Love Aaj Kal releases this Friday and if the film succeeds in the way it is widely expected to, writer-director Imtiaz Ali is all set to find himself in the top bracket of directors. Joginder Tuteja catches up with the man who is surprisingly calm as ever even as his film is just hours away from release.
Clichéd as it may sound but I am sure Socha Na Tha and Jab We Met would have been made with minimal pressure. Did you have a same chilled out attitude in Love Aaj Kal or was it a different scenario this time around?
When you are working, you are so busy and immersed into affairs that the pressure is not around what you have made earlier but around what you have to present next. You lose all luxuries to bask in the glory of your past achievements. In any case, I am not really a sensitive person and certainly don’t have any great expectations from myself. You may feel odd when I say that but then that’s the way I have always been. I don’t get pressurized with what anyone else may feel. My job was to direct Love Aaj Kal and make it as well as I could. I may have taken all the pressure on me but the end result wouldn’t have been any different so what’s the point in getting hassled.
Love Aaj Kal appears to be set on a large scale and bigger budget. Was it overwhelming considering your first two films were set on a medium budget?
Well yes, the film has a larger budget but then it’s a scary thing as well since it is not always a luxury. There is a lot of responsibility that comes into picture. As a professional I had to make sure that with enough funds available to me, I make it enticing enough for the investors that the film fetches a good price for itself.
The screenplay is little more sophisticated and not so straight forward as was the case in my earlier films
You have been known for making simple movies? In that sense, is Love Aaj Kal your most complex script till date?
Not really complex but I would say that the scale is certainly much wider this time around. There are different things happening in the film almost simultaneously with love stories being told across different continents. Also, the screenplay is little more sophisticated and not so straight forward as was the case in my earlier films. So yeah, in that sense, Love Aaj Kal is in fact different. But no, calling it complex would be wrong even as it brings in two different time zones. Actually you know, I never want a director to come between audience and the film. I hate that myself when I watch a film made by someone else. This is why I have consciously kept the film simple.
How difficult was it managing two time zones in the film? Do we actually see the film oscillating between these two time zones throughout the narrative?
From the shooting perspective, we shot most of the modern portions first and then went into flashback. It was a challenge mainly for Saif since he plays a character from both times. When he was acting as Veer Singh, we told him that forget everything about who Jai is. And then when we shot some scenes of Jai later, he had to forget about Veer Singh. As far as I was concerned, there were a lot of other departments that I had to look at including costumes, locations etc. At any point of time there were different people looking at each of these departments and I had to keep the right coordination on.
It was a challenge mainly for Saif since he plays a character from both times
Seems like those were tough days…
Not really because at the end of the day, for me Love Aaj Kal was just one film and it wasn’t really difficult to create the right structure for the film.
Saif as a producer must have helped as well.
(Laughs) Well, we were very clear from Day One that he didn’t have to wear two hats during the principal shooting of the film at least. He was not at all involved as a producer with me. We had spoken about this earlier and he respected my stance. For me as a director, I need to have a clear relationship with an actor and a producer. For someone like Saif who anyways had a double role to play in the film, it would have been really demanding for him to be doing the producer’s job as well.
Did he consent immediately?
Oh yes! In fact there wasn’t really the question of consent because Saif too was clear in his mind of what he wanted. He had Dinesh Vijan, his partner, to look at the film’s production for all practical purposes. Saif was very good contributor but mainly on creative aspects.
That must have worked in the film’s favour…
Of course yes. At the end of the day, filmmaking is a team thing. We did talk about the film all the time when the film was being written and then shot. He was there from beginning till the end. However, all of this was mainly in the capacity of an actor since he could bring in his years of experience of acting. (Laughs) Honestly speaking he doesn’t even know how much I am getting paid for the film. If he gets to know about it, guess what he is going to say?
What would he say?
That I am working for too low a fees. (Winks) As a director, main bahaut saste mein mil gaya usse. But on a serious note, he is seriously the most non-interfering actor I have come across. Even with Abhay and Shahid I had great working relationship. Saif is someone who doesn’t believe in confronting and is a very cool chilled out chap. He is just bothered about his own work.
As a director, main bahaut saste mein mil gaya usse
The film’s music has turned out to be an instant crowd puller all over again.
Thankfully it has, though honestly when Pritam, Irshad Kamil and I were working on the music, we had a single point agenda to create something which is natural. We promised each other than we won’t worry about whether a song would turn out to be a hit or not. We all came to Mumbai from different cities to do something that we enjoyed from our heart. This is why when it came to the film’s music; we put ourselves into a total no-compromise zone.
Ok, now tell us who is this pretty girl playing the role of Harleen Kaur?
[Laughs] I am not going to talk about her. We have decided to hide her for a reason so wait for the film to release and get to know more about her yourself!