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'Jab Harry Met Sejal' director Imtiaz Ali: I'm fascinated by women

Updated on: 31 July,2017 10:11 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sonil Dedhia |

Criticised for his repetitive stories, 'Jab Harry Met Sejal' director Imtiaz Ali says he's not 'scared of sounding similar' so long as his films are 'genuine'. Read his exclusive interview with mid-day

'Jab Harry Met Sejal' director Imtiaz Ali: I'm fascinated by women

Imtiaz Ali
Imtiaz Ali

Jab Harry Met Sejal is your first film with Shah Rukh Khan. With SRK as a part of the film, the attention shifts to box-office. Does that worry you?
Whether it is Shah Rukh Khan or Ranbir Kapoor, my bigger concern is whether the film will make enough money to pay its debt. That was my worry regarding this film too. I was aware that since SRK is a part of the film, it will become a number game — almost like a horse racing scenario, [where everyone is speculating whether] the horse will win the derby or not. But, it didn’t bother me. Shah Rukh has the same goal as I do; he just wants to make a good film. That is the only thing we were worried about.

Although your films have been critically acclaimed, you have often been accused of having the same storyline about confused lovers setting out on a journey and discovering themselves in the process. What do you have to say about it?
See, I’m far too interested in having fun while making a movie rather than proving to someone that I’m doing a prolific job. I’ve spent 12 years in the industry and I feel lucky to be a filmmaker. I am not looking for adulation from anyone, anymore. It’s not that I consciously repeat myself, but, my stories are my personal interests and there are bound to be similarities. I’m not scared of sounding similar, but I am scared of not being genuine.

 Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor in Imtiaz Ali
Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor in Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met (2007)

All your films have the theme of love. Has your definition of love changed over the years?
It has changed with every film. From Socha Na Tha (2005) to Jab Harry Met Sejal, I can see that my characters are more connected to themselves. I believe that until you have a [fulfilling] relationship with yourself, you can’t have a [satisfying] relationship with anyone else. Also, the word ‘love’ can easily misguide people. I’ve realised that it signifies different things to different people.

Besides travel, another recurring theme in your films is the presence of strong female protagonists. Is that a conscious thought?
I’ve always admired women more than men. They are a beautiful and intelligent species. I’m fascinated by women. There are times when I’m surprised to see that in most of my films, the female characters are smarter. And the influences come from real-life women around me. Take Sejal for instance. She is a Gujarati and there are certain things about that community that I admire. One of them is the status they give their women. Irrespective of whether she is educated or not, the woman has a prominent standing in a Gujarati family. I’ve always been startled by many of my Gujarati friends as they are so worldly wise but naïve at the same time. I included these traits in Sejal.

Also read: Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma defend Imtiaz Ali amidst allegations of his films being similarAnushka Sharma and Shah Rukh KhanAnushka Sharma and Shah Rukh Khan

Of all the characters you have written, who are you closest to?
It’s really difficult to answer that. But, I would wish to be like Aditya [Jab We Met, 2007], a simple and sweet guy, or even Geet [laughs]. I am not even as stupid as Jordan [Rockstar, 2011] nor as sorted as Meera [Love Aaj Kal, 2009]. I think I come the closest to Ved [Tamasha, 2015].

With so many movies behind you, do you still have nagging doubts before a film’s release?
Yes, and I think that will always remain. These doubts used to make me feel bad earlier. But now, I look at doubt in a positive manner. If I don’t doubt my own work, I may become mediocre. The presence of doubt is really important in one’s life.

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