Thursday, February 7, 2008

‘Geet is someone I aspire to be’

Imtiaz Ali, who directed the much-liked Jab We Met, talks to Sandhya Iyer about his fondness for actress Kareena, among other things

Were you disappointed at a recent Award function, where Jab We Met was ignored in favour of other films?

I’m not really fussy about awards but it did surprise me that we weren’t nominated for either ‘best film’, ‘best director’ or ‘best music’ at Screen. But again, we won ‘best film’ at the Stardust Awards, so it evens out…

Oh, but Stardust has its own issues to deal with…

Absolutely. Every award has issues. You think Oscar doesn’t have issues. As I said, awards are no that important to me at all.

Which according to you was the best film of 2007?

I’m going to leave out my film because one can never really be subjective there but my favourite film of 2007 would be Metro. Both Chak De India and Tare Zameen Par were lovely films of course. I liked CDI a little more than TZP. Am I glad to be competing with such good films? Absolutely. It’s important that good films are made and appreciated. When films don’t do well, it discourages the whole industry.

It seems a happy coincidence that all three films (CDI, JWM, TZP) boast of original, quality writing. Do you think scriptwriting in Hindi cinema is finally coming-of-age?

Script writers still don’t get the respect that is due to them. But yes, I hope the success of these films alters perceptions and makes people realise the importance of a good story. That will automatically breed good writers and our films will become more script-oriented. Also, that would give me the luxury of just directing and leave the writing job to someone else.

But aren’t you better equipped being both the writer and director of your film…

I always wanted to direct. I turned writer only because I had no option and didn’t find any script to my liking. So I got used to doing both jobs but ideally, I’d like the script to be written by someone else.

But wouldn’t there be more creative conflicts?

I don’t mind conflicts at all as long as it leads to a better film. As a director and writer, I can only exercise my limited faculty. In that sense, I’d like to have another mind being part of the creative process. That can add a lot of value. And I don’t see this as a problem because being the director, the final call will always be mine.

Kareena Kapoor was always a top star but somehow good roles and films kept aluding her. Jab We Met changed things overnight for her. Many believe she’s already the numero uno actress now. Does it make you proud seeing that it was your film that has taken her where she is?

I have to say that filmmaking is a joint effort and Kareena is a natural-born actress. She gave herself completely to the role and most definitely deserves every bit of success she’s getting. I’m ecstatic that she achieved it with my film. I don’t know if it was my film that turned around things for her…that’s what people say. But yes, Jab We Met will always be one of Kareena’s most important films.
Recently Kareena said that she could play Geet so well, precisely because she herself has many of the character’s traits. ‘I always follow my heart,’ she said. Would he agree?

Kareena is no Geet so to speak. Yes, she does have some of her characteristics. She thinks from her heart, does things instinctively etc. But I don’t think she’s as immature as Geet. Kareena is a thinker.

As a writer, it’s obvious that you concur with Geet’s philosophy. Was there any point in the story where you wished to distance yourself from the character, to possibly reveal that you don’t necessarily agree with her actions….

I love that question. See, as far as I know, there was always a distance between the writer and Geet. Geet is someone I aspire to be. She says what comes to her mind, has no inhibitions. A lot of times a beautiful thought occurs to us but our strong conditioning prevents us from expressing it. Geet is the kind of person I’d like to meet in real-life.

There’s a lot of confusion about your next film. The latest is that Kareena has clawed her way back into the film and she’ll be starring with boyfriend Saif Ali Khan…

No, Deepika Padukone is the actress who will be starring in my next film. And I had chosen her even before she appeared in Om Shanti Om. I’ve taken her because of her suitability to the role. Every character has its own flavour, smell and emotional quotient and I just felt Deepika would be right for this role. As for Kareena, she’s no new girl on the block. If I offer her something, it has to be a role where she can shine. I didn’t want her in a character that will not do justice to her talent and personality. So this film I’m not doing with her but my next film, whatever it is, will be with Kareena.