By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Nov 6 (IANS) Director Imtiaz Ali, whose romantic comedy "Jab We Met" has made a mark at the box office, denies reports that he will direct a film to be produced by Saif Ali Khan on the recommendation of Kareena Kapoor.
"That's totally untrue. Saif and I have been in talks about a possible project long before Kareena and 'Jab We Met' came my way. It's one among the many projects that Saif's production house is looking at," Imtiaz told IANS.
The director says he was so busy with his second film after "Socha Naa Tha" that he didn't pay any attention to the media uproar about the real life split between his lead pair Kareena and Shahid Kapur. "Frankly, I've been too obsessed with my film to see what's been happening. Any kind of bitterness between two people is better left to be sorted out between them."
While Shahid and Kareena are shown as falling in love in "Jab We Met", the opposite happened in real life. Kareena is also rumoured to be dating Saif.
"The audience is aware of what's happening. Rather than take away from the onscreen chemistry the off-screen happenings might add another dimension to the goings-on in my film.
"Honestly, I don't see the Kareena-Shahid angle making any difference to the ticket counters. People are smart enough to know they can get their gossip free of charge on any news channel. Why pay Rs.250 to see the lead pair for behind-the-scenes gossip? They'll go if the film excites them.
"If you make a sincere film, the work should speak for you. I guess the good old days of the product being the star is over. But I still believe if you make a good film, you get your audience. If you don't nothing helps."
The film took Imtiaz to various parts of the country.
"That was the nature of the plot. It couldn't have been made in artificial spaces. For example, I needed to shoot the couple at the Himalayas. How can I get that in a studio? We went to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan. While the protagonists discover places in the world and within themselves, so did I.
"Kareena was sure any location I selected would be at least two hours away from a decent hotel. But she was willing to slum it out. Shahid and Kareena were really motivated. If they weren't willing to get out of their comfort zone, I'd have scrapped the film."
Another difficult aspect was that the film was shot in sync-sound.
"We shot at places that a lot of people haven't seen on the map, and we shot the whole film in one stretch. In some of the places, people hadn't seen a camera!
"We took the locals into confidence, even used them in the shooting. My assistant directors had to tutor them about the camera. That kept them happy. When you're shooting outdoors you've to create the right vibes. Everywhere in Punjab we created positive vibes. Yes, at times things got a little rough, as it did at the Kullu bus stand where we had to flee."
Thanks to "Jab We Met", Imtiaz has become addicted to the outdoors.
"I like travelling a lot. And this script was born out my love for travel. There're so many stories about people falling in love during travel.
"But my film is not like 'Roman Holiday', 'It Happened One Night' or a 'Walk In The Clouds'. I'm fiercely opposed to seeking inspiration from extraneous sources. Many times I've been asked to copy from foreign films. I refused. If two years after 'Socha Naa Tha' I'm appreciated for another original screenplay, my day is made."
As for the music it all happened on the phone.
"Pritam was getting married while I was travelling. I left the decision about the tunes to Pritam. He kept sending tunes. Changing his mind, sending an alternative tune."
Imitiaz feels he has come a long way since his debut film "Socha Naa Tha".
"There're lots of stories swimming in my head. Yes, my first film was relatively small. But now after 'Jab We Met', I don't intend to make 'big' films only. It all depends on the size of the vision. Besides, I want to see what happens to 'Jab We Met' before going on. I don't mind waiting for a few months."
Tell him you don't like the title and he laughs. "Well, I hated the title 'Socha Naa Tha'. But I like 'Jab We Met'."
Any regrets about abandoning pal Abhay Deol whom he launched in "Socha Naa Tha"?
"No, Abhay is very much a part of my life. He had promised that at the premiere of "Jab We Met" he'd stand next to me totally drunk because now that he's playing 'Devdas' he has the licence to get sozzled."
Imtiaz was supposed to make a film with Sunny Deol.
"That didn't materialise. My loss. Sunny is the man who brought me into movies."