Love is the leitmotif of the conversation as filmmaker Imtiaz Ali reflects on why the timeless story of Laila Majnu compelled him to retell, recreate and reimagine it. This time, he is the writer while his brother Sajid Ali is directing the film. “I didn’t want to direct it for the simple reason that I wanted to keep the characters of my earlier films out of Laila Majnu and wanted a fresh approach of someone who hadn’t directed a love story before and Sajid was ready for this,” says Imtiaz. The film released yesterday.
Talking of love, it’s Punjab which first comes to the director’s mind as he talks of his deep connection with the state since his film Jab We Met, describing it as some blessing or mehar that made him understand the fabric of Punjab and the deep sense of spirituality that one experiences in the fertile land of five rivers. “The poetry reverberates and I feel every love story of India is the story of Punjab, and even in Rockstar there were glimpses of Heer Ranjha,” says Imtiaz, in Chandigarh for the promotion of the film.
Laila Majnu is set in contemporary times and Imtiaz describes it as a huge responsibility. “The story has been travelling for a thousand years and is probably the most famous love story. We wanted new actors to give the story a new feel and dimension,” adds Imtiaz, introducing the lead actors in the film Avinash Tiwary and Tripti Dimri. Sajid agrees that the screenplay is one of the most important parts of the film.
The film is shot in Kashmir. Imitaz says Kashmir seemed the ideal place because it has an idyllic air of a place lost in time. Describing it as an “unapologetic love story” Imtiaz says filmmaking for him is an act of passion and he tries not to let the economics of filmmaking get him down. “You have to trust your vision and we have to remember that movies are permanent. You have to constantly define your work and not calculate all the time. It has to be about love,” he adds.