Just A Minute With: director Imtiaz Ali

MUMBAI (Reuters) - In 2007, a film by a little known director earned box-office success and critical acclaim with a storyline that brought Bollywood romance back in fashion.

Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone (L) and Saif Ali Khan unveil the music album for their forthcoming movie "Love Aaj Kal" (Love Nowadays) in Mumbai June 27, 2009, file photo. REUTERS/Manav Manglani

The unexpected success of “Jab We Met” put the spotlight on director Imtiaz Ali and fans are eagerly awaiting his latest offering “Love Aaj Kal” -- a romantic comedy starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone.

The 38-year-old filmmaker spoke to Reuters about life after ‘Jab We Met’ and his expectations from ‘Love Aaj Kal’, which releases this month.

Q: Are you feeling the weight of expectations after ‘Jab We Met’?

A: “As a film maker I don’t look at my film in that way. In fact, I have been accused many a time of being a very cold person, not very emotional or expressive and that I don’t react to things around me much. So maybe I am not feeling the weight of expectations that much.”

Q: You are described as “cold”? Those are certainly not the kind of movies you make.

A: “Yeah, but those are not the qualities I have in personal life. Honestly, I am okay with it. It doesn’t bother me much that people think I am cold, perhaps I am like that. If my mother calls me cold, then I must be.”

Q: How do you look back on ‘Jab We Met’?

A: “I am not a friend of ‘Jab We Met’. It is like a friend who is no longer with me. It was a lot of fun making it but I see a lot of defects and problems in it and I guess it is quite natural. But I was making it and involved in the nitty gritties, so I obviously saw more.”

Q: What about ‘Love Aaj Kal’? Are you able to look at it objectively?

A: “No, I am working on it right now and obviously I see a lot of things that I need to correct and I am working on doing that till the last minute. I want to make it as strong and entertaining as possible.

“But I won’t be surprised if, a few months after the release, I look back on it and see quite a few mistakes. It is something that plagues me with even the best of my work. It is going to happen again.”

Q: So are you one of those directors who are touching up the print minutes before it goes out?

A: “I am not a careful sort of a guy. I am not a perfectionist. But I do feel that if there is any opportunity to enrich it further, then why not. Everyone does the basic minimum but I feel that the ten per cent above that counts for fifty per cent more enjoyment at the theatre. So if I am sitting doing nothing and I feel like the colour of a title should be changed, then I will do it.”

Q: Have you changed as a professional after the success of ‘Jab We Met’?

A: “There are certain modifications that come into a director’s craft after every film. But I haven’t changed because of the external associations of the film, such as its success or the acclaim it got. It is only the experience of making a film that changes you.”

Q: So how did ‘Love Aaj Kal’ change you?

A: “In lots of ways. For one, this is the one movie for which I travelled a lot, which I love to do. ‘Love Aaj Kal’ is also the movie during the making of which I met hundreds of people, of all nationalities and cultures.

“Since I was away from home for a long time, those people I was hanging out with, whether from San Francisco or Patiala, were my companions or family, whatever you call it. A person like me thrives on interpersonal relationships and interactions. I had a lot of that in this movie.”

Q: Your movies have a lot of Bollywood song-and-dance sequences…

A: “I am a fan of music in films. I don’t necessarily like the whole 25 dancers dancing behind the hero routine but if there is a good opportunity to use a song, why not?

“So I am a borderline case on that. I am not such a huge music buff actually but I can say safely that one of the best things I get to do as director is to work on the music of the film. Music is a part of our popular culture, so I want it to be in my films.”

Q: What are your expectations from this film?

A: “The image I have in my mind is of audiences coming out of the theatres with a smile on their face and thinking I spent 200 bucks on this film and it was worth it. That is what matters.

“If it doesn’t do well, I will just go back and make a better effort the next time. If I made ‘Jab We Met’ or ‘Socha Na Tha’ now, I would do it differently.”

Q: What’s next?

A: “I don’t know. I don’t want to crowd myself too much. I am okay with the fact that I will make two films a year, which is fine. That is all that I can do for sure. When that story comes through in my mind, I will go ahead with it. Not before it.”