Bollywood actors Kartik Aaryan (L) and Sara Ali Khan (C) pose for photographs during the trailer launch of the upcoming romantic drama Hindi film 'Love Aaj Kal' directed by Imtiaz Ali (R) in Mumbai on January 17, 2020. (Photo by SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Director Imtiaz Ali says there can be a movie without romance at its core but it would be difficult for him to conceive a story that doesn’t feature some sort of a man-woman dynamic.

With “Love Aaj Kal”, starring Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan, Imtiaz is revisiting the theme of his 2009 original that explored the idea of love over two time periods.

“I am comfortable (with love stories) but it’s not that every story has to be like this. I will not want this comfort to restrict me from making any other kind of story that comes to my mind. It could be a story where there is no romance at all but that’s difficult to conceive (at this point of time),” the director told PTI.

Asked whether it was possible for an Imtiaz Ali film to have no romance, the director said he was wondering the same.

“Even in a story like ‘Highway’, it has a man (Randeep Hooda). I don’t have any story yet that doesn’t have a man and woman thing going on in some way. With the growing understanding of life and relationships things will change, but in my mind there’s no story without some sort of a man-woman dynamic.”

The follow-up, he said, is not a sequel in the typical sense. It looks at the man-woman relationship with changing times.

“I’m not into making part twos or sequels but I realised ‘Love Aaj Kal’ is the only story of mine which is franchisable in a way. Over the years, I found myself thinking, ‘If ‘Love Aaj Kal’ was made today, this is what would happen’.

“The previous generation was seeking absolutely something else… I have seen this dynamic changing so drastically in the last 10 years. Things that were pious like physical intimacy for a young man or woman… that was the final post. Now it’s the first thing, it means nothing now. It’s so dynamic. That’s how this film came through,” he said.

The 48-year-old filmmaker, who has come to be known as the master of modern romance in Hindi cinema with movies such as “Jab We Met”, “Rockstar” and “Tamasha”, agrees that his idea of love is more evolved today and his films will continue to reflect this growth.

“More than a shift, it’s an evolution. The earlier concepts, I had, ‘Let’s say ‘Socha Na Tha’, of love relationships has not replaced itself by another concept. It’s become more detailed and varied. It’s not that I’m looking in a different place. I’m looking at the same place, but you see different shades within that. I think movies that I make will have no option but to reflect that in some way or the other,” he said.

The idea of generational change in romance somehow reflects in Sara’s casting as Zoe, though the director said it was not the sole reason to get her onboard.

“I knew that it would be in the minds of people that watch this film. There’s a certain happiness and warmth in the fact that there was Saif and now it’s Sara. But that’s not the reason why I cast her, that’s not what I was aiming for. But it seemed nice and warm that the connection exists,” he said.

Sara and Kartik as Zoe and Veer are playing a young couple in a metropolitan city. Zoe, Imtiaz said, is the principal protagonist in the sense that the story is happening to her.

“When we look at Zoe or anybody of that age, they come from parents that largely have broken marriages and where the relationship has gone south. How is it possible for her to be so blind when she falls in love? So there’s a conflict… In this generation no one can force you to be with a person or the other way around. The conflict is internal as it’s in Zoe’s case,” he said.

The decision to cast Kartik, who has suddenly burst on the Bollywood scene with a spate of comedic hits, had nothing to do with his past performances, the filmmaker said.

“I wanted to cast a person who could understand small towns and understand metro life. Somebody who’s living the absolutely uber metro life but at the same time understands the traditional values of the relationship, so Kartik is that person. He understands things very easily. I’d not seen any of his films before.

“Lot of people told me he’s not this kind of an actor. He does comedies. But ultimately, if you look at previous films and cast an actor, then you’re not casting an actor, you’re casting a character that you’ve seen in films. You have to meet the person and see what he can do.”

Asked about the criticism that his films have often been told from the male protagonist’s point of view, Imtiaz said, “The honest truth is that I cannot help it.”

“I have a certain point of view towards women. If it’s a man’s point of view of looking at woman, I hope it is respectful and loving. The reason there are these women in my films is that I have seen bits and pieces of them in my life,” he said.

The director said though he was open to collaborating with a woman, the gender of a writer should not matter.

“You don’t have to be a woman to understand another woman. You have to be an empathetic person to begin with and even if a woman writer writes about Zoe, she is still not writing about herself. She is still writing about another person.”

Also starring Randeep Hooda and Arushi Sharma, the film is set to be released on Friday.

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