Imitaz Ali has earned the reputation of having aged in sufism and madness. When the whole of the film world was drenched in meaningless entertainment, he, in the mood of optimism, came up with his unique Indie style and seized the audience with depth and idealism.
From ‘Socha Na Tha’ to ‘Highway’, every script he wrote, investigated human emotions beautifully. I, being his biggest follower, wanted to pour out his journey known only to a few:
1. His father did irrigation jobs
He was born in Jamshedpur and as a child he would sometimes accompany his father in the fields, which gave Imtiaz a view of what was going on in the innards of India.
2. His destiny had always planned films for him
His parents used to stay in Patna but he, along with my brother Arif (who made his directional debut with the film ‘Lekar Hum Deewana Dil ‘), lived with his aunt at Karim Mansion, an old well-known building in Jamshedpur, where they had three theaters, two of which were attached to their house.
Cinema became his 4 AM friend and he could not escape his love for it. He would watch movies whenever he wanted to, which intensified his passion for creativity.
3. He was confused just like any other 18-year-old
He studied at Hindu College, University of Delhi, where he actively took part in theater. He also started Ibtida, the dramatics society of the college.
He was a man of multiple desires. He wished to be a basketball player, an author, an engineer, a civil servant, an advertising copywriter and a management graduate—sometimes two at a time but finally got stuck to film-making.
4. Imtiaz ended up in Mumbai and found his inner calling while shooting ‘Imtehaan’
He moved to Mumbai and did a diploma course from Xavier Institute of Communication. Later, he began his career directing TV programs including ‘Kurukshetra’ for Zee TV and ‘Imtehaan’ for Star Plus.
Directing ‘Imtehaan’ was a huge thing for him. He says, “It told me subconsciously that this was it. And I never thought of going back and doing anything else.”
5. It took him 4 years to make ‘Socha Na Tha’
In 2005, he made his directorial debut with ‘Socha Na Tha’ starring Abhay Deol and Ayesha Takia. Despite its box office failure, the film won critical acclaim.
It took him 4 years to direct it and during the process, he learnt about tapes and how machines assembled stuff and how the editing process could be manipulated. He also wrote 10 scripts then, which later germinated into films like ‘Rockstar’, ‘Highway’ and ‘Jab We Met’.
6. He never really liked ‘Jab We Met’
‘Jab We Met’, which was earlier called ‘Train’, became one of the biggest successes of 2007. It drew comparisons with cult classics like ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’.
But Imtiaz never understood why people liked ‘Jab We Met’ so much. He had never anticipated its success. He used to think that it wasn’t a film worth making because there was nothing important happening in it.
7. He always wanted to work with Bhatt saheb but they collectively lacked a common vision
While television was going steady for him, Imitiaz ran into Mahesh Bhatt and the two would often think of making a film together but nothing worked out.
Bhatt saheb says, “I always thought that Imtiaz lived life on his own terms and had the courage to interpret it based on his own experiences. And that gets reflected in his cinema.”
8. Deepika was the first choice for ‘Rockstar’
His next two films, ‘Love Aaj Kal’ (2009) and ‘Rockstar’ (2011), enjoyed both critical and commercial success. But Ali sees ‘Rockstar’ as “a defective film with many missing parts”.
He always wanted to cast Deepika in ‘Rockstar’ but as the script progressed, he realized that there were many scenes similar to her last movie with him i.e ‘Love Aaj Kal’, so he opted for Nargis in the end.
9. He thinks marriage is artificial
After his divorce with Preety Ali, he believes that he has become very formal in his approach to everybody.
He says, “Marriage is so artificial; it comes with so many dos and don’ts that not only make you claustrophobic but also mediocre. It reduces you to a ch***a version of yourself, you play roles to meet someone else’s expectations. Today, I say things as they are. I’m not hypocritical. I am as open-minded as when I was in school and college.”
10. He wrote ‘Highway’ 20 years back
Actually ‘Highway’ was the first film he ever wrote. Imtiaz had met Alia when she was five years old. Then one day, he bumped into her at a screening. One look and he knew he had to make ‘Highway’ with her.
11. Imitiaz prefers ‘Tamasha’ but not maths
Both Imtiaz and Ranbir feel that maths stands for all those things that they never want to do in life. All these things make life mechanical.