Calling himself “an adopted child of Punjab”, celebrated director Imtiaz Ali said he considered Nurmahal in Jalandhar as one of the most exotic locations he had ever seen.

“I’ve shot in a number of exotic locations for my next film, but none as exotic as Nurmahal,” he told Sonal Kalra, national editor (lifestyle and entertainment), who moderated a panel discussion on ‘Youth as an agent of change’ at the HT Youth Forumon Friday.

Imtiaz, who was joined by other panelists, including cricketer Gautam Gambhir and actors Anil Kapoor and Tapsee Pannu, talked fondly about his ‘Punjab connect’.

His next film, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, is set for an August release. However, his “supernatural” tryst with Punjab continues. It started with the 2007 blockbuster ‘Jab We Met’, moving onto Saif Ali Khan’s Sikh character in ‘Love Aaj Kal’ (2009) and parts of the state in his mind-boggling road journey ‘Highway’ (2014).

Dressed in a casual white shirt, an old school tie, and fashionably ripped jeans, the 45-year-old director said, “Wherever I go, a lot of people start talking to me in Punjabi. I’ve always got so much love here. There’s a lot in Punjabi culture the rest of world needs to learn.” Imtiaz originally belongs to Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

After his lukewarm debut ‘Socha Na Tha’ (2005), Imtiaz managed to touch a chord with India’s youth through his modern outlook and uncomplicated storytelling. His female characters, especially, are fearless and independent women not afraid of making mistakes.

  • Imtiaz to Gambhir: When asked if he felt any pressure on cricket being a form of entertainment, Gambhir replied, “Yes, of course. Cricketers are put on a pedestal; it’s unfair on us as well as other sportspersons.”
  • Gambhir to Imtiaz: To Gambhir’s question on whether films should be made on the Naxal movement, Imtiaz said, “It’s a dynamic story waiting to be told. There’s an internal tension, which has been left steaming due to the current discourse between the haves and the have-nots.”
  • Anil to Imtiaz: “Will you cast me in a comedy?” Imtiaz laughed, “Sir, whenever you give a date, I’ll cast you for sure.”

“Here in Punjab, the body language of women has changed for the better. When I visited Amritsar years ago, girls would hide their bodies out of shyness. The tide has turned in the last decade. They ride two-wheelers, are proud of their bodies. This spells well for our future and success,” he said.

Kapoor, Gambhir and Imtiaz are all fathers to daughters. Kalra talked about bringing up kids in modern times and what it was like be a father to girls.

When asked if he would advise his daughter on her choice of career, Imtiaz said, “My daughter is 16 and she has been advising me for many years. I don’t remember the last time I gave her advice. So, I don’t tell her what to do; I need her to tell me what to do.”

He then shared a quote that his daughter had shared with him: ‘My father did not tell me what to do. He just lived his life and let me see it’.

First Published: May 28, 2017 11:07 IST


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