Most of his films have shades of "Laila Majnu", says director Imtiaz Ail who believes the age-old folktale of star-crossed lovers is as immortal as the writings of Shakespeare.
The story had always been familiar but Imtiaz said he found details he didn't know while reading it in an anthology of love stories, propelling him to write some scenes that eventually became a full-fledged film.
While reading it, I had this feeling that the characters were similar. It is something that you often get with Shakespeare. You feel he is talking about your emotions. I wrote some of the scenes and subconsciously placed those scenes in Kashmir, he said during a visit to the PTI office this week.
"Laila Majnu", a modern-day adaptation of the legendary story, is co-produced and co-written by Imtiaz. Directed by his younger brother Sajid Ali and starring newcomers Avinash Tiwary and Tripti Dimri, the film released Friday.
There was a thought to make a film on this but I did not want to direct it because I felt there are shades of Laila and Majnu in the work that I have already done. And if I make it, it would look like I am repeating myself. But I was interested to see how someone who is younger, fresher and has not done love stories approaches it, Imtiaz said, explaining why he didn't direct the film.
The "Jab We Met" and "Rockstar" director, who is known for his mastery on modern relationships, said he was concerned that the core spirit of the story may get lost in translation.
There is something precious at the heart of Laila Majnu'. It's very difficult to translate it in a commercial Hindi cinema and we wanted the film to be for everyone and not for an exclusive club, so that was difficult. You have to put it as simply as possible but it is tough to achieve.
Imtiaz, who has co-produced the film with Balaji Motion Pictures, said he and brother Sajid also had to agree on how their different versions would merge.
With Sajid and I being directors, we had a very clear vision. Every director thinks that what he's seeing in his mind is the truth. So we both understand it, but you come at each other with the I'm right' thing... with politeness of course, (but) we had to go through that while writing it.
Sajid as director came into the picture much later and was not even the first choice.
His name was suggested by Preeti Ali, Imtiaz's ex-wife.
I had written it and Preeti wanted to produce it, so she spoke to some people. I was also meeting people but things did not work out. She had contacted Balaji Films meanwhile and Ekta (Kapoor) was very happy to do it right from the word go. But we did not have a director for a long time. Finally Preeti said, Why not Sajid'," said Imtiaz.
Imtiaz has often visited Kashmir in his cinema and the picturesque Valley seemed the perfect place to set the story.
It was a subconscious decision. I have been there many times and I have a feeling or understanding of the place. It is a special place, a place which has kind of stopped in time a little bit. It was like, this is the air that Laila Majnu' can breathe.
I did not want to make a drastic change in the storylike Dharavi ke Laila Majnu. So the whole film is set in Kashmir. There is no political conflict but there is a social conflict that you can find anywhere in what you call des'.