There is a part of all of us that has felt true suspension of hope. That kind that doesn’t just rattle you but leaves you desperate for it. It’s what an Imtiaz Ali film teaches you. Or at least holds up a mirror to. There are moments in an Imtiaz fllm, make that many moments where you are convinced that only in the complete and willful destruction of oneself lies the true discovery of that self. And I only say willful because even though his characters may seem to be falling apart organically, it is mostly and always self-engineered. These men are always on decently successful paths, well-endowed by the bounties of family or wealth but never both and yet are incapable of holding on to either as a crutch to help them through life. Imtiaz’s men aren’t men running from their shadows, they are in complete and absolute ignorance of it. It is in this strange but rather deliberate dichotomy that they all live, only to be restored to former or imagined glories by the harder they fall.
In Tamasha, Ved, must be completely dissolved in self-doubt and needs to be woken up by a woman who begins her journey in his life by indulging his fantasy and then questioning his reality. It is in that questioning that he unravels and begins to gain control of himself to find himself but all in a manic rush to rid himself of this stain she has left on him. Even when his father questions his love for hurting himself and finding pain in nothing, you realise how disconnected his father is from him and in that moment Imtiaz Ali manages to split his audience on to two sides. The one that agree with the father and believe the boy is making much of nothing and the others who seem to walk with Ved and find that he is just mirroring something deep in us all or something imagined in us all. That maybe pain has to always be dug up, conjured and forcefully felt because it is in pain that we wipe off the dust and feel ourselves. Ved needed Tara to push him past his daily routine into a journey laden with doubt and hopelessness. There is light, there always is light and it doesn’t come at the end of the tunnel, it’s right with you. Right now is what he says..
In Rockstar, Jordan gets slapped by cops on the street, insulted by friends in the college canteen and lectured by family and his future manager and current canteen manager. While Imtiaz doesn’t spend much time in this phase of Jordan’s life, it may be useful to note that this is a man destined for greatness but is so unaware and seemingly incapable of even grasping such a truth. He bungles his way through his friendship with Heer and forgets to wrap his head around his real feelings for her until she goes, until he is in love and until, he is destroyed. It’s here that he finds his purpose and finds his way but even though he begins to walk his musical talk, it’s empty without her but full of soul for everyone listening. And in that moment we are misguided by a man again possessed only by himself, blinded with his obsessive love and again onlookers begin to wonder what motivates him to such depths of destruction. But again, remember that before Jordan, there was a Janardhan. The simple boy who Heer had befriended to find her fun and her abandon. And as their love unfolds like a broken record never giving up on that one track, Janardhan becomes Jordan becomes a broken man who only finds power and great inspiration in himself. It is here, that Jordan gives birth to Ved, as a man left desperately alone, handing over the baton to another troubled soul in hope that he will find his redemption. But not before a fight..
In Love Aaj Kal, there is Jai. He is inherently less complex than Jordan or Ved but is far more broken and unaware of it. This is what makes Jai possibly Imtiaz’s most relatable character. He is easy to move with, he doesn’t distance you with his bottomless depth and there is a negative space to his character that constantly seems to need filling which the viewer keeps adding. He is devoid of complications and isn’t held hostage by his emotions. Until it all begins to fall apart. It begins when he sees Meera as a bride. In that moment he realizes so much but is incapable of putting a finger on it. Jai is such a clueless character that he seems to be so many eons away from Imtiaz’s traditional mold. He is so distributed in his emotions that after being robbed and broken and lying on a street in San Francisco he realized that it isn’t his desperate present but his distant reality that hurts so much. It is in faraway Delhi that his redemption awaits and even though his devastation isn’t as disturbing as Ved and Jordan’s, it is his simple endeavor to find answers that finds him his way back into her heart. In that moment when he finally comes face to face with Meera in what is possibly the most touching of reunions of all film time, he asks for her to return and return she does.
And we finally see the beginning of a legacy of broken men fighting hard to tie their loose ends together. We see the beginning of Jordan and the early onset of Ved. Men driven by ambition and running away from or faking love only to fall hopefully and painfully in it. They aren’t ever given a choice before they decide to fall in love. There isn’t a grand moment of peaceful meditation on realizing. They are beaten into it, they are dragged into it, they are held hostage by it and sometimes they just discover that she was always there waiting to be found. But it’s usually too late in Imtiaz’s world or nearly too late at times. Love isn’t meant to be hard fought in his world or earned, it is meant to be worth being destroyed for because at the end of these movies it isn’t about finding love and making your happy with it, but for all these men it is about discovering their truths and that is what makes Imtiaz’s characters real and scary. Think about it, all these men are really the same man. Driven by the same things, in love with strong women and incapable of finding a straight line to love. They are our struggle, each of our broken hearts and many of our innumerable moving parts. They are what we confess being every night, they are what we have all been in that moment when she turned away from us and they are what we never hope to be but in every broken moment, always are. We are Ved and Jordan and Jai and we can only be foolish to believe otherwise. We are all their extremes, their nonchalance and their hopeless lovers. We are this undying breed of romantics who just don’t know where to draw the line, when to stop loving her and when to accept we are beaten. We are all firmly placed in Imtiaz’s world of devastated men, not because we like it or like Janardhan feel its necessary, we are there because we know no other way.
And there we shall live.
‘Away, beyond all concepts of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.’