Imtiaz Ali has done it. And this time he has done it in a big way. In fact in its initial 3 day run at theaters in India, Love Aaj Kal netted Rs. 28 crores. Now this is a terrific figure by all means since Imtiaz's last film Jab We Met had made this kind of money in it's entire lifetime run. Surprised? But well, that's true. While comparisons with Jab We Met (which is now being called as a cult film) are being made ever since the release of Love Aaj Kal, the fact is that the film has firmly established Imtiaz in the top league of directors that has members like Anees Bazmee, Priyadarshan, David Dhawan, Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ram Gopal Varma who are star film makers in their own right.
As the film manages to hold on well in theaters even on the dreaded Monday, Imtiaz Ali on his way to Chandan cinema (Mumbai) catches up with us to get a sneak peek at how the film is being received in single screen theaters.
Imtiaz, there are reports that the film is not as strong at single screens as multiplexes. True?
If you look at collections then yes, they are primarily coming from multiplexes. But that was always the intent and due to this reason we have screened Love Aaj Kal at 20+ shows in multiplexes while at single screens, the release has been only at select theaters. In that aspect, you would see comparatively lesser money coming from single screens. That doesn't mean though that Love Aaj Kal is not being accepted by audiences at single screens. Since Friday I have been making rounds of Chandan cinema and other single screen facilities in Mumbai. The film is drawing houseful crowds there ever since it's release.
True. In fact I was talking to the guys who sell tickets in black outside these theaters. They have bought tickets for the night shows of the entire week since they are positive that there would be crowds thronging in. That's the confidence they have in the film and I am happy about it since I firmly believe that their future is connected to mine.
It was risky though to unleash such huge number of prints in the market.
Yes, it was always risky. In fact we had endless conversations between Eros and Dinu (co-producer Dinesh Vijan) to ask multiplexes to reduce the number of shows. But then exhibitors had a point of view that when audiences were standing there even at odd hours to watch the film, why should they be sent back? They ultimately convinced us that it was fine to go with a larger number of shows. So in a way, it was a calculated risk that we took.
Tell me honestly, have you been able to breathe easy ever since the Friday release of the film?
More than breathing easy, I am baffled with the way public has become today towards movies. They can smell a good or a bad film from a distance. When you bring your film in the market, it is being treated like a product and everything becomes like a public property. A film today is becoming like a personality of it's own. In this regard, Love Aaj Kal too is a personality which is now living it's own destiny. The good part is that it has become such a strong personality by itself that it is scary!
With the kind of huge release that Love Aaj Kal has received, you would have been expecting it to open so well, isn't it?
Honestly, I did expect a huge opening but such huge response is unexpected. The numbers are mind boggling to say the least and I am now getting more and more positive that the trend would remain the same over the entire week. Yes, I know that some people instinctively liked the film and felt a deep connection. Also there were some who didn't like it. And then there is the third kind that saw Love Aaj Kal for the second time and then started liking it.
Maybe it took them a second viewing to get out of Jab We Met hangover.
(Laughs) Whatever we may think or claim, comparison with Jab We Met is obvious. There have been people who came to me and said that because of Jab We Met behind me, they were a little disappointed with Love Aaj Kal. They were perhaps expecting another Jab We Met but then the point was not to make another Jab We Met. I am really glad that Love Aaj Kal touches unusual areas. There is a connection building up for audiences in case of Love Aaj Kal as well; I can feel that. Acceptance of the film has reaffirmed my faith in the fact that audiences have moved on and have accepted something new. That's heart-warming.
In a way it has also helped the industry which desperately wanted a universal money spinner, isn't it?
Of course as a director I feel good but more than that, as a member of the film industry, I feel that this is one movie that more or less satisfied and thrilled the audience.
Can you please elaborate?
See, I firmly believe that people don't have to watch films to survive. After all whether it is Love Aaj Kal or any other film for that matter, it can never become a necessity in their lives. If they watch a film and get disappointed week after week, there would be a time in their life when they would eventually move on to other methods of entertainment. In case of Love Aaj Kal, it is refreshing that the film has reinstated in the mind of audiences that 'ye piucture toh dekhni hi chahiye'! When you see such response from audiences, you feel ki chalo achcha hai, apna future set hai industry mein!
But with such money and expectations behind the film, weren't you ever apprehensive about going so different in Love Aaj Kal?
I could have gone by popular sentiments and made another Jab We Met. In fact the appeal would have been instant as well but then I would have questioned myself if I have moved ahead in my career? Have I contributed to the creative growth of the industry? Have I not regressed? I was willing to take that risk rather than choosing to safeguard myself and hide myself behind my past glory.