Imtiaz Ali: Marriage is very artificial

With films like Jab We Met, Highway, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar, Cocktail, Tamasha and Jab Harry Met Sejal to his credits, filmmaker Imtiaz Ali has carved a niche for himself in the film industry.

In an interview with a leading Indian daily, Imtiaz was asked about his definition of love, to which he replied, “Oh! I don’t even try to define love. I have tried, at different times in my life to find out what it means to be in love but it confuses me all the time. I am a great believer that when you are defining your relationship with somebody, you are also somewhere defining your relationship with yourself. Personally, I haven’t understood what `love’ stands for.”

On asking about his quest for self discovery, he said, “Yes. Whenever I am shooting for a film; I have the deepest relationship with it, my cast, my assistants… with everyone who is involved in the process. During this time, when I look at myself in the mirror, I feel scared because I discover a part of myself which I didn’t know existed.”

When asked about what made him to pretend to be someone else in his early days of life, Imtiaz said, “When I was young, I pretended to be an imaginary person so that I could gauge everyone’s intriguing reactions. I didn’t want to reveal my true self to anyone. Sometimes, I pretended to be a secret service agent, sometimes a writer, sometimes a philanderer… I have played multiple characters in my lifetime.”

Talking about his belief in the institution of marriage, he said, “For me, marriage is very artificial. It comes with so many hang-ups that not only make you claustrophobic but also mediocre.”

Speaking about Indian cinema’s liberal approach in depicting love, Imtiaz said, “Liberal or not, I feel Indian cinema deals with love in a more mature way now than it has in the past. The romantic relationship in Jagga Jasoos, for instance, was not about guy-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in love. There was a certain degree of subtleness to it which I liked.”

Talking about the kind of movies that he loves to watch, he said, “I don’t like mushy films at all. I prefer watching language films. On a weekend; I would probably watch Bulgarian or Chechen films that talk about their folklore, their people. The only thing that puts me off is fakeness. I can’t stand fake storytelling at all. If it’s a nice original story, I am sorted.”

On asking about books that he prefers to read, he said, “I have moved on from classics and everyday fiction – though my first love was literature. I was a literature student and topped my college without much ado. My friends used to complain about it. Now, I have turned to philosophical books that deal with our existential crises.”

On asking about whether it’s a deliberate decision to portray strong female protagonists in his films, he replied, “No, I don’t do anything intentionally. Art imitates life. So, if you see women essaying strong characters in my films, it is because the society sees them in that light too.”

Adding further he spoke about crafting films instinctively, “This knack of over analyzing and imagining things. Even when I am looking at the Taj Mahal, I want to know what Shah Jahan may have thought at that time, what must have been going on in the minds of the laborers. It is this imagination that keeps me alive. When I talk to a stranger, I want to analyse what that person may be feeling or thinking at that moment. If something about him (his language, diction, persona) excites me, I use it in some form or the other in my next film.”

Talking about his take on discovering oneself in a relationship, he said, “Whenever you are in a relationship, and I am not talking about romantic ones alone, you tend to discover what kind of a person you really are. You start questioning yourself, your own value system. You ask yourself questions like, `do you deserve to be in this relationship?’, `Are you a good human being?’, `Are you a good lover?’ The kind of things you discover about yourself can sometimes scare you.”