Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Movie review: Love Aaj Kal


I have been withholding this post for almost a week now. I saw Love Aaj kal on the first day itself but couldn’t quite make up my mind whether I liked it or not. Intuitively I was comparing it with Imtiaz’s previous work. That it when I decided that I should give it some time to sink in, distance myself from it for a while and then watch it again- this time objectively and then put my views together.

Today, I got out early from my work and went straight to the closest multiplex. Afternoon shows on weekdays are generally unfilled and you have the luxury of choosing your seat. When I enquired the lady at the ticket counter for the top row, she winked at me and asked if I would prefer the corner seats. Taking her clue I clarified that I am watching the movie alone and I don’t mind any seat till it’s a top row.

While I barely settled on my seat, I saw a young couple getting too comfortable on the corner seat(s) that I skipped. Their movie had begun much before the screen lit. Without diverting much let me come back to Love Aaj Kal.

I am a huge Imtiaz Ali fan and loved all his previous work. I loved Socha Na Tha the most, followed by Jab We Met and Ahista Ahista (story by him). I love the way he decodes the youth of today- their confusions, their aspirations and their varied interpretations of love- all of this mostly unfolding in the backdrop of ever vibrant and colorful heartland of India. It is amazing how the ‘place’ plays such an important role in all his plots.

I liked the way the story unfolds in Love Aaj Kal. In terms of technique it is the most sophisticated of all of Imtiaz’s work. The parallel tracks seamlessly travel between places, people and time zones till they merge in the end. It was a clever idea to use Saif to potray the young Rishi Kapoor as well as it gave the audience a common lever to draw the analogy between the past and the present, and, it is done in a way that it doesn’t confuse the ‘aam junta’ (mango people). Personally, this was easy for me to rationalize than the logic of Paresh playing multiple roles in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (I am the mango people).

The Saif-Deepika track confused me. I wish the director could have spent more time in building it. It was hurried as if it had to reach somewhere. It lacked ‘soul’ and was kind of shallow and superficial which makes you wonder why the couple was chasing it so hard and what exactly changed their hearts to take such intense steps. Frankly, it didn’t deserve the pursuit as shown in the movie. It was un-relatable even for the young, metro, multiplex audiences.

Imtiaz’s one liners are nothing short of insights on youth (who can forget “main apni favourite hoon” from Jab We Met) but most of the lines fell flat in this one and my heart cringed every time Saif said “Jaaneman” with a nasal twang.

Deepika looked a million bucks and to me her role was more challenging than Saif’s. Her character required a restraint which was very endearing. She shows all the right expressions but needs to work hard on her dialogue delivery.

I know I shouldn’t get into each scene but some of them were so repulsive that I have to mention them here- the flirting scene between Saif and the other chick in the break up party was ridiculous and didn’t make sense what so ever. I didn’t understand where the ‘twist’ song came from- it was way too ‘filmy’ and forced.

But what hurt me most (literally) was the picturisation of “main kya hoon” track (which shows Saif’s diminishing interest in his dream job) and the subsequent mugging scene. It was one of the most clich├ęd representations of an emotion even by cinematic standards.

The love story between the sardar Saif and Harleen worked well for me and I assume for most of us. There was something very pure and innocent about it and Saif looked every bit a romantic sardar. The scene where Harleen swaps her seat (in train) to be able to be seen by Saif and where she secretly brings down a cup of black tea for him in Calcutta are what I call the trademark Imtiaz scenes – the ones that melt your heart.

I liked the Saif and Deepika scene in the Delhi metro and the way they have shot the ‘chor bazari’ song. Even the final reunion scene between Saif and Deepika was understated and handled very well. If only there were more gems like that.

While the couple in the corner seats left the hall completely ‘satisfied’, I was left unsatisfied. What could have been a brilliant movie settled for just above average.