Six years of Rockstar: Imtiaz Ali decodes the unsettled feeling between Jordan and Heer

As the romantic-drama Rockstar, considered among Imtiaz Ali's most profound works, completes six years today, indianexpress.com talks to the writer-director about the film that changed him completely.

Written by Priyanka Sharma | Mumbai | Published:November 11, 2017 3:44 pm
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“Away.. Beyond the concepts of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” The Rumi quote opens and ends the love story that Rockstar is but a conversation with its creator, Imtiaz Ali, makes you realise that it weirdly, also, sums up the film. As the romantic-drama, considered among Ali’s most profound works, completes six years today, indianexpress.com talks to the writer-director about the film that changed him completely.

Q. How are Jordan and Heer right now?

Well… Heer is trying to get into a re-birth situation and Jordan has left music. He works as a manual labour in some Palm-land factory (laughs).

Q. From the story point of view, I think they must be together today. Of course, Heer is not alive, but the way the film ended with both of them in an alternate universe, I feel he is with her.

I don’t feel they are together. Jordan is still alive, so, in physical form they are not together.

Q. So, how does he keep her alive with him? Through music?

I feel the kind of person Jordan is, he is trying to push it away. He is not making music. In fact, there is hardly anyone, who knows who he was or what he did. He has completely changed himself and now lives a life, which is totally bereft of music. No one living with him would now believe that this guy had anything to do with music.

Q. Do you think this was one film, which left you feeling heavy as its writer?

Yeah. I feel that this wasn’t intended really but it became very angst-ridden. It became very involving, for me personally. I got more emotionally involved in this film than any other film that I have done. I am sure the audience left feeling heavy because there was something, which was unresolved and yet something that you could feel. The film wasn’t perfect but certain feelings that it aroused were very genuine.

Q. Which was the point while making the film when you realised you were becoming emotionally involved with it?

I realised changes within myself. After every interval while making Rockstar, anybody who met me was amazed at how much weight I had lost. Just that, a simple thing. I couldn’t believe. I was eating a lot, everything was normal but somehow, I was losing a lot of weight. That was one of the things I was surprised by. Every film you make, you do involve yourself but this film took kilos of my weight away!

Q. You are right when you say that the audience left feeling heavy because it is actually difficult to detach from the world of Heer and Jordan…

(Interrupts) I will tell you something about the first question you asked me that if they are together right now. So, they, in my mind, are not but the angst is. The feeling of being dissatisfied and unsettled about certain feelings they have for each other, that feeling is this. Sometimes, that feeling is the important feeling for the survival of the two people, like a relationship survives on that feeling, not their physical proximity or absence.

In that way, that thing you feel is alive (between them). They are not together. They were never together in the film, they were never comfortable in the same space. It wasn’t that they were together earlier and then parted ways. That feeling has survived, which has made him say, ‘I will not make music anymore.’ That’s why he never did music again. This is a relationship, staying together is not a relationship. Like, there’s a line that Irshad (Kamil) had written, ‘Sab poora hoke khatam hua, jo aadha hai woh baaki hai.’

Q. How did Janardhan Jakhad happen to you? And how did he change to Jordan?

One thing about him is that he is non-cerebral. He doesn’t think. Nothing is logical in his life and in the film. So, if a person doesn’t think, he is pretty animalistic. Like, he doesn’t understand the do’s and don’t’s so, he is always at odds with whatever is going on. He is never really falling in line. Not falling in line is a very Rockstar Jordan feature but this idiot (Janardhan Jakhad) does not fall in line because he doesn’t have the brain to understand that he needs to. That’s why he comes across as a rockstar, that’s why he, genuinely, is opposed to anything that’s happening. He doesn’t understand why.

There was a lot of criticism against the film and I don’t have an answer for it. I don’t know why he sang ‘Sadda Haq, Aaithe Rakh’. Why the hell would it matter to him? What did he know about what was going on in the world? He did not. So, the point is he is stupid and he can’t think. He is wild, and not contained or domesticated like any fashioned or artificial performer. That’s what attracts you to him.

Q. Have you met people like him?

Yeah, I have met people like him in Delhi. I met a lot of people, who were of the same intellectual level as Jordan. I haven’t seen anyone of them transforming into how Jordan became in life. That was pure imagination.

Q. In an interview a few years ago, you said that among the various love stories you have made, Love Aaj Kal is the truest one. So, where does Rockstar fit in?

Rockstar is in a world of its own. It is difficult to put it into a genre. It is not a love story because it is not about getting the two people together. It is about some other development that happens as a result of these two people. I think it’s not a well-balanced love story. It’s more to do with the birth of a different talent, entity.

Q. I have observed that whenever the two characters in your films talk about love, they never address it as ‘love’, they always talk about a ‘certain feeling’ without calling it love. Why is that so?

Yeah, that happens. Somebody, who belong to a set of people, who just follow instructions without thinking about it, can say, ‘I love this person.’ But if you think about it, you will realise that if you love different people in life, you still have different feelings towards them, then how do you define this word called love. So, obviously, you feel different love for different people at different times. So, saying it does not communicate the same thing.

What happens sometimes is that you challenge something, you accept the fact that you don’t know the answer and therefore comes across as confused, which often my characters are supposed to be. But if you don’t challenge anything and you are blind then you will say, ‘I love this girl.’ If you open your eyes, there will be questions that’s what happened to these people (his characters). Love is such an oft-used word that doesn’t communicate anything special.

Q. What has been the biggest takeaway for you from Rockstar? Have you been able to look at it from a distance now after six years or you still involved with it?

I would be involved with it somewhere but I don’t think about it. The take-way is really that it is such an illogical thing, nothing is moving with logic in that film but I feel it’s okay because as long as you feel things, there’s no right or wrong in filmmaking. There’s no particular procedure as to how you write. So, if it happens this way, that you don’t understand the why but you feel it is right then it’s right. That’s what I understood from Rockstar, from the experience.

Q. Personally, the film made me a lot freer in how I looked at my relationships. Did people come to you after watching it with similar sentiments?

Some people did. I don’t know if I had a similar experience about myself while making it. While working on it, often times you come across difficulties of your own life, like possibilities in your own personality and that is when you discover new horizons. Maybe my relationship with Rockstar was also in a way similar to those, who felt they were set free in some way. I think so. I think I changed while making the film. The experience of making Rockstar must have changed me the most.

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