Train Blazer

03-min

Imtiaz Ali likes to draw references in his cinema from his train voyages. The ace film-maker tells us how the Railways has shaped up his vision

Looking outside the window is one of the best experiences of a train journey. The moving wheels with a kaleidoscopic view of India make you want to travel to places you have only dreamt of. The childhood memories of ace film-maker, writer and actor Imtiaz Ali are made up of all of these.

He remembers fondly how he would never disclose his identity to fellow-passengers while travelling on a train. For him, it was an opportunity to be someone he could not be otherwise. “Once, I told somebody on the train that I was going to the other city to kill

my girlfriend because she dumped me. The other guy was shocked. He thought he was sitting with a psychopath and a potential murderer,” he quipped, the glee written all over his face. It clearly showed how much he loved talking about rail journeys.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have been travelling by train. I have loved each of my travels and have learnt a lot from my experiences. As a kid, I would often look outside the window and imagine myself running along the tracks. I would imagine that the person sitting inside the train was a fictional character and the one running along the tracks was real,” he said.

Looking outside the window is one of the best experiences of a train journey. The moving wheels with a kaleidoscopic view of India make you want to travel to places you have only dreamt of. The childhood memories of ace film-maker, writer and actor Imtiaz Ali are made up of all of these.

He remembers fondly how he would never disclose his identity to fellow-passengers while travelling on a train. For him, it was an opportunity to be someone he could not be otherwise. “Once, I told somebody on the train that I was going to the other city to kill

my girlfriend because she dumped me. The other guy was shocked. He thought he was sitting with a psychopath and a potential murderer,” he quipped, the glee written all over his face. It clearly showed how much he loved talking about rail journeys.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have been travelling by train. I have loved each of my travels and have learnt a lot from my experiences. As a kid, I would often look outside the window and imagine myself running along the tracks. I would imagine that the person sitting inside the train was a fictional character and the one running along the tracks was real,” he said.

FOOT NOTE

Born in Darbhanga, the cultural capital of Bihar, Imtiaz Ali made his directorial debut with Socha Na Tha. It was Jab We Met in 2007 that helped him earn critical appreciation and taste commercial success. Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar, Highway and Tamasha

 For Imtiaz, trains are a great leveller. He believes he gets a perspective each time he travels by train

You have to watch Tamasha to get a better understanding of how the director weaves his train experiences into his cinematic vision. Ranbir Kapoor, the lead actor in the film, is caught up with his monotonous life. When he travels to an exotic island, he becomes a different person altogether and finds his muse in Deepika Padukone.

The intensity of the emotions expressed by the characters and their belief in their imagination stems from Imtiaz’s own experiences. “For me, it was a hobby to entertain myself in trains. I found it really boring to be the same guy forever. So trains were a perfect platform to sport different identities and enthral other passengers,” Imtiaz told us, before sharing another anecdote. “Once, there was an old couple that was trying to dig into my background. I told them I was from secret services and therefore, couldn’t reveal my real name,” he reminisced.

For Imtiaz, trains are a great leveller. “When you travel by an aircraft, you only get to look at the airports, but, when you travel by trains, you get to see the country. You see the audience you make films for. It gives me perspective each time I travel by train. It really opens up my mind,” Imtiaz said.

As a young collegiate, he would often travel out of Jamshedpur (hometown) to Kolkata, Patna and parts of Odisha. Trains were an obvious choice. Ask him to drop names of the trains he travelled by, he immediately flashed, “Tata Patna Express, Gitanjali Express or Ispat Express.” He also travelled a lot by Utkal and Neelachal Tata Amritsar.

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Imtiaz has started writing his next script. Whether or not trains would feature in the script would be known soon

“I was your regular commuter. I have travelled on the footboard, slept next to the bathroom. Once, I made Ammi (mother) and my grandmother board a wrong train. It was a late-night passenger train. And by the time we realised our mistake, the train they were supposed to travel on was ready to leave. I barely managed to get them on board the moving train,” he recalled with a smile.

Imtiaz recently took to the platform to promote Tamasha. He was shocked to see the new clean and modern face of the Indian Railways. “I was very happy and impressed to see that the facilities on the train have really improved. I know it is in nature of people to complain but we should remember the conditions of toilets in trains some 20 years back. It was terrible for women to be on the train. But that has improved so much now,” said the film-maker whose Jab We Met gave us some of the iconic train moments.

Tamasha Movie director & castImtiaz has already started writing his next. Whether or not trains would feature in the script would be known soon. “I will only be able to talk about it once it is finalised,” he said, adding that the story is definitely going to be lighter than Tamasha, which drew mixed response from the audience. But that has not deterred him.

“Sometimes when you don’t get the expected, you say that you didn’t understand it. Those who complained about Tamasha and didn’t enjoy could be because it wasn’t what they expected. There was nothing in it that you couldn’t understand. People thought Tamasha would be light, but they found it loaded. It was not your regular love story. You needed time to understand it,” he explained, adding that he will continue to make films that appeal to his mind and heart, and not for the popular sentiments. We hope that too, Imtiaz!

jab we metMOVIE FACTS

Kareena Kapoor was writer/director Imtiaz Ali’s first choice for Jab We Met. Even though he wasn’t particularly a fan of hers, he knew she would be able to look natural without makeup, be hyper, talkative and interesting without being irritating.

As part of Jab We Met’s promotion, the producers painted two full local trains in Mumbai, from the Western and Central lines, with imagery from the film, and got Shahid Kapoor there to chat with fellow passengers and inform them about the movie.

The title Jab We Met was decided by popular vote. The other choices were ‘Punjab Mail’ and ‘Ishq Via Bhatinda’. For Tamasha, the team was considering the title ‘Window Seat’.


Written by :
Karan Bhardwaj

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