Baar Baar Dekho is book-ended by highlights. The film ends with Kala Chasma, that insanely infectious Badshah song. When it began, at least a few people in the theater I was in started dancing. And Baar Baar Dekho begins with a beautifully wrought summary of a grand romance – Diya and Jai are born on different continents. Their paths cross in Delhi when they are eight, they become best friends and the relationship deepens into love. All of this happens before the opening credits finish. I was instantly sold – on both, the characters and the talent of debutant director Nitya Mehra.
The problem is everything in-between. Baar Baar Dekho is essentially the movie equivalent of a Hallmark card. The writers – Sri Rao, Anuvab Pal and Nitya herself – are imparting life lessons here. In case you miss them the characters helpfully spell them out. A wise Pundit tells us – badi baton pe nahin, chhoti baton pe dhyan do. And a sagely professor of mathematics declares: balance ke bagaer koi equation perfect nahin hoti. All working moms know this but it takes Jai a hundred and forty two minutes to figure it out.
The 2013 British film About Time featured a time traveling protagonist who learns to enjoy each day of what he calls his “extraordinary, ordinary life”. Like that man, Jai also becomes a loving husband and father by traveling back and forth in time. He realizes how empty his life will be if he continues to put his own passion – Vedic mathematics – above all else. On paper, this must have seemed like an ambitious, beguiling idea – especially for Hindi cinema. On screen, it’s an absolute slog. Jai just keeps waking up in different years and has no clue what happened in the years that went by.
So Sidharth Malhotra is forced to keep the same dazed and confused expression on his face through the film. He’s in practically every frame. It’s a tough load to carry and he works hard to make Jai’s struggle palpable. But the screenplay doesn’t support him. To begin with, he has to convincingly play a man who is reluctant to marry Katrina Kaif, who of course looks smashing. Katrina also stretches herself by finding some depth and expression. But the repetition in the narrative simply flattens out their efforts. Even the most ardent Sid and Kat fans will find it difficult to stay interested.
Baar Baar Dekho has been jointly produced by Excel Entertainment and Dharma Productions. The production houses are the high priests of a sub-genre I call posh people angst – basically stories about affluent, attractive people. The good thing about these movies is that when the story fails, you can focus on the styling. Baar Baar Dekho is impeccably good-looking. Cinematographer Ravi K Chandran gives every surface a sheen. The locations are lovely and so are the outfits. It’s also a pleasure to see strong actors like Sarika, Ram Kapoor and Rajit Kapur.
But none of it is enough to sustain you through the length of this desperately flawed film. I’m going with two stars but keeping my faith in Nitya. That opening sequence holds promise of greater things.