'Punjab is a very accessible culture'

'Punjab is a very accessible culture'

Director's cut

Showcasing a tinge of Punjab is one of the key features of Imtiaz Ali’s movies. From Jab We Met (2007), Rockstar (2011), Love Aaj Kal (2009) and Highway (2014), Ali has shown his fondness towards the culture, not just in the plot of these movies but also through songs like Nagada, Saada Haq, Mauja hi Mauja, Aahun Aahun, Katiya Karu and Patakha Guddi.

“Punjabi culture has been very influential in cinema. As you can see we have the Kapoors and many other big names in the industry, who are basically from Lahore. Even now, amongst the elder generations, say David Dhawan or Kunal Kohli, there are a lot of people from Punjab who impose values consciously or subconsciously upon cinema. That is why the most influential songs that we sing even in our weddings are also from Punjab,” says Ali.

Speaking of the Punjabi-ness that Ali has shown in his movies, the most dominant amongst them was in Jab We Met. Though the screenplay of the movie has won Ali many awards, it was also Geet (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and her family in Bhatinda, which was loved by audience.

Kapoor Khan’s, Sikhni hu mai Bhatinda ki dialogue, the family’s way of fixing marriage, the way they treat their guests, their reaction towards her eloping, and many such incidents in the movie are a testimony to a typical Punjabi culture.

While Ali terms Geet’s being from Punjab as “incidental” to him, he says that eloping would have garnered a similar reaction from family of other cultures as well. But given the “accessibility” of
Punjabi culture, the director says that it is easier to depict the state.

“In Jab We Met, the reaction of the family was very typical. It would have been a similar scenario in Rajasthan or Himachal... but of course Punjab in that sense is a very accessible culture,” Ali tells Metrolife.

However, when it comes to cultures, the question of a stereotypical portrayal would always be raised, be it Punjabi, Bengali or Haryanvi.

For instance, in Highway Randeep Hooda’s character is that of a Haryanvi man, who’s gang abducts a girl (Alia Bhatt). While showcasing the generally crude and rough outlook of truck drivers in Haryana, Ali also played with his (Hooda’s) character by showcasing his warm and gentle side where he constantly misses his mother and develops a soft corner for Bhatt, when she opens up to him about her childhood stories of uncle’s molestation on him.

“If anything becomes popular, it gets stereotyped, until something big breaks that. So there’s nothing to panic about. For Punjabis, for instance, initially there were Sikhs who were shown only as truck drivers or people whom we need to find funny, but that’s not the case now. If there’s a portrayal of a Punjabi being loud, then that’s also a caricature that will go away,” explains Ali.

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