“Being not from Bombay has helped me”

Bollywood director, writer and producer Imtiaz Ali in an interview with Nitin Waghela in Kolkata opens up about his experiences in the film Industry, the undying love for travel, and more..
What is the most fascinating change you have witnessed in Bollywood during recent times?
I feel that the biggest change has been the lockdown because cinema is about watching the film in a theatre and for two years the Indian audience has not been able to do so. In the coming years, I feel we will realise how big or positive a change it has been to Indian cinema.
Ultimately, I think the lockdown will end up improving the standard of Indian cinema by a huge measure.
Over the years, which city has made it to the top of your travel destination list?
I like Jerusalem given the symphony of three cultures – Islam, Judaism and Christianity. There are also many misconceptions regarding the place which the world seems to be fighting over. Out of all the places, Jerusalem seemed culturally distinctive and anyone who lives for travelling should visit it.
Your thoughts on present day Kolkata?
Kolkata is my favourite city in India due to its artistic beauty. Right now we are in Dalhousie (North Kolkata area), you will find buildings and in those edifices there are certain artefacts which could be old or out of repair, but are still very beautiful and I really love that.
Other than that, the best drummers, darzis, flower decorators and all sorts of artists are found in the by lanes of Kolkata, which makes it very special.
What was the best behind the scenes memory of your popular romantic film Jab We Met?
The one thing was that I had no time to prepare for Jab We Met. I had written the first draft of the screenplay which had no dialogues and started the film with only 21 days to finish it.
We had gone to Manali to see locations but it snowed out which wasted half the day. We could not get out of our rooms, so, desperately I wrote the dialogues at that time.
What inspired the creation of Ranbir Kapoor’s role of Janardhan Jakhar in Rockstar?
With nothing really irregular in my life, I remember having an insecurity while growing up which I later assigned to Janardhan Jakhar in the film. It was the thought that without anything unusual or tragic in my life, how will I ever achieve success. Because most big success stories come from tragic backgrounds.
What was your experience as an outsider entering Bollywood?
In our film industry, just like in any other place in the world outsiders tend to be quite successful. People who came from the Pakistan side of undivided Punjab did really well in India. Many communities do well after entering a new place. Marwari are a great example of leaving their home state and becoming a success story across the country.
I think being not from Bombay has helped me. The biggest names in Bollywood are the ones who are from outside Bombay. The Indian film industry is also really welcoming; it’s a place for dreamers and they are the most welcome there. (TWF)