Will they, won’t they, why the hell don’t they commit? Love Aaj Kal..

A film like Love Aaj Kal carries a huge burden of expectations on its shoulders and is a tough one to review. Do you treat it as a stand alone product? Do you compare it to Jab We Met? Do you compare it to other contemporary romcoms? Or do you have to go back to the roots of the modern romcom genre, just like the director? Imtiaz Ali is well known for making stories steeped in love. His first two outings had spunky females, confused males and a local feel to the stories. His trajectory has been upward moving both in star value and gloss and glitter, thus he moved from Ayesha Takia and Abhay Deol in SNT, to Kareena and Shahid Kapoor in JWM and the big song dance numbers showed up in the latter. So what does Imtiaz dish up in Love Aaj Kal? It is not sufficient to have a confused male, or a depressed one, and both slowly realizing the value of love. Now we have an urban, nay intercontinental, love story where no one is confused – other than the viewer that is. Is it about love? Are these people in love? Does boyfriend and girlfriend imply love today or merely snogging and shagging? I think these are valid questions the director raises about the nature of relationships today. But coming on the heels of JWM, where Geet imagined the forever kind of love with Anshuman in Bhatinda and Simla, you wonder if this is an indictment of western culture as Jai and Meera meet in London and the story flits from country to country.

Jai (Saif Ali Khan) meets Meera (Deepika Padukone) in a lift and then in a night club over a few drinks and of course there is immediate attraction and near immediate gratification of the non-chaste kind. Soon they are girlfriend/boyfriend and we are told she is an art-restorer and his only ambition is to work for Golden Gate Company in San Francisco and build bridges like the Golden Gate. Cheesy as this may sound, it is not a patch on what happens when he does achieve his ambition!!! Meera gets a job restoring old buildings in India and Jai is still in London – rather than deal with a long-distance relationship, they decide to have a break-up party and call it quits. That is when Jai meets the aging sardar Veer (Rishi Kapoor) who tells him he is making a big mistake because in his days (KAL) love meant commitment and forever and never letting go! The film now begins to crisscross between Aaj and Kal. The past theme is in full out Yashraj homage mode. In fact Imtiaz could submit these clips and immediately get a gig there. As Veer sees the young and shy Harleen (Giselle) and pursues her vigorously, we see many colored chiffon dupattas flying in the wind. Veer follows her to Calcutta not unlike Raj following Simran, he meets her surreptitiously, gets into the household under false pretenses, is beaten up at the train station!

We see Harleen bidding goodbye to Veer in a VeerZaara setting in the Old Fort. In a departure from the DDLJ graph (and VeerZaara) the Kal track is following, Veer asks for the mother’s blessing and runs away with Harleen!! So Imtiaz follows all the traditional trappings of the golden YashRaj romances, but in a departure from both VeerZaara and DDLJ, the boy actually sacrifices family for love and thus love triumphs! This Kal sequence is the high point of the film, and Rishi narrating, even Saif in his improbable but still endearing Sardar persona, and the young and shy Harleen make this into a memorable experience.
The Aaj track is supposedly more contemporary, and even after the breakup Jai and Meera constantly e-mail and text each other, about their various routines, and their entanglements. Jai cuts loose in London, meets a blonde Frenchwoman who falls for him in a big way – but she is shown to be pretty dumb, so that is a stereotype taken care of and an explanation given for why a great looking young blonde woman would fall for our 38 year old hero!! Meera meanwhile is inviting the boss for dinner and soon they too are a couple. There is one moment of excellent acting by Saif in the sequence where Meera tells him she is dating the boss and he tells her to wait on the line and goes through a gamut of expressions – from shock to dismay to acceptance. Then Jai brings the girlfriend to Delhi and put her on a tour bus (dumb blonde anyone?) while he gallivants about town with Meera – as the couple that are comfortable with each other from years of habit. Then he leaves and the blonde shows a spark of spirit and dumps him for his lack of commitment. Meera commits to marrying the boss, marries him, and in a confrontation Jai tells her he would have married her – but of course he is drunk then, another acting high point for Saif there. It takes Meera all of one day to realize the marriage is wrong as she has feeling for Jai and it the most ridiculously written scene, she dumps the husband! At this point the film evokes a response in the theater and it is loud laughter all around us! She runs away to Jai but is told midway that he finally has his dream job and is moving to San Francisco! Meera runs back, Jay flies off. Up to this point the Aaj sequence is about confused people, who are emotionally hard to understand. But still there are many endearing moments – like when Deepika is telling Saif about his flaws, because now that they have broken up she can!

Then comes the final third of the film and it is ill-conceived, poorly written, and laughably badly acted in parts. Saif works for Golden Gate co., and the name invokes a seller of baked goods in Fisherman’s Wharf. Instead, he wears a hard hat and wanders around the already built Golden Gate bridge. Did Imtiaz not know that the Bay Bridge was and still is under construction, and would make a decent alternative? He runs to catch cable cars and people applaud him, he collects his Nutrasweet packets and plays video games. And then things get depressing for him, even though yet more blondes (and brunettes too) are giving him the come hither. He is in clinical depression, and then is mugged in downtown San Francisco – an unheard of event, and for some reason beaten to a pulp as the muggers want the picture of Deepika he is carrying. Then he goes home and smashes his video game console and trashes his apartment to tell us that he has reached the end of his rope. Then he goes back to India and finds Deepika and gets smacked about a bit and then it is happy endings. UGH.

How could Imtiaz give us LAK after SNT and JWM? It is confused and wannabe and annoying compared to his other two films which are earthy and real. My review does not mention the music. Because every song is situationally misfit and shoehorned into the film and is full of Caucasian extras in skinny clothes. There is even a guy in Buckingham Palace guard uniform (copying Its Rocking! setting). Chor Bazari is salvaged by a magical Deepika in talli mode. The final credits roll to Ahun Ahun, which is almost like a bad dancing competition – perhaps intentionally.

The dialogs range from peppy and catchy and real, like the interchanges post-breakup, to extremely poor – main tumhe baadme sorry bole doongi (as you are dumping your husband of a day)!!!! The screenplay mixes the Kal and Aaj parts in a neat way to keep the story interesting. This also saves the film from being branded inspired by Three Times (the Palm D’Or nominated film by Hsiao-hsien Hou), although the Aaj part uses some elements of the first piece in Three Times, including text contact, and the following and eventually finding a person you love. The Kal parts worked wonderfully for this viewer and kept me engaged in the film.

The acting was superior by Rishi Kapoor, though in a role he plays for the Nth time, thus inducing ennui. Neetu Singh was a joy to see in a brief moment – what a charmer even today! Deepika Padukone was stunningly beautiful throughout, be it in overalls, modern clothing or full wedding finery. She is growing as an actress with each film and here she gave a decent overall performance. There are still some issues with diction and accent, and I wonder why they do not give her a name in the film that makes the diction more believable. She was at her best in the frivolous moments, and with that smile, much can be forgiven. Giselle Monteiro plays Harleen Singh and she does a great job of looking the part – which is more than half the battle. Making her shy gave her an enigmatic and interesting persona – she would always turn her back to Veer when she talked to him, making for a most charming interaction. She really had not much else to do, and time will tell if she will make a mark in cinema.
That brings me to the hero of the show – Saif Ali Khan. Saif was in almost every frame of the film and while somewhat aged in the Aaj Casanova role, he seemed OK for the young Veer role. To me he seemed labored and straining to play the cool guy and his best moments were the ones where his vulnerabilities peeked through. I think Saif has not matured any beyond his landmark role in Omkara, and thus he always seems to fall short in later films. In fact his broody and serious act in TPTM was infinitely preferrable to his role in LAK for me.

Imtiaz Ali disappointed me with LAK, I was expecting a better film than JWM, now that he had more money at his command. Instead his film was stripped of any local appeal, and full of glitter and gloss and misplaced song and dance numbers. I am sure that LAK will be successful, but I hope that Imtiaz will go back to the basics for his next venture.

How do I rate LAK compared to other contemporary romcoms? It was more engaging than JTYJN, and leaps and bounds ahead of films like the recent KI. Just goes to show that if people expect a lot from you, then they are not happy with a halfway decent product.


30 Responses

  1. more engaging than JTYJN – disagree there . tab tak ek dum perfect review . but than like most srk films i hated and becoming big hits this is on its way to be abiggie too.

  2. looks like there wont be a new CBOX in new NG and old one has expired .

  3. It was wanting to be cool like JTYJN – in that sense they were quite similar for me.

    No CBOX? Call an emergency meeting!!

  4. I think the biggest problem with the ‘Aaj’ story is how Deepika and Saif Ali Khan started loving each other is shown in a fast forward montage kind of a thing and they get an entire scene and a party and an airport scene and lots of internet chats, phone calls, SMS messages to show their break up. So how can we feel for those two characters???

    Overall I think it is a watchable film because of some great realistic dialogs and scenes by Imtiaz Ali. Saif Ali Khan did well in most of the parts but wasn’t 100 percent. Rishi Kapoor was great in playing his part. But both the girls disappointed me with their acting. Deepika’s breakdown in the climax was good though.

    The film is borrowed from many films. Three Times, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Dilwale Dulhaiya Le Jaayenge, Hum Tum(the ending of Aaj part was similar).

    Every song in the film were misplaced except Yeh Dooriyan and Ahun Ahun only because they weren’t placed in the film but the credit sequences. 🙂

  5. thats a great point Ankit . they show deepika , saif story in just one scene one month and we r led to believe they love eachother so its hard to feel for the characters .

    i disagree on dialogue parts they were unintentionally funny in may places . yeh dooriyan is use a lot in background .

    btw pakhiji for u


    looks like apna adda ab yahaan jamaana padega

  6. Neo,

    I believe Imtiaz is great in writing realistic dialogs. But one dialog which I hate the most in the film is “Tum hamesha correct baat bol deti hun jaaneman” I mean why did Imtiaz wrote such a dialog? His strong point is realistic dialogs, then why dud he write such a filmy dialog?
    But I seriously love the break up scene. It was very well handled by Imtiaz Ali IMO. The entire thing about Saif being nervous and then finally saying “Well that was simple.” And then Deepika making that expression when Saif says to her she is special and he’ll miss her. I loved it.

    BTW, about that Mannat house, I have seen those photos before. The very next day I read somewhere that those photos were fake. And one photo which has SRK sitting with his laptop doesn’t say, it such a luxurious house as in other photos. So I don’t know whether these photos are actually true. SRK has never commented on them. So really can’t say.

  7. Thanks guys!

    Neo – woh Musharraf ka ghar hai, mannat nahin! Tum Paksitan ja rahe ho?

    SB should be up in a couple of hours!

  8. really i got that from SB forum socha tumko achcha lagega . i usually dont see such stuff so i guess i am some years late 😀

    btw on Ng doga does has a point . how can we believe 27 crores figure ? i guess since all sources r reporting it , its coming from eros and they reported 42 for KI remember ?

  9. Ankit – but what about all those unintentionally funny dialogues in last part of film ? the one where \Meera says to vikram main waapis ake maafi maang logi . they were many such unintentionally funny dialogues in the film . that is why i said dialogues were not upto the mark . sad i can remember only one at this point .

    the scene where they tell eachothers flaws is best part of movie even if it went on and on .

  10. Agreed – the flaws dialogs were brilliant, the breakup with husband was comical. And the Kal part was great as it had very little dialog, so I think Imty failed in dialogs here compared to JWM.

  11. Aur Neo – this blog is family friendly – yeh kya gravataar hai?

  12. I agree with pakhipakhi and you that the entire Meera-Vikram track was unintentionally funny in the film.

    The best scene in the movie IMO was towards the end when Rishi Kapoor says to Saif Ali Khan “Rab Rakhan” and then Saif Ali Khan races after packing his bag and the scene cuts to 1960 part where Saif says to his friends “Haraamjadon, maine usse leke hia aana hai”. The scene gave me a rush in my blood too and even I wanted to sprint to save my girlfriend from villain. But neither do I have a girlfriend, nor there were any villain*. So I had no option but to watch the movie. 🙂

    BTW, the scene which you consider it as the best had a dialog where Deepika says to Saif that woh jaan ke drunk act kar rahi thi, so that he does something. Her delivery of that dialog was very much like how Kareena Kapoor said her dialogs in JWM.

    * – It references one of the scenes in Dil se.. where SRK is doing a radio show, and says “Usne ladki ko dekhte hi yeh faisla kar liya ki usse ghode mai baith ke us ladki ko daaku se bachana hai, par na hi toh whaan gode the aur na hi daku. ” Something like this. One of the brilliant scenes of Dil Se..

  13. ab dekho ? kaunsa achcha lagega woh dekh raha tha

  14. wow Ankit u seem to remember quite a bit from the movie . i can hardly recollect such things even when i have seen the movie 2 times 😀

  15. Neo – no change, still see something that belongs in Rediff forums! 😉

    Ankit – Deepika’s dialog there was brilliant, and not uinlike Kareena where she is aaked “Tumko kaise paat ki woh impotent nahin hai” and she just smiles and says Pata hai!

    Lol at Dil se dialog – that was a great scene in the film.

  16. cookies delete karo hopefully naya achcha pic dekhega

  17. I think it is gravataar delay, nahin to yeh photo bhi nahin dikhta!

  18. […] Read the rest at PakhiPakhi […]

  19. pakhipakhi,

    “Deepika’s dialog there was brilliant, and not uinlike Kareena where she is aaked “Tumko kaise paat ki woh impotent nahin hai” and she just smiles and says Pata hai!”

    Somehow I felt Kareena was more natural in speaking with that kind of a tone or accent than Deepika.

  20. BTW, what do you think of the name ‘Mira Pandey’. Couldn’t Imtiaz think of a better name. MIRA PANDEY. Realism ki bhi band baja di is naam ne toh. Either Imtiaz wasn’t getting a better name or he knowingly did it to inject more realism in the film. For me he tried too much and overdid it unfortunately.

  21. It was Meera Pandit – but giving her a more “Southie” name might have worked better with her accent.

  22. Haven’t seen the movie.. so can’t comment on the review.. My observation on reading movie reviews by you, is that the length of the review is directly proportional to the absurdness of the movie.

  23. Just want to add… looking at the commercial success of this movie it is obvious that the Bangalore Beauty Deepika is the lucky charm for aging Khan’s… She rescued SRK’s career and production house by giving a super hit in OSO, and now she is doing the same for Saif. Way to go Deeps !

  24. “length of the review is directly proportional to the absurdness of the movie.”

    Or the commercial success of the movie? Are you calling my reviews absurd? 😮

    • “Are you calling my reviews absurd? :-o”

      Hmmmm Let’s see… What i did not state clearly..(which doesn’t surprise me at all 🙂 ) ??

      In my mind if the movie is absurd, you have lot to critic..and hence longer reviews… So how does this imply that your review is absurd, maybe you should explain.. please.. do so.. Thanks in advance !

  25. dekho dekho kiske darshan hua . sakshatkara ji ke . how r u boss . what is little one doing ?

    • Hey Neo… Good to see you buddy… I am doing fine.. Hope you are also doing fine too. Little one is growing up.. and now he is taking the ‘baby’ steps.. 🙂

      PS : Sorry Pakhiji for hijacking your blog, for personal talks.. please let us know if this against the ‘blog’ policy.

  26. Mujhe to kuch samajh hi nahin hai na!! Absurd dikha to laga mere hi baare mein hoga….

    About use of blog a shout box, kal bhi hua thaa, aaj bhi hoga, lage raho!!!!

  27. am fine saks .

    pakhiji ki blog ki visit badh rahi hai unko kya problem hogi 😛

  28. Doston ka swagat karo, aur yeh ilzaam suno! Duniya hai duniya!

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