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Imtiaz Ali at 53: Look back at the films that shaped Bollywood

From Jab We Met to Rockstar, revisiting Imtiaz Ali’s best films on OTT.

Imtiaz Ali at 53: Look back at the films that shaped Bollywood
Happy Birthday Imtiaz Ali

Last Updated: 12.00 PM, Jun 16, 2024

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On June 16, 2024, the renowned filmmaker Imtiaz Ali turned 53, providing admirers with the ideal chance to rewatch his mesmerising oeuvre. He has directed some of Bollywood's most cherished films, and his unique take on love and human emotions has made him beloved. Ali's films have a profound impact on audiences, whether it's the touching romantic comedy Jab We Met, the moving musical drama Rockstar, or the life-altering road trip Highway. Thanks to the abundance of the filmmaker's works on a variety of OTT platforms, viewers can fully experience his cinematic universe and marvel at the richness and splendour of his stories. This collection showcases Ali's creativity and his contribution to Indian cinema, offering an enriching experience for both long-time fans and newcomers to his work.

Imtiaz Ali films to watch on OTT

Imtihaan (YouTube)

DD National aired the 1995 television series Imtihaan. Anupam Kher produced the show, and Imtiaz Ali, a rookie at the time, directed the later episodes. The cast included Raju Kher, Renuka Shahane, Anang Desai, Sachin Khedekar, Firdaus Dadi, Ninad Kamat, and Manoj Bajpayee. Pallavi Joshi subsequently replaced Renuka Shahane's character. In the series, tragic events befall two close-knit sisters following their father's unexpected passing.

Socha Na Tha (ZEE5 [OTTplay Premium; Prime Video)

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Abhay Deol made his Bollywood debut in the romantic comedy Socha Na Tha, which also features Ayesha Takia in the lead role. Critics have been kind to Imtiaz Ali's directorial debut, which they praised. Despite the boy's compulsion to meet and marry the girl, they become close friends. They don't realise they're in love until they commit to other people.

Jab We Met (ShemarooMe [OTTplay Premium; Lionsgate Play [OTTplay Premium]; JioCinema; Prime Video)

Imtiaz Ali wrote and directed the 2007 romantic comedy Jab We Met, starring Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, with Tarun Arora, Saumya Tandon, and Dara Singh rounding out the supporting cast. Set mostly in Mumbai, Bhatinda, and Shimla, the film follows devastated businessman Aditya Kashyap as he meets Geet Dhillon, a chatty Punjabi girl, on a train. Geet and Aditya go on a shared journey to her home after missing their train, and their love transforms them both.

Shahid Kapoor, a rich but suicidal industrialist, plays Aditya, who boards a train without a ticket in an attempt to escape his miserable life. He meets the energetic and optimistic Punjabi woman Geet (Kareena Kapoor Khan) on the road. She plans to keep pushing until he finally opens up. Following this, a man feels obligated to protect a girl from harm, and the two of them go on a series of adventures together.

Various critics have praised the film. Shreya Ghoshal took home the Best Female Playback Singer award, and Saroj Khan took home the Best Choreography award at the 55th National Film Awards, both for their work on the song Yeh Ishq Hai. Since its debut in 2007, Jab We Met has gained a lot of popularity.

Love Aaj Kal (JioCinema)

Imtiaz Ali wrote and directed the 2009 romantic comedy-drama film Love Aaj Kal, which stars Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone in the lead roles and Rishi Kapoor, Giselli Monteiro, and Neetu Kapoor in supporting roles. The film chronicles the adventures of Jai and Meera and shows how, despite shifting viewpoints on finding one's soulmate, the experience of true love remains constant.

The film showcases a modern London couple, Jai and Meera, who, despite their happiness with each other, desire independence. Thus, they opt to adjust when life leads them down different paths. "These Heer Ranjha, Romeo Juliet-type janam janam ka saath type couples exist only in story books," Jai points out. "We have to be practical in real life," he further explains. A bolt of lightning strikes Veer Singh at an unspecified time and place as he first sees Harleen. He then stands under a tree and swears, "Iss janam mein aur har janam mein yehi meri votti banegi Harleen Kaur." Pretty soon after, he moves on. He travels a thousand kilometres by train, standing beneath her balcony, but all he manages to see is her face. Still, he refrained from engaging her in conversation. Calcutta, India, in 1965. When Veer and Jai finally meet today, Veer still doesn't get how Jai can approach emotional issues coldly, like money. When Veer Singh was younger, he was naive and foolish about Harleen, and Jai simply doesn't understand this. Love remains constant throughout the ages, even when the mechanics of relationships change. This becomes clearer as the stories develop. Thus, both happiness and sadness are part of contemporary life. There was a period of both innocence and coercion in the past. There is a physical separation, and the affection intensifies with time. The distance between two people grows, but the bonds that bind them also deepen.

Rockstar (JioCinema; Prime Video)

Written and directed by Imtiaz Ali, Rockstar is a musical love drama film from 2011. In addition to Ranbir Kapoor and Nargis Fakhri, the film also has Aditi Rao Hydari, Piyush Mishra, Kumud Mishra, Shernaz Patel, and Shammi Kapoor in significant supporting roles. A. R. Rahman composed the score.

Immersed in music and his goals of enchanting audiences worldwide, Janardhan Jakhar (Ranbir) spends his life as an individual. Immense music originates from immense agony, which this Delhi boy internalises from his mentor friend, even when he faces disappointing auditions and frustrated attempts at music creation. Those who have never felt the anguish of losing a loved one cannot comprehend the profundity and power of magnificent music.

The next step for Janardhan is to seek out the anguish that will elevate his life and music above the mundane. The stunning college sweetheart, Heer (Nargis), is the object of his proposal. Although he appears calm and collected on the outside, Heer harbours an immense reservoir of pent-up passion that is just ready to burst forth. Janardhan and Heer's narrative begins with lighthearted banter, but as the days go by, the emotions between them get deeper, more passionate, and more exposed.

Heer and Janardhan say their goodbyes as she gets ready to tie the knot in Prague. Words and music, channelled from Janardhan's anguish over separation, reach beyond the physical and spiritual realms. While Janardhan yearns for and accepts Heer's absence from his life, he transforms into Jordan and pursues his love mercilessly. As Jordan flies into the sky in his career, he comes to terms with the fact that his and Heer's story takes place in a realm outside of reality, where genuine love is the only substance required and the music is innocent.

Some have even gone so far as to call the soundtrack record the finest of the '00s, contributing to the film's cult status.

Highway (Disney+ Hotstar)

Highway is the 2014 road drama film by writer and director Imtiaz Ali. The film features Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt. The film, which premiered in the Panorama section of the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, is adapted from the identical episode of the Zee TV anthology series Rishtey, which was written and produced by Imtiaz Ali. The episode starred Aditya Srivastava and Kartika Rane. The film tells the story of a kidnapped young woman's journey to escape.

As the sun sets over the highway, a lively young city girl and her fiancé continue their journey. They have only four days to prepare for their wedding. Abduction turns her life upside down, transforming it from the luxury of marriage to the savage cruelty of captivity. There will be a permanent change in her life. That very night, the gang was afraid for their lives. She was born into a prominent industrialist family. His connections to various power structures complicate matters. The gang's leader is steadfast, even though they know they're doomed. According to him, returning her is not an option. In order to complete this, he is willing to do anything. However, she senses a transformation that mirrors the landscape, the light, the sun's ebb and flow, and the air. Over time, a peculiar connection forms between the oppressed and the privileged. Although she has never felt so liberated in prison before, this is it. She isn't thrilled about going back, but she's equally apprehensive about getting to his destination. So long as this adventure could go on forever, she says. Perhaps this is merely a phase, and the roadway won't have much of an effect on her.

Tamasha (Netflix; ZEE5 [OTTplay Premium])

The 2015 love drama film Tamasha, written and directed by Imtiaz Ali, is a psychological coming-of-age story. The film features Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor. Irshad Kamil wrote the song lyrics, while A. R. Rahman composed them for the film. Additional locations for Tamasha's filming included Tokyo and Corsica, in addition to Shimla, Delhi, Gurugram, and Kolkata. Played by Kapoor, the film follows the life of its protagonist, Ved Vardhan Sahni, through three distinct eras: his childhood (at age 9), his teenage years (at age 19), and his adult life (at age 30).

Tamasha's protagonist is a man who has lost his edge while conforming to societal norms for acceptable behavior. Attempts to reintegrate into society lead to a gradual erosion of identity, which serves as the film's core topic.

Jab Harry Met Sejal (Netflix)

Imtiaz Ali wrote and directed the 2017 romantic comedy film Jab Harry Met Sejal. This is the third film in which Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma have worked together; their previous collaborations are Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) and Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012). The plot centres on Harry and Sejal's European adventure. Harry gains a deeper appreciation for romantic connections while he searches for Sejal's engagement ring. In his presence, she finds freedom, protection, and comfort; amidst this, there is love, life, deceit, excitement, imagination, and the quest to discover one's own voice.

The Other Way (Amazon miniTV; YouTube)

Imtiaz Ali wrote and directed the drama short film The Other Way in 2018. Pavail Gulati and Shreya Chaudhary are the main actors in this film, produced by Window Seat Films. In the film, it takes courage for a bride to take that one more step before jumping.

Love Aaj Kal (JioCinema; Netflix)

Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan lead the romantic comedy-drama Love Aaj Kal, which Imtiaz Ali directed in 2020, while Randeep Hooda and Arushi Sharma play significant supporting roles. In the film, two separate characters experience love, loss, and rebirth as they go through life. As they venture down this winding road of love, Veer and Zoe hope to uncover the answers to these questions. The film explores the dynamic nature of love and how it evolves through time. The very definition of the term "love" has evolved through the ages, conveying a wide range of emotions and ideas. The outward manifestations of love may have evolved through time, but is the feeling itself unchanged? Has anyone discovered the ideal way to find love?

Amar Singh Chamkila (Netflix)

Imtiaz Ali directed, produced, and co-wrote the biographical drama film Amar Singh Chamkila, which is based on the life of singer Amar Singh Chamkila. Parineeti Chopra plays the part of Amarjot, the second wife of the film's protagonist, played by Diljit Dosanjh. As he grapples with soaring success and stinging criticism before his untimely death, a modest singer's bold lyrics ignite fame and rage across Punjab. Amar Singh, born into a Dalit family in Punjab, was dissatisfied with his job as a youngster, torn between making music and making socks. He decided to break free and began connecting with local musicians through friends and acquaintances. Amar began to work with the famous singer and musician Jinda, who saw his potential and started using his lyrics in his own songs without properly attributing them to Amar Singh. His performance captivated the audience, which had initially linked him with the term "Chamkila" at this event. As a result, they no longer wanted to listen to Jinda as the lead singer. This unexpected opportunity came his way because of Jinda's tardiness. Following that, the film chronicles his life, including the mystery surrounding his murder. 

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