Imtiaz Ali Curated

Indian Film Director

CURATED BY :  


  • You started with TV, any plans for going back to directing for TV?

    I would like to do something on television, but when I was working on TV, I was not really appreciated. I don't want to go back and be rejected again. However, I don't mind doing shows related to travel because I wish to do something more than just sitting and judging some reality show. Even directing or hosting a relevant show would be great.

  • Do you target awards while making a film?

    I make movies for myself and the audiences who pay money to watch them. So, there's too much at stake to be greedy for awards. In fact, awards are not my goal.

  • Generally, top directors like attention and eyes on them but you are more of a low profile director, why?

    I'm not the look at me kind of a person. I do not like showing off in public or written about. That's not my thing. I just stick to everything that I have to do for my movies. I like meeting people, but I feel that if an actor goes out and talks about the film, it creates more of a buzz and interest than me doing that as a director.

  • Female characters are always given more importance in your films, why?

    You have to tell in your films, all the things that you see in life and this is what I've seen. I have always been interested in women. I'm old enough to admit it. I have always looked at them, tried to imagine how it is to be them, and figure out how they think and feel. Women have always been very important in my life, whether it's my mother, cousins, or just any girl.

  • All your movies show love in a very unconventional manner, thoughts?

    I don't know. When you write a story it just flows and you don't control it. It's subconscious. Maybe it depends on your thinking and you are predisposed to tell a certain story again and again. I don't know why my mind goes in a certain direction. Let me tell you that I'm not proud of the fact that some things are common in all my films, but yes they are.

  • Barfi was nominated for Oscars, sparking a huge debate, did you like the film?

    I have watched the film and let me tell you its incredible. I enjoyed it so much that I went euphoric. In fact, I called everyone related to the film and congratulated them. Also, Anurag Basu and Ranbir are dear friends, so I had to watch the film. As for the debate that the film was copied from other films, I cannot comment as I don't know about it.

  • Do you think a film like Rockstar teaches an actor and a director a lot of things?

    I know it was an important film for him. And I also know that he enjoyed the film a lot and did an exceptional job at it. So, when an actor does an exceptional part like that, he gains a lot and I hope Ranbir did too because I know what he has gone through for this film. Talking about changing his image is easy, but when an actor gets into the character, then obviously he performs well.

  • Ranbir looked phenomenal in Rockstar...

    I feel whatever an actor does on screen is something the actor does and what the director can do is to tell, talk, or instruct. So, all the credit for an actor's performance goes to the actor alone. There's often a line between the actor and director which is not clear, but in the case of Ranbir and me, it was a long, intense, and close working relationship. So, I cannot take the credit alone, because an actor's performance is too big to be credited.

  • People still remember Rockstar...

    People still come and talk about the film, but I'm totally out of Rockstar mode. All the thinking that had to be done, happened while making the film. So, now when people come and appreciate the film, it's a good thing, but when they talk bad about it, I'm unhappy (laughs). See, the work that we do is larger than life and the films we create are often bigger than ourselves. So, the films do get talked about much more than we get talked about.

  • You are in a good shape being a foodie?

    If you eat without guilt, even if you eat too much, you don't put on weight. But, if you think a lot, then... (laughs)

  • What's your connection with Hyderabad?

    My grandfather, the late Siddique Ali, was born in Hyderabad. So, I have a few relatives here. Many of my family members, like my aunt and others, speak in Dakhini kya miya, kya bolte tum and all. It's so interesting to hear the Hyderabadi dialect.

  • Ever think of moving away from what you've been doing and try doing something different?

    I don’t see myself holding on to what I’ve been identified with. Such identification is really up to the audience. I can’t change that and they didn’t take my approval for it either. I want to have the ability and the freedom to do anything, any kind of film that I feel like as long as it is entertaining people. I will do something that I am most interested in, not because I want to change anything.

  • How do you feel when young students unite and revolt against the government?

    I think the violence of any sort is not good. We are from the land of (Mahatma) Gandhi. As far as groups of students coming together are concerned, it’s good for people to unite for a cause. If they feel very strongly about something, they must voice their opinion. The Constitution allows them to do so. The beauty of this country is that it allows you to disagree. You should do it and you should do it with a lot of love. You cannot expect anything to change for the better if you do it in a negative manner. With love, you can change anything.

  • Art is evergreen, do you agree?

    Art is timeless. As long as their art has relevance, those artistes are alive. The films that we write might trigger something, provide relief to people or show them the way; give them a little companionship, or help them voice their opinions. Amir Khusrau’s work such as Aaj rang hai or Mann kunto maula, or Kabir’s songs or Rumi’s writing or Guru Nanak’s words have that timelessness. (The new) Love Aaj Kal’s Veer follows these poets and philosophers. This is what also gives him a certain wisdom.

  • Troubles crept up with 'Sadda Haq', thoughts?

    Sometimes, what artists or musicians create is used in various protests and occasions. Sadda haq aithe rakh, much before Rockstar, was used (as a slogan) in the leftist revolution in Punjab. We borrowed it from there. Of course, it will be used for protests. It is not mine. It is for anybody to use.

  • What is the one thing that you would change in your stories?

    There are lots of things that are not so good in my films. In Rockstar, when Jordan and Heer came together in the second half, there was a dull phase in the film. It’s almost as though the narrative, which is so intimate, suddenly became distant. I think, as a writer, I didn’t understand what was going on in their lives. Then the moment her health starts to fail and he realizes that he is going to lose her, I can feel the writer again. It’s as if the writer in me blacked out during the other phase.

  • What is the relation between age and clarity?

    I believe that anybody who claims to have found clarity is actually putting a veil over what is unclear. Clarity has to be something that’s luminous. With age, do you become wiser? Do your fears end? Does your mind stop questioning? I don’t think so. Your questioning stops when you become dull.

  • Your protagonists are accused as immature?

    As long as I don’t grow up, my protagonists won’t grow up. I think people should learn to deal with it. I manifest myself in my characters in some ways. It does not make me feel great as there must be so many unresolved things in me. But that’s how it is.

  • Many thought you were repeating yourself with the new Love Aaj Kal?

    This does not bother me as I’m very certain about what is new in this film. It’s impossible for you to show everything in a three-and-a-half-minute trailer. Love Aaj Kal is the most franchise-able idea that I’ve had. As our Aaj (present) and Kal (past) change, love Aaj Kal (love then and now) also undergoes a change. Potentially, a news story can be created. In this franchise, there are some common motifs, like music, that repeat themselves.

  • Which of your characters understood love completely?

    No one. The one who comes closest to it is Veer (Aaryan in a double role) in the upcoming movie. Even then, he’s not really understood it. But, like many young people, he understands what he does not want as far as a romantic relationship is concerned. He does not want what he has seen the previous generation suffering from. He wants something which is idealistic, but he doesn’t know how to get it.

  • With love comes uncertainty, do you think that your characters are inclusive to this?

    I think so. I see this romantic uncertainty in many of my characters. I see it in Zoe and Raghu (Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan, respectively, in the forthcoming Love Aaj Kal). I see it in Aditya and Geet (in Jab We Met, 2007) as well as Rockstar’s Jordan (in 2011). Geet (Kareena Kapoor) seemed confident initially, but, in the second half, there was a lot of uncertainty in her. She went so blindly with that concept (of love). Later, she stumbled and was surrounded by self-doubt.

  • How much do you understand the dating scene of today?

    Being in the film industry gives you the opportunity to interact with people of different ages. I’ve seen young people engaging with each other, romantically; I’ve seen perspectives and mindsets about romance, intimacy, and physicality change. What was taboo earlier is no longer so. I don’t know what my idea of love is, except that it has constantly evolved and I’m trying to understand it at different stages of my life. If I had a clear view of what it is, then that part of me would have relaxed and I wouldn’t be making films about it.

  • What's your story behind Love Aaj Kal?

    It’s not a sequel or a continuation. It’s a fresh story with new characters. The concept, of course, is the same. Two stories, set in different eras, interact with each other. That’s the reason I was very clear about calling my latest movie Love Aaj Kal. This story came in my mind some years ago, when I was talking to my daughter (Ida) about the romantic days of my life. Years later, it had formed a certain narrative. So, I decided to go for it. One love story in the film is set in Delhi, now, and the other story takes place in the 1990s. These two are very different from each other. Yet, the essence of what you are looking for in a lover or a romantic relationship is the same.

  • So you are as confused as anyone on love?

    All my movies seem to be about love but it isn’t that I have an answer. Personally, I am as lost and confused, maybe more, than you are. I am not a romantic person in my personal life.

  • What does Woody Allen of the Hindi film industry know about love?

    I don’t know if I have experienced true love. Even when I was as young as you and now that I’m as old as myself, I don’t think I’ve understood anything different or better about love. I think its an enigma.

  • How do you treat your films?

    If the experience has to teach me something, it will reach out. You make every film with equal passion- whether it’s JHMS or Rockstar. Some films will do better, sometimes I feel I am getting too much credit for something, sometimes I feel I’m not.

  • Do you fret upon your films which haven't done well?

    It is very difficult to reach across that line and go that side and look. I try. After a film is done I don’t calculate it. I don’t get into postmortem. I let it go because it’s released and I can’t do anything.

  • Do you analyze your films after they are released?

    My analysis will always be biased. People around me who love me are biased, if I’m thinking from my brain, that’s only my perspective.

  • What happens when things don't pan out as expected?

    There’s only that much pain that actually hits me when I realize that something has fallen short of expectations. It doesn’t devastate me. It’s fine, both are equal to me

  • As a person, how do you face your failures?

    I’m always questioning my craft. This is not the first or the last failure or disappointment that I’m going to have in life. I genuinely mean, I’ve gained more from my failures than from my successes

  • Apparently, the original title of Love Aaj all was 'Elastic', Jab Harry met Sejal was 'The ring', what lead to the change?

    I write in English and I write like a novella. It keeps becoming fatter and fatter and then at some point of time I start writing Hindi dialogues. Usually, you can’t decide a title right at the beginning. You just work on a story, start writing it and then think, ‘Ah, this is like a ring because it’s in circular motion like the ring itself’. But there has to be a file name when you start writing, right? So, it’s a working title. And it was ‘Elastic’ because the harder you pull away from each other, more the tension or attraction to come back. That was what was happening if you look at the film... the elasticity of the film is an important thing. Main door jaa raha hoon ya paas aa raha hoon? That is the whole thing about the film.

  • Why didn't you direct Laila Majnu?

    I wanted somebody younger to do it. I kind of knew how I would do it and for me, that was not so interesting. I thought let someone who has fresher ideas do it, someone who has not made many films before, then he will come up with something more interesting.

  • Your brother Saji Ali's film Laila Majnu, how much is your contribution to it?

    I co-wrote it… the vision was mine, the story or take was mine.

  • Which of your films is closest to you?

    I’ve been most involved with Rockstar… emotionally very hooked to it while making it.

  • When you write a film, is it your personal experience or observation?

    Sometimes it’s some experiences you’ve had, mixed with other people’s experiences mixed with imagination. Imagination is the large part of it. Sometimes even to tell you my real story I’ll use a little imagination so that it makes sense to you… because there is a lot of randomness in between.

  • Your films have a certain pattern, a confused character, exotic locations, do you agree?

    All these things do not feature in the film that I’m making next. I don’t disagree or agree but if you’re saying it, I don’t dispute it. It’s not as though when I start writing a film, I think of how different I can make it from anything that I’ve done before.

  • Are you making a Calcutta based films?

    Not right now. My production company (Window Seat Films) is doing an untitled digital series and developing many other films. That’s why there’s a lot of speculation about what is happening… I was writing and developing many stories. I’m producing and writing the digital series but I’m not directing it. Something on Calcutta is also planned, but not right now.

  • What do you keep in mind when you ideate your characters?

    I try to not bullshit. I try to say things that make sense to me.

  • You say that you aren't a romantic person, yet the primary emotion in your films is love?

    All the inspiration comes from the people that I see around me, close to me, sometimes far… but there are recognisable traits which I get influenced by and which find their way into the work that I do.

  • Do you know that after watching your films people go far off places?

    (Laughs) Because I do that! Again, the movie that I’m making right now isn’t too much about travel. I love travelling and it shows in my films.

  • Which character are you like, from your films?

    There are parts in everybody that think like me. There is a certain mindlessness to Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar) that I can sometimes associate with. Also, there is a sarcastic frustration that I have felt… my life was not exactly like Ved’s (Ranbir in Tamasha), I was preparing to but I didn’t go for engineering, but then there are some situations that I can associate with, like talking to the mirror and all that.

  • Certain scenes of Tamasha is based on your life?

    If it’s very embarrassing, I won’t tell you. Sometimes, some scenes... you realise in retrospect are things you’ve gone through in life or seen somewhere.

  • Your favorite dialogue from your films?

    In Tamasha I like, ‘Apni kahaani mujhse pooch raha hai? Kaayar. Kis se darta hai? Hain kaun yahaan? Tu bataa kya hota hai aage? Bataa. Bol apni kahaani’. It’s like people are scared of something but who the f*** is here man? Why are you scared? There is no one actually, it’s you who is talking to yourself through your dad, or other people in society... there is no one. Actually it’s you who decides.

  • You have this Sufi vibe, do you agree?

    Maybe because my hair is long, I don’t shave and dress up. People must be saying, ‘Yeh bada Sufi banda hai’. I don’t do anything... beyond a point of time I think I shouldn’t challenge what people are thinking. Maybe they’re right but that’s not how I think of myself.

  • Your films contain so many profound lines, where do they come from?

    I don’t know... aate hain ghaib se yeh mazamin khayal mein, Ghalib had said (smiles).

  • You don't like 'Agar Tum Saath Ho'?

    I don’t like Agar tum saath ho... I mean, no longer.

  • Your favorite songs from your movies?

    I hate most of the songs because you listen to it too many times. There are many songs in my films that I cannot stand — those are good songs though. The songs that I do not mind listening to are only a few, one of them is Phir se ud chala (Rockstar) and the other is Dooriyan (Love Aaj Kal).

  • Any interesting incident with A.R Rahman?

    I have one story! Once, really late at night, Rahman sir took Irshad and me for a drive in Chennai. It was during the making of Tamasha. The police caught us because he must have made a wrong turn or something. He was driving and it was very late at night. The police were scolding him and he was trying to say, ‘I don’t know where my license is and where my papers are. No, I was not cutting the line’. And then, he was trying to be recognized. Finally, they recognized him and clicked pictures with him and let us go! (Laughs)

  • How was it like working with A.R Rahman and Irshad Kamil, the trio has brought some amazing songs?

    Usually, there is a lot of discussion. Rahman sir and I chat a lot about things that might not even be relevant to the topic. He has a very innate sense of understanding the inner soul of what I’m trying to say. Then Irshad joins in and we talk, talk, talk... and very instinctively, at some point of time, Rahman sir makes some sort of tune that is the beginning or he asks Irshad to write something, so invariably one or the other starts it. Rahman sir’s process is that there is no process. Each song I have made with him is different, so I can’t tell you how it happens. But it starts with a lot of talking and understanding.

  • How would you define success?

    I don’t feel any different from before. It’s not as though success, like a new car or a new house, has come and changed anything. It’s not as though it gives me some sort of entitlement or anything of that sort. Music has always played a crucial role in your films. What do you keep in mind during the song selection process for it to seamlessly blend with the narrative? I just feel that I should enjoy the process of making music a lot. The songs, the tunes and melody that I enjoy the most... those are the ones I go for. Since I am the writer and the director,

  • Did the outcome of 'Jab Harry met Sejal' affect you?

    Of course it affected me. But I stand by the film because I made all these films with the same sort of attention. It’s not as though, ‘This time I’m making a movie called Jab Harry Met Sejal, let me make it badly’. I wasn’t making it for the heck of it. Of course, there are some movies that do better than you expect and some movies that do worse than you expect. Jab Harry Met Sejal did worse than anybody expected. But it’s fine because I was already thinking of other stories, doing other things. I wish it had done better because you wish every film of yours is the most popular movie in the world.

  • You've had blockbusters with 'Jab We Met' and lows with 'Jab Harry met Sejal', how do you cope up?

    By the time you’ve finished one film, you’re already thinking about another story. It takes care of you emotionally because you’re already ahead of it. If a filmmaker cares for the money the film earns, and I do as well, it matters… but the kind of emotional attachment that a person has to a movie luckily gets over when I finish making it.

  • Has it ever been the other way round, you looking at someone's life and began introspecting as a filmmaker?

    After Tamasha, the first show that I went to watch was on a single screen at night. There were people who weren’t really getting it that much but still since they saw me, they were praising the film. This was in the stalls of Chandan Cinema in Juhu (Mumbai) and a group of people came out and stood around me discussing it and generally taking pictures. And I saw a lady, not a young lady, she was around my age… she walked up to me after a while and just said, ‘You should’ve made this film earlier. It’s too late now’. And she just walked away. I can’t get rid of that memory because it seemed like she wanted to say, ‘Almost 20 years back, wish I could change the course of my life.’ Tamasha, Rockstar and Highway always garner very strong reactions.

  • Do people come to you randomly and tell you that your films changed their lives?

    Yeah, yeah. Especially after Tamasha, a lot of people…. If I’m in a public space, every day I get people who come out of their cars, leave what they are doing and say this. And they don’t want pictures or autographs. They just want to say that they saw a film, they left their jobs, left whatever was not working for them and it changed their lives. It’s really incredible.

  • You've been to Calcutta, how's it?

    My favorite thing in Calcutta is food. I think Calcutta is a blessed city and everyone living here is living a charmed life, although they don’t know it. When you complain about traffic and potholes, you should first come to Bombay and see how much worse that is. Secondly, you should relish the food and the tea… there are different kinds of food here. There’s the best Mughlai in the country, the best Chinese in the country and, of course, the best Bengali food and sweets in the country.

  • When a film does not do well. Does the criticism affect you as a writer, producer or director?

    I am always questioning my craft. And this (Jab Harry Met Sejal) is not the first or the last failure or disappointment I am going to have in my life. And this is something I genuinely mean when I say that I have gained more from my failures than my successes. There is only that much pain that actually hits me when I realise that something has fallen short of expectations. But, it doesn't devastate me. After a film is being made, I don't calculate it. I don't go with finding out what went right or what went wrong. I let it go. If the experience has to teach me something, it will. I make every film with the same passion whether it be Harry Met Sejal or Rockstar.

  • You are rightly called the 'romantic movies king'. Do you like this title that has been given to you?

    The reason I am making a certain movie is not because it is a safe thing to do and people will like it. I am doing it because I like it. I want to make movies which comes from my heart. Of course if someone says that they liked the film I have made, then I will feel happy about it. But I don't want to be trapped by the image of a certain type of director.' 'Sometimes, people say why don't you make Jab We Met or Rockstar. Make that kind of film na.. But I think this is not why I came from Jamshedpur. I came for my interest and I should continue with that.

  • A lot of promising directors have lost their way to the lure of big banners. Aren’t you afraid of compromises, now that you are a established name?

    I want you to convey this on record. No matter how important marketing and publicity have become, it can never replace the product. I maybe calling my movie a product but none of this matters in how popular the film will eventually be. It's just a part of the exercise. The longevity of my movie in public memory doesn't depend on publicity.

  • How do you think the Bollywood industry needs to change given the changing times?

    I feel it should be more democratic. The Indian film industry should have more open gates… Really speaking, the industry is a reflection of what people want in movies. People, as such, should start watching movies that are exciting for their subject and the talent used rather than relying on ‘names’. That will make the film industry have more talented individuals working here. I feel that India has a greater depth of talent, than what is reflected in the film industry. The film industry should also make the effort to reach the corners of the country to bring out the best talent available. Digital platforms have helped. The audience is leading the film industry they are watching versatile films of higher calibres. They don’t have to restrict themselves to the Indian film industry while watching movies. This has given impetus to the fraternity to be more of itself and refined in its communication.

  • From Abhay Deol to Sara Ali Khan, you’ve worked with several newcomers over the years. How challenging is it to mould new actors?

    I have worked with new actors all my life in the theatre. I began working as a director really when I was in school and directing my friends in school plays. I have always been working with new actors who are not trained. Of course, even then it was my choice to pick up those actors who had the interest and potential which I continue to do now. It’s always interesting to work with actors that don’t think they know what to do. There is this certain pre-rolling nature that all of us have in life because we are just ‘being’ rather than ‘acting’ or ‘pretending’. As such, similar quality can be achieved by new actors with ease. I feel good working with newcomers. Recently, I worked with Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan and these two were extremely devoted. They were in complete surrender mode and one thing common between them is that they had the great awesome emotional energy. Even if they have been times they were completely emotionally drained, I would ask them to change something and go back… Which they would do again without hesitation. Sometimes they would even suggest it. In this movie, there were many scenes which were emotionally devouring. I was extremely impressed by their patience and emotional perseverance and by the fact that they were fresh and inspiring.

  • Tamasha initially seemed like a typical Bollywood love story whilst Laila Majnu’s story is legendary. How do you present a fresh angle in the conventional stories each time?

    Maybe it’s because I am uneducated in the subject of cinema and haven’t studied it at all. I have enjoyed watching movies and there was a time where I used to watch a lot of them. However, it’s not like I used to watch films to study them. Therefore, I’m compelled to make only those films/stories that I think of. I can only make them in a way that I can or know. So whilst writing a story, I am not even aware of how other stories are and whether I should be different from them. If at all, I have tried to belong to the norm of making movies. But because I was never educated in cinema, I could not really belong to the ‘norm’ and was somebody who breaks a mould… It’s not by design.

  • Punjab seems to form pivotal backdrops in your films. Why is that?

    It’s not as though I’m from Punjab. I have been raised in a very cosmopolitan environment but I have been aware of Punjabi culture. I travelled a lot to Punjab while I was at college and then repeatedly. But I sense a certain type of depth and vibrancy in that culture that these two co-exist. There are great profundity and great vivacity in everything. I feel the soil in Punjab is special and this is my later discovery. But after Highway, while I travelled those parts of Punjab, near the border of India and Pakistan a lot, I realised that place is infested with people and lives that have been extremely spiritual. Which is why all love stories of India basically are love stories of Punjab… Any noteworthy story that you’ve heard of whether it’s Heer-Ranjha, Soni-Mahiwal or Mirza-Sahibaan, all of them are Punjabi love stories. There is so much spiritual writing that comes from there, there are so many saints and fakirs (like Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah). These are not people who were heavy philosophers, they were people who were also very vibrant. Punjab has gone through so much. A lot of blood has been shed on that land that it is has somehow made that land more fertile. So that presence of that profundity and the vivacity at the same point, I think, is subconsciously what drew me towards it. Now I realise it, some of the most popular references from Punjabi bolis (songs) are very profound and philosophical… That is why it runs so much. For example, “Main Nai Boldi Boldi, Main Nai Boldi, Mere Te Mera Yaar Bolda”. The song highlights that “it is not me saying this, it is my beloved who is speaking from within”. That is ‘tappa’ which is so famous in Punjab but it is so deep.

  • It is admirable to see the prominent referencing of Rumi in your work. What role do his ideologies and words play in your life?

    It’s not as though I was a scholar of Rumi’s life or even aware of what he had written. Only during the making of Rockstar where a lot of people, coincidentally, sent me content written by Rumi. I found a huge echo of what I was doing in the film through Rumi’s writing. That was pretty coincidental and eerie… It was almost as though whatever I was thinking, Rumi had already been there and mentioned something which was useful for me to reference as an inspiration. There are more references in Rockstar, than we know – especially in the songs and dialogues. He has really shaped the film. But prior to the movie, I was hardly even aware of Rumi. But his work is universal. For instance, if you take the quote “what you seek is seeking you” and put it on top of Jab We Met, it will be equally valid. At that point, I didn’t hear this. There are many things that have come co-incidentally. Since we’re talking about philosophy, I have been greatly influenced (especially in the last 5 years or so) that the Sufi philosophy is not only similar to the Geeta but is exactly the same. There is no difference. What Rumi writes is what Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Geeta… There are so many things that are similar. I read the Geeta very early on in my life and I brought it to interest people in how profound and deep I was. Sufi dictum says the same thing, if I see what Buddhism says, it’s pretty much the same thing. Actually, it’s always the same story. Even if you look at Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poetry or any other philosophical texts and anybody who is of significance, it will point in the same direction. It’s not important to have experienced one philosophy or the other. To have a disposition that you are involved with a deeper thought brings you to the same thing.

  • The films often showcase two damaged souls attempting to heal each other through a journey. How much of this is drawn from your personal life?

    Almost any incident depicted in the film has not really occurred with me. For instance, my father not stop me or compel me to become an engineer against my wishes. It’s not as though I couldn’t get married to the girl I wanted. Having said that some thoughts and ideas are referenced from my life like when I was younger than Janardhan Jakhar (from Rockstar), I believed that “my life is so ordinary, how will I make it extraordinary?” I was perturbed by the thought that it’s only pain that gives you real significance in life. Many times, I have hoped that I miss my train with a beautiful girl but that has not really happened (laughs). I’m supposed to be very lucky on that respect. When growing up and travelled to college etc, my friends would try to come and sit where my berth was because inevitably the most beautiful girl on the train would be close by. It was always a coincidental thing but I hoped that I would miss the train with her… But that never happened. Sometimes your films are more personal to you than your own life. The fact that I’ve had a series of incidents in my life does not make those things more personal to me. Those are just incidents that happened and whilst I did face a similar dilemma like Ranbir’s character in Tamasha, the circumstances at that point in my life were completely different. My priorities were different too. Like the child in Tamasha, I have grown up around stories and thinking of things that didn’t exist, etc so the pre-disquisition was the same but conditions in life were not the same as I was not stopped from doing what I wanted to. Perhaps it’s something to think about… If those things did not happen and if my father wasn’t the supporting type, then what would it have been like?

  • Your movies showcase characters on a particular journey. As a filmmaker, what do you discover about yourself before, during and after a project?

    Every time I watch my films, I really feel as though I’ve exposed myself and hope that nobody else gets it. Those (journies) are not incidents in my life. I don’t write anything autobiographical but there are certain ideas and thoughts which express themselves. Those are things I don’t really tell people about but are expressed in the movies. While making a film, there are different times where it strikes me that I have ended up, without my permission, things that I have either encountered or hoped to have in my life. During writing or shootings, sometimes it really hits me so I exclaim loudly and the actor knows what happened. Even edits during the background scores, I realize that I have a certain stain or a taint on a character because of certain aspects that are personal. With each film, you discover different aspects of yourself at different times.

  • There is always a profound and philosophical touch in all of your films. What drives your vision as a storyteller?

    I think it’s the things that I see around me and the people that I meet. I have this pre-condition that I begin to imagine incidents, accidents and relationships around those people. Soon enough it becomes fictional out of control by me and starts to come to a point where like an infection wants to come out and that’s when the story/film is made. As for the profound and philosophical aspect, I try not to have anything like that in my films… It’s just that I feel stories should be there for entertainment purposes rather than moral science or education. My perspective carries what I enjoy the most. Everything has a basis in life, but one has to go deeper.

  • While writing a film, do you get inspired by your own life or is it mostly observation?

    Sometimes it’s some experiences you’ve had, mixed with other people’s experiences mixed with imagination. Imagination is the large part of it. Sometimes even to tell you my real story I’ll use a little imagination so that it makes sense to you… because there is a lot of randomness in between.

  • What does success mean to you?

    I don’t feel any different from before. It’s not as though success, like a new car or a new house, has come and changed anything. It’s not as though it gives me some sort of entitlement or anything of that sort. Music has always played a crucial role in your films. What do you keep in mind during the song selection process for it to seamlessly blend with the narrative? I just feel that I should enjoy the process of making music a lot. The songs, the tunes and melody that I enjoy the most... those are the ones I go for. Since I am the writer and the director, during the music sitting, I carry the film with me. I’m writing and thinking all the time.

  • You’ve seen highs with films like Jab We Met and lows with others like Jab Harry Met Sejal. How do you handle the crests and troughs?

    By the time you’ve finished one film, you’re already thinking about another story. It takes care of you emotionally because you’re already ahead of it. If a filmmaker cares for the money the film earns, and I do as well, it matters… but the kind of emotional attachment that a person has to a movie luckily gets over when I finish making it.

  • Has it happened the other way, where a fan anecdote has left you introspecting as a filmmaker?

    After Tamasha, the first show that I went to watch was at a single screen at night. There were people who weren’t really getting it that much but still, since they saw me, they were praising the film. This was in the stalls of Chandan Cinema in Juhu (Mumbai) and a group of people came out and stood around me discussing it and generally taking pictures. And I saw a lady, not a young lady, she was around my age… she walked up to me after a while and just said, ‘You should’ve made this film earlier. It’s too late now’. And she just walked away. I can’t get rid of that memory because it seemed like she wanted to say, ‘Almost 20 years back, wish I could change the course of my life.’ Tamasha, Rockstar and Highway always garner very strong reactions.

  • Have people told you that your films have changed their lives?

    Yeah, yeah. Especially after Tamasha, a lot of people…. If I’m in a public space, every day I get people who come out of their cars, leave what they are doing and say this. And they don’t want pictures or autographs. They just want to say that they saw a film, they left their jobs, left whatever was not working for them and it changed their lives. It’s really incredible.

  • Is the heavy growth in digital world bad for the hindi film industry?

  • Do you think it is difficult to differentiate between a good film and a hit film in bollywood?

  • Do you feel pestered in kind of the load of expectations that you have through audiences, does it come in way of your craft in some way?

  • What should be the approach of casting and filmmaking?

  • How do you think cinema is perceived in small towns?

  • How was it for you when you broke into direction with 'Socha Na Tha'?

  • How was the experience of making the digital series She?

  • Do you get anxious with the process of filmmaking?

  • What piece of advice would you like to give to the aspiring directors out there?

  • What change would you like to do in the hindi film industry?

  • What is that you take away from failures?

  • How did you enter into the film Industry?

  • What keeps you inspired to make more movies?

  • What keeps you inspired to make more movies?

  • What do you do when an actor comes in and his vision or idea hampers the narratives?

  • How do you direct your actors to get desired performance that you want?

  • How was the process of learning camera angles?

  • What are the advantages or disadvantages of not taking any training in film direction?

  • What did you learn from the failure of 'Jab Harry Met Sejal'?

  • When you sit down to write a story is your first instinct always romance?

  • Why do you think your cinema have an extreme reactions from the audiences?