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I don't use the word love, says 'Tamasha' director Imtiaz Ali

Ahead of his upcoming Bollywood release, 'Tamasha', a film that asks if love can really change you, filmmaker Imtiaz Ali spends an afternoon picking 'affection' over ‘love’, and refusing to judge taboos

We are with writer-director Imtiaz Ali, lunching at a crowded Andheri deli, and we are talking taboo relationships. The sort that you know you shouldn’t be in, but can’t help being in.
“You think you want control, but you really don’t. And it’s fine [to be in them]. It’s a part of evolving. You want to fit into slots that you find respectable, or what the world sees as respectable. You are disturbed when that doesn’t happen,” he says, biting into a crunchy citrus salad.

Imtiaz Ali

“You know, it’s all about that feeling that says, ‘I want to do this. I don’t care. I just do’.”

Also read: Deepika is Ranbir's muse in 'Tamasha', says Imtiaz Ali

Seemingly random conversations about life and its trappings are easy to indulge in with Ali. His movies — last year’s hit, Highway, and before that, Jab We Met, Rockstar and Love Aaj Kal — have been about doing things we want to, but most of the times, don’t. His latest, Tamasha is no different. Ranbir Kapoor plays a man who transforms into an outgoing, charming guy on vacation to Corsica, when he meets Deepika Padukone’s character and falls in love. When they return, he jumps back into his normal skin, which he tells her, is actually quite “boring”, but the real him.

Alia Bhatt
Imtiaz Ali’s Highway was one of last year’s big hits

“We all have one vicarious side, and a boring one, and we keep trying to merge the two. Perhaps that’s not possible at all,” says the 44-year-old. “As a kid, I’d carry this image in my head of being in a train, looking out. I wanted to be outside, not inside the train, because inside, I had to behave.”

When we move to discussing love, though, he says the word is taboo for him. We think that startling, especially since he has earned his fame making ‘love’ stories. “I avoid it like the plague. It’s the most confusing thing to me. It means different things to different people, and acquires different meanings through the day. I don’t like miscommunication, so I use more specific terms like affection.” When instructing his actors, he will say, “You are feeling like you want to hold her” or “You want to kiss her right now.”

Love Aaj Kal
Love Aaj Kal

That’s more easy to understand, he argues. “I don’t even use the word love with my kids! We are not cheesy.”

Also read: Did you know 'Love Aaj Kal' was earlier titled 'Elastic'?

Does that mean there is a distinction between love and lust? “Why should there be?| he wonders. “Words can’t be used to describe feelings like those.”

Tamasha
Tamasha

We are back to discussing taboo relationships and he has a theory: Is the object of affection really your object of affection?
Sometimes, he explains, you like the thirst, not what will quench it, water. But you still need the water to quench that thirst.
Just when you want to say that’s esoteric, he bares the average Joe side to him, admitting that it’s hard to find women who he’d lust after, but also strike an invigorating conversation with. “It’s damn hard, man. A girl can be super-hot. But if there is no connect, the lust will wear off. I seek that connect.”

We agree that lust is an easier emotion to express; love, complicated to live out. “Tamasha says that love makes you the person you need to be, and sometimes, by moving in the direction of what you desire, you may reach the true you.”
So, is he saying, love makes you your best self?

“Exactly.”

Why then does he, on screen, portray lust in black and white?

“Love Aaj Kal had a hint of lust. They [Saif Ali Khan and Deepika] are sitting in the car in one scene... they touch, then kiss, and touch some more, and then really kiss. Are you sure none of my other movies hint at lust? Doesn’t Highway have a bit of it, like a suggestion of sex in the fields, or the time he talks about his mother?”

But that’s forced, we argue.

“Yes, perhaps you are right.”

For the time being, we are going to have to wait for Tamasha, which Ali says, despite its existential dilemmas, has a happy ending. “Or else, I would be saying, ‘don’t try and change yourself for the better, for love’. I’d never say that.”

Directing Deepika and Ranbir
Although they are no longer a couple, they are in a place where they can chill with each other. They respect each other as talent. I see it as the love of working together. This is the first time I am working with a pair for the second time, and both of them have changed. Deepika has grown tremendously as an actor, and Ranbir has become ‘unsafe’. He is taking the risk. It’s a fine time to be directing them.


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