I had such high hopes of Love Aaj Kal. Despite knowing that Deepika Padukone can’t act. I mean if Farah could get her to emote, anything can happen. And this is Imtiaz Ali. Of Jab We Met. And even better, Socha Na Tha.
This is not a bad film – but Ali departs from his usual strengths, and it’s exactly why the film doesn’t quite make you go all warm and fuzzy inside. I am not give out too many spoilers here – though to be fair, the film is so bloody obvious that if you require spoilers, you’ve probably not seen more than three Hindi films in your life.
For me – there are three elements that Ali specializes in, and they make his films charming. Family, cultural background (or baggage?) and the idea of a relationship as something that evolves. And yes, his films have strong characters. The kinds that you may not like – you might find the heroine too loud, or too mousy. You might find the hero too quiet or a bit too selfish. But through the relationship you see various shades of them.
There’s no context of the “family” in this film. Ali had this charming way of bringing the concept of family as a backdrop to understand how people behave. Unlike usual Bollywood families they are not evil, but they go a bit OTT on the affection front. The other bit of the context that Ali uses is the idea of a “city” or “cultural background”. In this case it was supposed to be London, but it’s sort of incidental, and marked by the presence of a few badly done British Asian accents. While I can understand that he wants to deviate from his own formula, it’s almost as though he wants to give up on every strength he has, and make something that is a shadow of what he’s capable of.
But the worst offending bit was that at no point do you see Saif and Deepika grow in a relationship. Everything is based on dialogues, as opposed to gestures. There’s no sense of the rubbed familiarity that couples have. Yes, it’s a film about the pretense of convenient relationships, but it doesn’t do that very well either. Even shallow, empty relationships have a purpose. Even shallowness can be captured. Except for some brief moments – there’s no bittersweetness that you need to understand how two people manage to be in a relationship.
At some point, Ali almost begins to unravel the characters of Deepika and Saif when they live apart and go on with their lives. For me, that’s when the film came alive. Especially in the very moments when either of them is on the screen, taking in the news of the other person moving on, or trying to understand if the strange aftertaste of the conversation is that of jealousy or a realization of loss.
The story of “yesterday” – the parallel love track has its moments. Something charming, something very quiet. The Brazillian model portrayed as the Punjabi Kudi didn’t do much for me, but her expressions at points are priceless. The whole bit with a piping hot glass of tea under her dupatta just makes you want to be born in the 1950s. Almost as though your life would be so much more simple and beautiful if it could actually be in sepia.
Perhaps the strength of the film was the idea that love of the yesteryear wasn’t all that quiet or submissive, and that love in current times is not that flimsy or pain free. But in the end Ali doesn’t do justice to either of the stories. Some justice… maybe. But not to the extent which you’d expect him to.
This isn’t a bad film at all. It’s just that I’d come to building some solid expectations from Imitiaz Ali. I came out of the theatre happy, but just not warm and fuzzy enough. (Bitches with high expectations, what can I say?)
PS – Can I say how awesome it is to have a female protagonist with a career in a film! And that there’s no melodrama about the fact that her career is a higher priority than a relationship in that moment. That’s the one thing I absolutely love about Imitiaz Ali films. He doesn’t deny the fact that men and women maybe different, in fact in his films they’re more similar than different – but he doesn’t judge women.