From ‘Jab We Met’ to the recently-released ‘Amar Singh Chamkila’, seven spectacular Imtiaz Ali movies you must watch

The director continues to tell beautiful stories through his films and make a special place in our hearts.

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Giving his characters a transformative arc is Imtiaz Ali's signature style. So is picking stunning destinations as the backdrop against which these stories are set. Thus, while viewers experience (and, to a large extent, resonate with) this inner journey, they also travel vicariously around the world through Ali's movies. What makes each of these adventures all the more memorable is the music, which becomes a character in itself, taking the story through its course. One of his recent joyrides, Amar Singh Chamkila, which released on Friday, portrays the tragic tale of the highest-selling record artist of Punjab, nicknamed the ‘Elvis of Punjab’ in Ali’s signature style. No prizes for guessing that it’ll remind you of all the reasons why you fell in love with his films—from Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar, Highway, and Tamasha, to name a few.

While it’s tough for anyone to rank his movies, so here are some of the best films made by Imtiaz Ali and what makes them timeless.

Amar Singh Chamkila (2024)

Ali’s most recent film revolves around the tragic tale of Amar Singh, the highest-selling record artist in Punjab who was gunned down at the young age of 27. The words penned by Chamkila made him a polarising figure—he was a singing sensation that people adored as well as hated. While his songs objectified women and spoke about extra-marital relationships and sex, his numbers tell you that music is sometimes all about the people it's written for and about. While the film is set in the 1980s, the topics and themes discussed are relevant even almost 40 years after his death. Watching the singer surrender himself to what the audience wants and watching why he does so offers ample food for thought. A special mention to Diljit Dosanjh, who just like his name, wins your heart by playing the titular character. His screen and stage presence, and command over the language, fit the role like a glove. 

Where to watch: Netflix

Socha Na Tha (2005)

This movie isn’t mentioned in the same breath as his other popular films, but Ali’s debut film as director, a sincere romantic story, makes us wish he did more in the genre. Starring Abhay Deol (in his debut as well) and Ayesha Takia, Ali gave the classic boy-meets-girl love story a fresh and modern feel. A filmy narrative told in the most non-filmy way. The director gave audiences a sneak peek into the world of love by having characters who constantly fall in and out of love only to realise that love isn’t what they thought it was. This slice-of-life film, with all things romance and love at its centre deserves way more credit than it got. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and ZEE5

Jab We Met (2007)

Ali, once again, went down the boy-meet-girl route with this Shahid Kapoor-Kareena Kapoor Khan film, where two characters, with opposite personalities, end up falling in love. While Khan, as the bubbly Geet made us realise the importance of self-love, the no-nonsense and blunt Kapoor as Aditya, showed us the power of silence. While we loved the two for who they were, watching them realise that life and loveare is so much better with a partner who is always rooting for them made the movie feel like a warm hug. Iconic scenes, dialogues that make for some classic memes and reels, and beautiful songs, make the movie worth a watch.  

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube
Love Aaj Kal (2009)

Yes, we’re talking about the OG version of the film starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. We witnessed not one but two love stories across two timelines. Each character saw love from their perspectives, making it a beautiful contrast. The innocent love of the past stands in complete contrast to the practical approach towards romance of the younger generation. A scene that stands in the movie features Rishi Kapoor, who talks about how love made people responsible in his time, while the same responsibility makes people of the current generation part ways with the one they love. While the way we express it changes over time, the film by Ali was a stark reminder that we’ll never stop falling in love. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

Rockstar (2011)

For many, this film is considered to be Ali's best work, and for good reason. It has a phenomenal soundtrack by the music maestro A R Rahman with songs expressing angst, heartbreak, self-discovery, freedom, and so many emotions, complemented by the career-best performance by the lead Ranbir Kapoor. Watching Kapoor start as an aimless Janardan Jakhar, and go on to become Jordan, a singer performing to packed audiences was a heartfelt experience. Kapoor portrayed a character that's flawed but fabulous, who sings his heart out as he pines for the one person he can't be with. 

Where to watch: Jio Cinema, ZEE5, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

Highway (2014)

While Alia Bhatt made her debut with Student of the Year in 2012, it was this Imtiaz Ali film that made audiences get the first glimpse of what the actor can really do. The movie treated the viewer to some stunning cinematography and breathtaking visuals of the mountains that were perfectly complemented by the remarkable A R Rahman soundtrack. The film may come across as a love story, but it’s far more than that—it’s a tale of two strangers, each with a painful past, who are feeling trapped and have only experienced life to the fullest on their mind. Their journey made for a wonderful theme—a message that made one think about freedom and liberation mean. 

Where to watch: Hotstar

Tamasha (2015) 

High on production value, cinematography, performances, and music (like it is always with Ali’s films), Tamasha took us from the sunny shores of Corsica to the lanes of New Delhi through the story of Ved (Ranbir Kapoor). Just like the outstanding mirror scene where Kapoor decides to change his life for the better, the film puts a mirror in front of the viewer asking them to introspect their mundane and monotonous life and nudges them to seek what truly makes them happy. The film teaches one how to make the world their stage to perform and stand out. 

Where to watch: Netflix, ZEE5, Amazon Prime Video

Lead image credits: Netflix

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