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Imtiaz Ali Movies, Ranked from Least Good to Best

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Travel, meet, fall in love! If you think that this is all what Imtiaz Ali movies are about, then maybe you have never tried to decipher the underlying soulful essence of his cinema high on beauty and serenity. The Imtiaz Ali cinema leaves an unforgettable lasting impression once you let yourself loose and set off on the magical journey his movies are in disguise. Right from his first ‘Socha Na Tha’ (2005), his movies have a modern take on the idea of love and life in general, with his signature touch of sufism.

In his stories, these above elements get blended seamlessly with picturesque locations captured charmingly amidst the momentous music by maestro AR Rahman or the rockstar Pritam. It’s amusing a realization how several situational songs from his movies can be interchanged for the effect of spell cast to indeed remain intact –  probably because he tends to create many similar moments with all the distinct characters he writes. What gets delivered henceforth as an experience on screen has mostly appealed straight to my soul as a cinegoer, who refuses to give up on him even after his duds. After revisiting Imtiaz Ali’s filmography just another time, below I rank his movies from least good to best :

8. Love Aaj Kal (2020)

Love Aaj Kal HD Images

Putting it straight, I like very little about the movie – Randeep Hooda and Arushi Sharma’s charming acts, a nostalgia hit hearing KK and Mohit Chauhan’s voice in theatres, Pritam’s soulful soundtrack that hits straight with its musical spell, and few sweet moments from the ‘Kal’ era of the 1990s portrayed. Despite those few moments, the period story is a terrible one to inspire anyone in any era. The rest in this apparent cinema can be best forgotten as a bad dream, for it instilled a numb in me far before it ended.

I’ve always believed that an Imtiaz Ali movie may miss every plot point intended, but even those worst plot points revolve around the mesmerizing silences, sanity, and vanity. But Love Aaj Kal 2020 comes across as all jarring here for no reason. The loud romantic moments are punched straight in your face. After a point, it seems as if the individual stories are competing to emerge worse until finally, the present-day story proudly takes the trophy. As for the “leads” Sara and Kartik, watching the scene in the above picture will clear the air for you. With the reuse of Imtiaz’s 2009 movie’s title, the 2020 release fails to justify even the signature template, vividly putting on the platter the sheer futility of its existence. The lesser said for this atrocity, the better. Until next time…

7. Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)

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“What you seek is seeking you!”

The tagline above of this anticipated SRK – Imtiaz – Anushka collaboration can actually hold apt for every Imtiaz Ali movie. It tells the story of a girl Sejal(Anushka Sharma with her horrible Gujarati accent) who sets off with her tour guide Harry(SRK, alas!) across the cobbled streets of Eastern Europe in search of her wedding ring. Intriguing enough? On paper, it is. But nothing could save its narrative from plunging deep down into its own dug pit of futility. It eventually splashes all over the place with no sign of redemption. What remains intact is the feel of an Imtiaz Ali movie – this feel perpetually struggles though to connect with me, but fails.

Watching JHMS disappointed the Imtiaz and Anushka fan in me for the first time. For the visual appeal, Eastern Europe has been captured like a wanderlust dream by cinematographer K. U. Mohanan, but even that picturesque European landscape stops appealing to one’s eyes with story heading nowhere. The soulful soundtrack by Pritam is another savior here, with the song ‘Ghar’ always being my go-to song in times of vanity. Never had I wondered then that the filmmaker whose movies have high repeat value for me would deliver something that’s unbearable to sit through in its first viewing. Sometimes I still wonder, Why Harry met Sejal? Forget it.

6. Love Aaj Kal (2009)

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After his breakthrough success with ‘Jab We Met’, the next directorial of Imtiaz was quite Saifzoned (pun intended). Taking the scale a notch up this time with the exotica of San Francisco and getting Saif – Deepika – Giselli on board as the cast, Imtiaz well manages to blend an urban and a period love story into his narrative. The present-day lovers Jai  (a confident Saif) and Meera (a clueless Deepika) are cool and commitment-phobic souls, so bridging the gap between these urban romantics through the narration of his own period love story by Veer (a terrific Rishi Kapoor) to Jai is what the movie intends and successfully delivers.

Just like his last ‘Jab We Met’, Imtiaz lets the dialogues do the heavy-lifting again feat. some trendy lingos while the story takes a breezy window seat. The line “Tu hamesha correct baat bol deti hai jaaneman” in the voice of Saif is always a true mood. Besides the chartbuster album by Pritam I love listening to, this Love Aaj Kal is memorable also for treating us with one of the better performances by Deepika in her initial days, which paved way for her being the amazing revelation in ‘Cocktail’. A nice and good standalone in Imtiaz’s filmography, it is no masterpiece either to deserve a tribute in 2020 – oh sorry, they rehashed it.

5. Socha Na Tha (2005)

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..And a star was born. Yes, ‘Socha Na Tha’ is Abhay Deol’s sincere debut too, opposite the lovely Ayesha Takia – but the takeaway star for me from this romantic comedy is the director Imtiaz Ali himself. In the times of those blingy NRI romances clogging the landscape of Hindi Cinema, he made a sweet movie that never ceases to pamper the unadulterated romantic in me with the signature Imtiaz moments.

Prior to shining as the Imtiaz Ali known for his cinema high on sufism and tragedies of life, ‘Socha Na Tha’ makes him come across a simple guy who can smoothly dissect and portray the complexities of a relationship to end his cinema on a happy note. You look for the quintessential Imtiaz elements here – the lovers refusing to commit, getting over their exes by mutual talking, falling in love on a road trip – Socha Na Tha has them all. It’s just about time that the director took his idea to the next level in his later movies! A remarkable first attempt by all measures.

4. Rockstar (2011)

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Talking of Rockstar, I cannot resist but mention these impeccable lines said by Jordan to Heer:

“Pata hai, yahaan se bohot door, galat aur sahi ke paar..
Ek maidaan hai, main wahaan milunga tujhe.”

This 2011 movie by Imtiaz Ali is a proud musical rage in disguise. The above Rumi lines quoted by Imtiaz in Rockstar directly hint to the sufiness in his storytelling which the movie has in ample. What was a first-timer then, is a recurring feat. now. The non-linear narrative, the constant urge meets angst in the main character to make it big, the poles apart performances by the leads Ranbir and Nargis (why her?), the first-rate actors Kumud Mishra and Lt. Shammi Kapoor playing the unforgettable characters Khatana Bhai and Ustad Jameel Khan respectively, Mohit Chauhan singing to the heavenly tunes of maestro AR Rahman across the picturesque frames of Delhi, Kashmir, and Prague –  Rockstar has all these celebrated factors, but all raw.

When I watched it the first time back in the days, it blew my mind with its intensity. But as the feeling sinks in and I look back at it in retrospect, I realize that Imtiaz himself has told so many better stories than Rockstar – though no movie in Imtiaz’s filmography has a better soundtrack than this one.

3. Jab We Met (2007)

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While ‘Socha Na Tha’ earned Imtiaz a deserved credibility as a storyteller, ‘Jab We Met’ one gave him the popular recognition amidst the audience. The credibility as an artist was rather received by Kareena, who has arguably delivered her career-best performance as the full of life Geet – giving every girl around a motto to live by – “Main apni favorite hoon“. Now every female character has the bits of Geet in her acting, and it’s not hard to notice and ignore. Shahid shines equally brightly here playing Aditya, who is the perfect ice to Geet’s fire.

While DDLJ started the trend of blossoming romance with the one you found during your train journey, JWM did scale this idea several notches higher and became iconic. Every character, their dialogues, Ratlam ki galiyaan, Bhatinda ke ganne ke khet, the soundtrack by Pritam and Sandesh Shandilya – I remember them all by heart. Despite having it all seen before, what makes it stand out from the likes of it is Imtiaz’s unique treatment. After all this time, it does stand tall as a cinematic milestone. Besides being the movie with maximum rewatch value in Imtiaz’s filmography, it’s hard to find people who dislike it, a rare feat. for his other movies.

2. Tamasha (2015)

Imtiaz Ali HD Images

“All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players”.

This popular Shakespearean quote sums up Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha to me. A similar line is also exclaimed by Ved to Tara (in Delhi) about their Corsica meet, “Wo toh hum role play kar rahe the na!”. Awakening an entire generation to find their true calling, this 2015 release is life-changing for many confused lost souls around wandering around to find their true calling. Even if watched as another movie only, it is much inspiring and pure heartening a cinematic experience. Ranbir – Deepika being my favorite pair have always been a treat to watch, but their individual acts in Tamasha as Ved and Tara respectively are pure gold, much better than their lasts with Imtiaz (read: ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Love Aaj Kal’) – and man, they talk with their eyes.

If you somehow have turned a blind eye to it, the Agar Tum Saath Ho song would make you believe and charm it with its magic – easily my favorite scene from the movie. Initially having a joyous yet mysterious vibe to it, it turns to a real romance to eventually haunt our souls with its message. Special kudos to the cinematographer Ravi Varman – he has shot Corsica is shot like a dream giving everyone holiday goals, not to forget the beautiful mirror moments of Ved, and the several moods of Ved and Tara that are beautifully portrayed. The album by AR Rahman is another gem that works wonders for the movie. But Imtiaz had shown a more impactful journey just before Tamasha…

1. Highway (2014)

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Highway to me is the most special and memorable Imtiaz movie, for it changed the way I looked at the idea of home and traveling, and it kindled in me the love for the routes more than the destination they lead to. Even if I put aside my tremendous love for it, I find this Imtiaz’s best storytelling. There’s so much to this movie that makes it the eventual experience that it indeed is. For a story on paper, it’s wafer-thin. For a story on celluloid, it’s no less than magic unfolding with each passing moment.

Highlighting precisely just two sequences as notably “loud”, the initial kidnapping and the climax confrontation, Imtiaz Ali chose to convey his vision here much subtly as well as serenely through the lens of Anil Mehta – letting silences do more talking than the words. Indeed the movie easily charms me more with its silences that develop during the tender moments of our leads. The breakthrough act by Alia Bhatt, the less talked act by Randeep Hooda, complimented by the blissful tunes of AR Rahman and thankfully never-ending roads of North India – there’s nothing I can pick that I dislike about it. A dream on screen.

Also Read : Highway (2014) : My 5 Favorite Scenes
Also Read: Love Aaj Kal (2020) Review | An indecent ode to bad life choices through worse filmmaking
Also Read: Tamasha (2015): My 5 Favourite Scenes
Also Read: My 5 Favourite Frames by Ravi Varman
Also Read: Anurag Kashyap Movies, Ranked from Least Good to Best
Also Read : My 5 Favorite Albums of Pritam | World Music Day
Also Read: Bong Joon-Ho Movies, Ranked from Least Good to Best
Also Read : Avengers: Endgame (2019) Review | Traversing the memory lane of emotions



About the author

Siddhartha Singh

Siddhartha is an avid reader and a cinephile who loves to write about movies. Being fascinated by the spell of cinema on and around us, he is always in for experiencing gripping stories told from the lens of different storytellers.


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