Director, Producer and Writer Imtiaz Ali has captured the heart and soul of youth with films like Jab We Met, Rockstar and Love Aaj Kal. He is a prolific story-teller and is coming up with his latest movie - an eternal love story of 'Laila Majnu', releasing on 7th September. The film is directed by Sajid Ali. Imtiaz Ali feels that a classic love story, or an eternal love story, is something which is modern at every point of time.
In a candid chat with Filmibeat, Imtiaz Ali says, '' This is something I genuinely mean when I say that I have gained more from my failures than my successes. There is only that much pain that actually hits me when I realise that something has fallen short of expectations. But, it doesn't devastate me. After a film is being made, I don't calculate it. I don't go with finding out what went right or what went wrong. I let it go. If the experience has to teach me something, it will."
Excerpts from the interview are as below...
Director Sajid Ali has mentioned that this kind of an intense love story is not his forte. So what is your contribution to this film?
'I had written some scenes of Laila Majnu about 10 years ago. I conceptualised and visualised it in a certain way. I had done it for myself. So you can say that I had conceptualised the film. The broad vision is mine and that is my contribution.'
Considering the same, would you have liked directing the movie?
'No, I was thinking that this is the first time either the film will not ever be made or somebody else will direct it. Because I already had an idea on how I would direct it. But if somebody else would direct it, then it will be interesting for me to watch.'
At the trailer launch, you'd mentioned that if you would have directed this, the movie would have turned out to be different. What would be different about the movie?
'See, there are certain things which Sajid brought in, which is very exciting. For instance, to imagine Laila as a flirt, manipulative girl, who likes attention, this is something I might have not thought of. But I loved the fact that in Laila Majnu the girl is like this. She is in love with herself. And I think Sajid has a very nice sense of music.'
Also, music in your films would play an important part, isn't it?
'Ya, but there would be a certain type. However, I am very happy and confident with the songs of this film.'
Why didn't you opt for any famous names as the main leads for Laila Majnu?
The first thing is that we wanted the actors of a certain age chiefly. Secondly, Sajid was also more comfortable working with new people. Thirdly, we wanted Laila and Majnu in the film to be seen as Laila and Majnu. So when somebody is watching the film, they should feel for them, not like Ranbir Kapoor is Majnu and this is Laila.'
Making Laila- Majnu in today's scenario must have been a very challenging task, isn't it?
'Ya, it was difficult. There are things about the Laila and Majnu story which we know and iI wanted to keep those aspects. So to find a way to keeping them was difficult. I feel that a classic love story or an eternal love story is something which is modern at every point of time. Be it Laila Majnu or Romeo Juliet or Heer Ranjha, they are still being told and heard. It has something relevant to say. I feel this.'
Today when we talk about contemporary romance, we talk about Imtiaz Ali films. But when you bring back the age -old romance, what do you think, how your audience will react on your take on Laila Majnu?
'Actually I thought about it and I am very happy to present this take on Laila Majnu. It is made for the youth of this country. And I feel that somewhere watching Laila and Majnu the passionate youth, the sensitive one, of this country will definitely think once that this is me.'
You say that you are not a romantic person, then how exactly do the characters in your movies speaks such a deep language of love? Where does the inspiration come from?
'I think if you are interested in something but don't understand, it is more enticing than something you understand. I think if I understand something, I will be bored of it.'
You are rightly called the 'romantic movies king'. Do you like this title that has been given to you?
'The reason I am making a certain movie is not because it is a safe thing to do and people will like it. I am doing it because I like it. I want to make movies which comes from my heart. Of course if someone says that they liked the film I have made, then I will feel happy about it. But I don't want to be trapped by the image of a certain type of director.'
'Sometimes, people say why don't you make Jab We Met or Rockstar. Make that kind of film na.. But I think this is not why I came from Jamshedpur. I came for my interest and I should continue with that.'
When a film does not do well. Does the criticism affect you as a writer, producer or director?
'I am always questioning my craft. And this (Jab Harry Met Sejal) is not the first or the last failure or disappointment I am going to have in my life. And this is something I genuinely mean when I say that I have gained more from my failures than my successes.
There is only that much pain that actually hits me when I realise that something has fallen short of expectations. But, it doesn't devastate me. After a film is being made, I don't calculate it. I don't go with finding out what went right or what went wrong. I let it go. If the experience has to teach me something, it will. I make every film with the same passion whether it be Harry Met Sejal or Rockstar.'
From 'Socha Na Tha' to 'Jab Harry Met Sejal', in your every film there is a thing in common, i.e., 'confused love'. Is this something that is done deliberately?
'I don't deliberately put it, but somewhere it is the reflection of the world I see around me. I feel that nobody who is in love or in a relationship is ever very clear in his mind. There is always some struggle, some emotional confusion.'
How was the star cast of Laila Majnu finalized? We've heard that the female lead was first rejected and then she got the part.
'The auditions went on for two and a half years. Thousands were auditioned. So everybody was going to every team. Then Tripti's second -time audition came in and we were like - haan ye sahi hai, ise bula lo. And then she had go through subsequent amount of auditions and she passed. And we were looking for a guy who'd look like a Kashmiri but not necessarily a very good looking one. We wanted a guy who's very enigmatic but not chocolaty.'
There are certain rumours doing the rounds that Shahid and you would be working together. Is this going to happen anytime soon?
'There will be more rumours like this. Because the fact is, I keep meeting actors. We have worked together obviously we will meet and there will be speculations. But, I've never announced that I am making a film. I never said I am working with Shahid Kapoor. So there is no truth to it.'
Finally, we'd like to know what's happening on your directorial front?
'I have written 4 stories and developed two screenplays. Now I am also a producer, so the only asset you have in this work is script. So first I will complete all these 4 scripts and then decide according to the availability and suitability of the actors and other factors.'