This face isn’t familiar. The name vaguely rings a bell. But his filmography, which includes roles as director, writer, editor and actor, is made of films that are deliberately “different” and remarkable for the stories they spun, if not for box-office returns.
From the romance of Socha Na Tha, in which he debuted as director in 2004 to the strong storyline of Ahista Ahista, which evaporated from theatres faster than people could recognize Ali’s writing talent, and his dramatic turn as Yakub Memon in Black Friday, he has made plenty of stops in Bollywood. His latest directorial venture, Jab We Met, is a seemingly simple tale about the misadventures of a boy (Shahid Kapoor) and a girl (Kareena Kapoor), who meet during a journey. “I’m a sucker for travel because you meet interesting people and form intense relationships for a short period of time,” says Ali. But unlike real life, Ali promises that “incomplete reality will fulfil itself in fiction”.
Though he claims he’s not genre-specific, his work attests to a penchant for emotions and, in particular, for love. So, we asked the two-time director which stories inspired, improved and instructed his take on love.
The Woman Next Door (1981): This film directed by François Truffaut shows you just how complicated human relationships can be. Two people who had a tempestuous past and are now married to other people, become neighbours. The story is like that U2 song, ‘With or Without You’.
Malena (2000): The great thing about this story was that the love was never stated. It’s the tale of a young boy’s love for an older woman, a widow, whom he speaks to only once, and then too not to state how he feels. She is the greatest influence on his life; and he goes through this romance at an age when he didn’t even know what romance was. I saw the film in my 20s, but I could remember when I felt like him—a man in a woman’s life but you’re not even a man yet.
Sholay (1975): The plot line between Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan’s characters in the movie is enticing because there’s no interaction between the two. Back then, falling for a widow was a big deal. A woman who has already lost one man she loved, now flutters for another man, but is silent about it and watches quietly while the rest of the story unfolds. She only shows her affection when he’s dying, when she breaks from convention and runs towards him: It’s a compelling, romantic moment. Especially because it’s the last thing he sees before dying.
In the Mood for Love (2000): A man and a woman who understand each other better than the people they’re married to. But they never take their relationship to its natural conclusion or explore it further. The magnificence of the parcel is maintained because they never open it for fear of making it ordinary.
Before Sunrise (1995):The couple in this film constantly dismiss romanticism; they want no melodrama; they feel there’s no place for that in their lives. They don’t want to make their relationship ordinary; they know that the rush they feel now will fade away. They have seen too many films and read too many novels to believe in love’s capacity to last. Both the characters are followers of the modern logic that the journey is better than the destination. But as their night together progresses, in various ways, the two do precisely what they promised to avoid—fall in love.
Jab We Met released in theatres yesterday