping her. He knows he has his own demons to deal with and Sejal is going to leave him in trouble. But because he was so looking forward to peace, he later finds out that Sejal is his portal to peace. Even Sejal thinks she is trying to search for her lost engagement ring but when she finds it, she also finds that she was searching for a person like Harry who completes her.
Ved for that matter has almost made peace with the life he is leading. But it’s no good because his soul is searching for something else. When Tara pushes him to become what he really is, he gets frustrated. “Tu jaanti hai main kaun hu aur koi nahi jaanta? Mere ghar waale, mere dost, main khud nahi jaanta main kaun hu par tu, 7 din corsica mein tu pakka jaan gayi hai main kaun hu”
He is not able to handle the Tamasha, the storm in his life after Tara comes back in his life only to reject him. But as he finally dares to re-discovers himself after losing his job things fall into place.”
That chase is common in every Imtiaz Ali film and I have often felt that it stems from his own heart and soul. Even in Love Aaj Kal 2020, I had a strong feeling that with Raghu, Imtiaz is talking about himself and with Veer about a person he wants to become. “Jo main hoon aur woh jo main hona chahta tha, ye alag alag log hain.. jo ek nahi ho paaye. Baat ye nahi hai ke maine Leena ko kho diya, us din maine woh kho diya jo main tha”
“Nasha hota hai yaar, pata hai ke nuksaan hai, risk hai, kuye mein koodna hai, par saala koodna hai kyuki dil hai. Power jo thi mere paas. Par chali gayi. I lost it.”
And when Zoe says acha hua chali gayi and I hope uski bhi chali jaaye. “Kab tak aise stupid bana ghoomta rahega woh?” she asks.
Raghu says, “Lifelong rahe I hope, I wish ke ye sab chala jaaye aur main phir se stupid ho jaau yaar”
These dialogues really hit me at that time and I really thought that it’s coming straight from the heart of Imtiaz himself. When Raghu says, “….. phir se stupid ho jaau yaar” and “…us din maine woh kho diya jo main tha” we see a flashback to the good old days of Raghu’s life. The time when he was innocent and not the street smart guy or a playboy.
Not just a feeling which I had while watching his films, I’ve also observed it with the choices of films he has made recently. Jab We Met (2007) is the most widely accepted film of him. Love Aaj Kal (2009) has been the 2nd most loved film. These films came when he was not very old in the industry. His films were mature but they started getting more intense every time.
If we consider Rockstar, Highway, Tamasha, Jab Harry Met Sejal & now Love Aaj Kal (2020), the projects have been really intense. So many people didn’t like Rockstar’s climax when it released back in 2011. But over the years the film has become a cult and it has created a loyal fanbase of itself. Even with Highway and Tamasha, when these films released back in 2014 and 2015, they received an extremely mixed response. There was a huge section of the audience which said Tamasha is not as good as Rockstar. But over the years they started liking it as well. Now Tamasha is slowly and steadily building a strong fanbase for itself. His most recent films Jab Harry Met Sejal and Love Aaj Ka 2020 have been bashed very badly by the audience. The barometer was again films like Rockstar, Highway, and Tamasha. People say those films were so good and with JHMS and LAK2 Imtiaz has come down as a filmmaker. But the fact here is, Imtiaz has always taken risks by listening to his heart. Usko pata tha ke risk hai, kuye mein koodna hai, par saala koodna hai kyuki dil hai.
And I say this now because in one of his interview, Imtiaz himself confirmed that he is like Raghu from Love Aaj Kal 2020 and wants to be like Veer.
On his birthday, I just have to say be the way you are, Imtiaz. We love you because you do what your heart says and heart is never wrong!