TALKING FILMS

10 years of ‘Jab We Met’: Imtiaz Ali on creating Kareena Kapoor’s Geet and his favourite scene

‘While in her sleep, she is still thinking of an idea to save humanity.’

October 26, 2007, marks a decade since the release of Imtiaz Ali’s box office hit Jab We Met. The director’s most complete romantic drama follows depressed business tycoon Aditya Kashyap (Shahid Kapoor), whose spirits are lifted after he meets the exuberant Geet Dhillon (Kareena Kapoor). Geet is on her way to meet her boyfriend Anshuman (Tarun Arora), but realises after a series of events that it is Aditya who has actually stolen her heart. Geet is one of Ali’s best written characters, the kind of woman who is “thinking of saving humanity in her sleep”, as the filmmaker revealed in an interview.

The brief that I gave Kareena about Geet Dhillon is not that she is very talkative – that was there in the dialogue, she just had to say all these things, which she did – but that she had these brilliant ideas in her mind all the time and she was so confident that each idea was going to save humanity and must be shared with as many people as possible, instantly, as soon as it occurred to her.

Which is why there is always this brightness about her; she talks with that kind of energy. Even when she is sleeping, if you notice, in the train, when she wakes up, she is mumbling about an idea about some shoes. While in her sleep, she is still thinking of an idea to save humanity.

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Jab We Met (2007).

That’s [what we know] about Geet Dhillon and the fact that she leaves home and Aditya leaves her in Manali in close proximity of her boyfriend [Anshuman] and goes away from there because he doesn’t want to participate in her life with her boyfriend anymore. And what happens to her is that she goes to meet her boyfriend and she realises that the boyfriend is not extending a welcome to her to be a part of his life and she had kind of misjudged that.

It was Geet being naive, Geet being immature like she has been in the rest of the movie, landing up over there without even telling him [Anshuman] that she was coming. So obviously, things fell apart, she was there for sometime in Manali, trying to convince him to accept her, which was very tough for her. But having left home she did not really want to go back. Then she decided that she would leave Manali because she was humiliated there and go to Shimla – she just went to Shimla and she knew somebody and she started working as a teacher in a school and she became jaded. She lost her zing because all those that she was living by – all those perhaps ridiculous but positive tenets that she lived by – failed her. And she started living in Shimla almost like a nun, which is where Aditya rediscovered her. We have seen in the film how he brings her back to Bhatinda to reinstall her.

So those are the things about Geet Dhillon, some of which you have been aware of through the film, but some of which I was trying to think of as a backstory in order to fortify this character in my mind and that of Kareena.

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Aagoe Jab Tum, Jab We Met (2007).

I write it [the script] and then I try to figure out why I have done what I have done. But because I am a literature student as well, I know the fact that it is a particular important point in the development of Geet, the fact that she feels, and all her hopes and all her ideas crash-land, and she finds herself in a spot of defeat. And yes, she had to be taken back from there to what she was – from black and white back to the colour that we know Geet as.

And Aditya is the one who does it, of course, but at the same time, the interesting thing is, once you experience that kind of thing in your life, and you go back to being who you were, you are stronger. You don’t become a sadder person, you actually become a stronger person, which Geet would have become after her experience with this humiliation or isolation.

When Aditya tells her in the second half that they took her [Geet] for a prostitute at Hotel Decent, she is not angry. She is just surprised and then annoyed. She says that “I was so stupid,” she marvels at how naive or stupid she was in those days. She then repents or regrets and cries about being so naive, which [she feels] led her to the disaster she found herself in.

Not only that, when she realises that people might think she is a prostitute, she is not angered by it because she feels, oh, she has done all those things, so she is a fair judge of what is going on. It is not though as she feels angry at things. She also looks at herself the same way that she looks at other people.

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Jab We Met (2007).

I also like the point where she tells Aditya that he should go away when he finds her living like a nun in Shimla. She says things to anger him; that he’s come after her because he thinks he has a chance, that I [Geet] didn’t call you here. I think it is a sign of character. I think she does not want to be a whiny baby, she would have preferred to remain the nice bright girl in Aditya’s mind and she doesn’t want to be seen like this because for her, it is like the defeat of the image someone has of her.

And yes, the fact that life has been mean to her makes her mean towards Aditya. But this is what a good relationship is, and Aditya also accepts it very nicely and this is what strengthens their relationship. I feel this is the strongest scene between the two where he says okay, you have all of these things to say to me, I’ve heard it – do you have any more mean things to say to me? Because say them, I am going to hear it.

(As told to Astha Rawat.)

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German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

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Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.