Imtiaz Ali's Intertwined Universe of Emotions

Imtiaz Ali’s film universe’s are more than often at extremes. They are complex. His characters’ emotions and mental states are at extremes and probably that is why it works so well in the audience.

For someone who’s been in love with the way Bollywood has created and instilled the concept of true love, longing and passion, Imtiaz Ali’s films are always a mile beyond the conventional standards of bollywood films. From movies like Rockstar, Jab We Met, to Tamasha and Chamkila and all the others in between, His films fill your heart with a mix of emotions. 

I remember watching Laila Majnu and the only thought that crossed my mind was that it was overwhelming, to not feel loved the way Laila was or to never have felt love as strongly and passionately as Majnu did.

And then, a while back, I watched the film Chamkila, and even though it was based on the life of musician Amar Singh Chamkila, the movie had a life of its own. It had emotions that people would not usually go through while watching a movie. 

Imtiaz Ali’s film universe’s are more than often at extremes. They are complex. His characters’ emotions and mental states are at extremes and probably that is why it works so well in the audience. Because don’t we all wish to feel our emotions that deeply, don’t we all wish to live in love and die with the pain of our heartbreaks, don’t we all want to believe that a failed lovestory is the end of the world but the practicality of this world has had us believing that it is not.

As an Auteur, Imtiaz Ali has created some of the most defining moments in the history of Indian Cinema and oddly these moments resonate with people across generations and various different walks of life alike.

You know the instant urge to travel to some place, unknown, and unwittingly stumble upon your soulmate, to channel the wild optimism of his wide-eyed main characters who wish to live their lives on their own terms or to reflect on heartache for years altogether and so much so that it drives you mad(quite literally) or to experience love in all its shades. Over the years, it’s easy to see the themes that run through all his movies.

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The Theme of Longing

Most of the time, the themes of his films are interconnected, with his characters experiencing very real and yet unexplainable emotions. However, If there’s one overarching feeling that sits within your heart after experiencing an Imtiaz Ali film, it’s most likely the desperate yearning. The heart breaking longing for one’s beloved is very evident across all of his masterpieces and despite the fact that his films are “only fictional,” it never fails to resonate with the audience because somewhere deep down, everybody, even in their very real lives, are longing to be with their loved ones. It’s simple yet poetic how Imtiaz Ali picks up the most basic nuances of the daily lives of the people and places them in the distinct bollywood fashion, so as to draw closer attention from the people and connect with their lives.

None of us would ever notice how increasingly affectionate we become when we meet our beloved after a long time apart but his film’s tend to pull your attention when their characters go through something similar and it is in those moments that they unravel the extent of their romantic feelings. 

His characters feel all the things we feel everyday, the love, the hurt, the heartbreak, the longing and yet his characters are allowed the space to feel those emotions intensely, while we, in the real world, are taught to move on from our pain because life doesn’t stop for a heartbreak, we are taught to love in a balanced proportion, not too much but not too little. We are taught to forget or not think about it when the longing for our loved ones becomes excrusciatingly painful but his characters experience the imbalance of life, the unfair nature of this world and yet they have the space to dwell in it, make it out of it or put an end to it. Most of us would say we have that option too but is that even true?

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The Theme of Escapism

When I first started watching Imtiaz Ali productions, the only thing that came to my mind was that they were unreal. No individual in real life feels as extreme as his characters do, the urge to run away, to escape the harsh realities and problems of life, none of us feel that way, until I really did feel that way. 

It wasn’t until I wanted to run away to a foreign country, change my identity and live someone else’s life for a few days, at the very least, that I understood where Ved from Tamasha came from and why he couldn’t follow his dream when he wanted to and why his real life felt like a trap to him. It was then that I realised that it wasn’t extreme, it was human. In fact, Even if his characters did feel everything at extremes, that was probably because we all did and the only reason why people across the country or even beyond, who watch his films end up getting attached to his characters is because they’re allowed to feel that way and we are not. We’ve always been told that feeling anything too deeply is harmful for us while Imtiaz Ali’s characters act on how they feel and live with it and eventually die with it, either it is their love, heartbreak, or self discovery. They are allowed to make decisions and even  mistakes that can alter their life, change the course of their journey and yet not be penalised for it. They’re not held back by the expectations that the world has from them, They’re allowed to follow dreams and live a life that most of us wish to live. Most of us relate to his characters when they’re out travelling because they are not looking for luxury but they’re looking for themselves and they are allowed that freedom and somewhere, in our hearts, we wish for that too. They’re looking for places where they can find themselves and truly be who they’ve always been, just like us and their stories and fates might be different but the intent is similar to ours.

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