Note : The edited version of this review appears at Planet Bollywood, here .
Rating : Very good (4.3/5)
Genre : Romance
Year : 2009
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Imtiaz Ali
Cast : Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Rishi Kapoor, Rahul Khanna, Raj Zutshi, Vir Das, Giselle Monteiro
Kid rating : PG
Romeo and Juliet, Heer-Ranjha, Shirin-Farhad and all those other love stories – they are only for the books and the movies, right ? Ever seen it happen right in your midst ? (And I don’t mean neighboring Gupta aunty’s daughter who eloped with her motorcycle-wala boy-friend in the middle of the night). What I‘m asking you to do is re-ponder the age old question : What is love ? Does it exist ? More importantly, does it ever happen to us, the aam junta, the mango people ? Fear not – I have not had one drink too many on this Friday night, nor am I drowning in existential angst (not yet anyway) – I am merely quoting a line from “Love Aaj Kal”.
The movie attempts to answer the above question by example. The questioner here is Jai Vardhan Singh (Saif) who’s living in the UK, dreaming of working for the Golden Gate Company in San Francisco, and in the meanwhile trying not to “pile-on” to beautiful girls. While trying the whole “don’t mean to pile-on, but” routine, he meets beautiful Meera Pandit (Deepika). They hit it off, which subsequently leads to a relationship. When their careers dictate that they move to different countries, they part amicably, and move on with their lives . . .
Championing the cause of true love in the film, is Sardar Veer Singh (Rishi Kapoor). A nosy old man who won’t stop prying into Jai’s love life, Veer Singh also relates his youthful tale of love for the beautiful Harleen Kaur. The Veer-Harleen sequence runs parallel to the Jai-Meera storyline, contrasting the ways of yester-year and modern day love.
This film with it’s dual-track love-stories falls strongly into the romance genre. However it’s not your frothy, bubbly romance, a la “Jab we met” , but more of a tale of “difficult” love – i.e.; finding “The One”, and on finding him/her (if you do), the more onerous task of knowing if this is it. Our protagonists Meera and Jai really don’t have a clue; they don’t appear to have thought that far.
Saif plays two characters in the film, that of suave city-boy Jai, and also that of the young Sardar Veer. He looked quite a “natural” Sardar, and even managed the Punjabi accent ably. Overall his performance was energetic, enthusiastic, and if not immaculate, really quite decent. Deepika is quite good as Meera. Meera is an unconventional Bollywood heroine, in that she is smart, has her wits about her, and is calm and reserved by nature. Thus, Deepika seemed a good fit for this role, although her monotonous dialogue delivery didn’t actually light up the screen in the first half of the movie. Her acting style is rather understated, which kind of works here, because that’s who Meera is.
This is a slow-paced film, livened up by some smart quips, and energetic dance sequences. A big plus is the melodious music; “Aahun Aahun“ is a peppy number with Punjabi beats, “Yeh dooriyan“ features Mohit Chauhan‘s soulful vocals, and “Aaj din chaddhya“ is sheer romantic poetry. The film is well-directed and the characters believably developed. Imtiaz Ali lives up-to his reputation and handles the finer sentiments of this film oh-so delicately. His sensitive portrayal of a love languishing, the rarefied disappointment of not knowing whether the one you pine for will indeed be yours, is moving.
It is clear after watching the movie, that the director had a “vision” of what he wanted to project. “Love Aaj-Kal” is an unusual love tale for Bollywood, because it lacks the “add-ons” generally seen in desi films of this genre – the over-the-top/quirky characters (a la Geet in “Jab we met“), the familial parodies (loud Punjabi families are frequently the butt of jokes) and the implicit vibes/coochie-cooings (he thrusts, she parries) between the love-struck pair.
The film when it started, presented the Jai-Meera story in a flurry of quick, short takes – I could just imagine the director yelling “Cut“ after every 10 seconds. Until about the interval, this was how it went, kind of abrupt, and cryptic – made me feel like I was getting the compressed version of the story. But post-interval Ali seemed to get his act together, and the squiggly little pieces of the plot seemed to come together and flow. Thus while I was beginning to have my doubts in the first half of the film, I must say I was floored by the second. The characters are hard not to like, and Meera’s predicament had me shedding a few tears of my own.
“Love Aaj Kal” is a film well worth your time, just don’t go in there expecting a happy-happy, smooth-n-snappy Friday night movie.
Kidwise : This is a clean, classy film, with nothing more than a few lip-locks, and one mugging scene. I wouldn’t actually recommend it for children under 13, because of the pace and nature of the film – younger kids might have a hard time getting it.
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