Sunday August 2, 2009

Movie review: Love Aaj Kal (Imtiaz Ali)

Posted by Karthik

We’ve come a long way indeed. It started with ‘Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti’, often uttered by the male lover who took a bit too long to announce his love. Women became empowered, a few years later – and uttered the long, shrilly, ‘Naheeee’, at the shaadi ka mandap, just seconds before the mangal sutra reaches its destination. Then it was the post sagai realization of true love. Love Aaj Kal takes the evolution to the next stage – post marriage realization. I’d have loved to see this film from Rahul Khanna’s point of view – I’m sure it’d have been titled KLPD.

Jokes apart, Love Aaj Kal is a mighty underwhelming film, given the standards set by Socha na tha. Though, with each passing film, Imtiaz seems to be stepping down the ladder – case in point, the very filmy, but enjoyable, Jab we met.

The only spark of intelligence is Saif playing the young Rishi Kapoor (should have been Ranbir Kapoor!) in the sepia-toned flashback – a very interesting plot device. The yuppie Saif merely sleepwalks through his role and reprises his zillion other, similar roles. Deepika looks pretty, but is severely miscast – she lacks the maturity and intelligence to carry such a role and it shows in many scenes, with her blank stares, passed off in the name of emotion. Brazilian debutant Giselle Monteiro, playing Harleen looks adequately radiant to entice a man to travel from Delhi to Kolkata, but seems extraordinarily uncomfortable dancing to Punju steps – quite understandable, given her roots. Rishi Kapoor is very, very dependable, as always, and getting Neetu Singh for a few seconds in the end is a lovely touch.

The music is fantastic and adds color at the mildest excuse – Chor bazari is perhaps the most enjoyable, with a repetitive step that looks like pulling errant and ill-fitting trousers back in place, enacted really well by Saif and Deepika.

Beyond the reasonably interesting premise of starting with a break-up and moving the film forward, the parallel drawn with Rishi’s flashback just does not gel. For one, the comparison between the fickle, modern youngsters (Saif and Deepika) and the more focused older generation (Sardar Saif and Harleen) is too simplistic. Its also the same old filmy theories of ‘love at first sight’ and ‘is this love?’ that are explored all over again, in the flimsy garb of 2 generations.

The time span shown in the film is a bit too implausible; the initial scenes leading to the break-up span several months, while the entire cycle from the break-up to the film’s climax is easily a couple of years. That, to me, is way too long, for matters of heart to stand still, despite a very thin excuse offered by Imtiaz in the form of the blonde girlfriend-door mat, Jo, and the poor boss, Vikram. The latter, thankfully, culminates into a wedding, but, like explained earlier, its merely a mildly progressive and civil way of saying, ‘Naheeee’.

With such a flimsy premise and an equally convenient plot point of Saif not knowing Deepika’s status for one full year – despite generously showcasing and referring to chatting and email a few scenes earlier – pulls the film completely down. The mugging scene and Saif’s reluctance to part with Deepika’s photograph seals all others with its massive cringe-worthy moment.

If there was one takeaway from Love Aaj Kal, it is that the older generation did not have options; so they made up their minds faster and easier. The younger generation is spoilt for choice; hence, takes a few years and a couple of collateral damages to do the same. Some sweeping generalization, that.

Sure, it is better than most other Hindi films which are mired either in ostentatious remakes of simple and earthy plots from far superior regional language cinema or in making a buffoonery of the money available at its disposal. But is that the yardstick, really? C’mon Imtiaz…going by the commendable lack of compromises in your terribly under-appreciated debut, I sure expected you to go up – not down.

Keywords: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Rishi Kapoor, Giselle Monteiro, Imtiaz Ali, Pritam

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