As a seasoned and somewhat cynical film critic, I remember going to watch Socha Na Tha thinking that I really did not want to make the acquaintance of another Deol (Abhay) making his debut with an unknown girl (Ayesha Takia) directed by another first-timer (Imtiaz Ali). By the end of the film, I knew Imtiaz Ali was a name I would watch out for, his quirky handling of the off-beat love story having embedded itself into my mind and heart. And though I know it might now seem to be a fact of hindsight, I knew then that a major talent had arrived.
When he made Jab We Met and it was lauded by one and all, I felt a strange sort of pride as if my endorsement had had anything to do with its success.
My first conversation with him was over the phone during which we discussed, of all things, my caller tune. It was Chupa lo yun dil mein pyaar mera… from Mamta sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar. We were on the same page with the interpretation that it was a song of equality between the man and woman and the conversation taught me two things about Imtiaz, one that he understood his music, which has been proved by the music he has extracted in every film of his and two, that he understood the nuances of the man-woman relationship.
I finally met him for the first time during the shoot of Love Aaj Kal when, even in the middle of shooting the Ahoon ahoon song with a hundred people around him, he could create a cocoon of conversation. I invited him to my office to speak to my colleagues (I was the entertainment editor at Mumbai Mirror at the time) and when he came and spoke to us, two things were established irrevocably. He was hot, judging by the open mouthed gaze my female colleagues fixed on him for the entire hour he spent with us, and that he was a consummate story teller.
If I could make one cinematic wish come true, it would be that I would one day write and produce a film in which Imtiaz would play himself. With his ruffled, curly hair and just-out-of-bed casual demeanour he could give serious competition to Ranbir Kapoor.