Ever since Imtiaz Ali popularised Kareena Kapoor as Geet in Jab We Met, female actors, in particular, have looked to him for that one memorable role of a lifetime.
You started out as a director in 2005 and are now among the top directors in Hindi cinema. Was this the plan?
There was no plan. When I started out in Jamshedpur with theatre, I knew I wanted to do something related to media. I didn’t want to do engineering, which my friends ended up doing. But at the time, there was no way of even dreaming that one would be a film director.
At 21, you directed a television show. Did you have to struggle or did one thing follow the other?
Miraculously, I’ve never been in a situation where there is no bread on the table. It should have happened because I didn’t really plan these things. I didn’t really think about where the next meal was going to come from. Even now, I don’t. There is somebody who is just carrying this whole thing on. I did a course in advertising thinking that I will get a job. Ironically, that didn’t happen. The job I got after one year of trying was in television as a production assistant, which was really the job of a delivery boy for tapes in Zee TV. Kunal Kohli was the guy who brought me into Zee TV. I still call him sir and it pisses him off.
What do you take away from failure?
I feel failure gives you more than success in the long term. I have known that and have been the recipient of what failure can give you earlier in life. I didn’t get a job in advertising, and was facing failure every day for a year and now I shudder to think what might have happened had I gotten into advertising. Even though my films didn’t do well or as well as I might have wanted them to, I thought it would make me stronger in some way, or change things for the better.
I believe you still watch your movies in the theatre.
Watching Highway in a single screen theatre, at Gaiety, in the stalls can really kill your ego but you do that. And it’s thrilling. It’s not only to get praise that one makes movies. You get insight into yourself, your work and people. I really enjoy that because there are all kinds of subliminal, subconscious learnings that comes from that.
Do you think your daughter Ida will benefit from your position in the film industry?
With everything that comes with being an industry kid, being the father of an industry kid is not something that makes me particularly happy. Because I know for a fact that it won’t stand her in any stead. The only advantage that she might have is that her steps might fall on the right terrain but aside of that, the chances of success or failure will not be determined by the fact that she has anything to do with anybody in the film industry.
What is your indulgence after reaching this level of success?
Tea. It’s an indulgence because it has nothing to do with the level of success or anything, but what I have become is very refined about my taste in tea. I get it from Darjeeling, from certain estates and I’ve made friends with those guys to make sure that the best quality tea comes to me. I do carry the tea I drink everywhere in the world and all of that. That’s my only indulgence. I carry my own tea, make my own tea and piss off everyone at the hotel.