Imtiaz Ali on being told women in his films don’t have agency: ‘Not every story can be about a woman finding the agency’

Director Imtiaz Ali, who has directed films like Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and Highway, among others, feels he can’t tell the stories over and over about women finding their agency. A film director is often questioned about how he has written the female characters in his films.

Speaking to Vice in a new interview, Imtiaz said he felt “a fascination with women for being more oppressive and disadvantaged than men, yet there was a smile and grace on their faces.” He added that women are “smarter than men” by all accounts.

Citing his movie Highway, starring Alia Bhatt, and his web series He, he said the two stories are about “women finding their agency”. But Franchise suggested, “Not every story can be about a woman finding agency. Why am I not allowed to mix stories of a different nature or that mean something else? I’m not here to actually tell people how to live their lives.”

The Cocktail franchise, starring Deepika Padukone and Diana Penty, was written and directed by Homi Adajanya. Speaking about the film, he said he was very “fascinated” to know that Western girls he met in London were more eager to become ‘native’ in a more traditional way than Indian girls. “It was a story of two women, one with a very open Western upbringing and one with a very traditional Indian upbringing, who met in London and actually went the other way,” he said.

Ranbir Kapoor, who has collaborated with franchise at Rockstar and Tamasha, said in 2011, “He is a good read. He understands the intricacies and dynamics of relationships. He understands women very well, in a very correct and realistic way.”

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