Director: Imtiaz Ali
With Love Aaj Kal starring Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan, which is a sort-of remake of his own film of the same name from eleven years ago, Imtiaz Ali has done what few believed was even possible – he’s made a love story that might be more indulgent, contrived, and incoherent than Jab Harry Met Sejal. And that’s saying something.
Ever since his filmmaking debut in 2005 with the charming Socha Naa Tha, you could say that Imtiaz has, within his cinematic universe, been fascinated by the rhythms and the vagaries of love. He’s been committed to telling stories about the redemptive, transformative nature of true love. Occasionally it’s yielded extraordinary results – like it did with Jab We Met, which remains his finest film. Other times it’s been hit or miss.
Like the earlier Love Aaj Kal the new film straddles two love stories across two time zones to make the point that one only has to look to the past to resolve romantic conundrums of the present. In that film Saif Ali Khan’s Jai realised the depth of his feelings for Deepika Padukone’s Meera after listening to Rishi Kapoor’s Veer recount how he found and fought for love as a young man. In an inspired casting choice, Saif also played the younger version of Rishi Kapoor’s character Veer.
I should say here I wasn’t a big fan of the earlier film. Compared to the new one though it’s Gone with the Wind. In present day Delhi, Zoe (Sara Ali Khan) and Veer (Kartik Aaryan) are struggling with the familiar ‘relationship vs career’ dilemma. The update here is that it’s the girl who’s torn between these choices; the guy stands by patiently. Another story, narrated in flashback, becomes the compass that informs the course of this one.
In 1990 Udaipur a young fellow, Raghu (also played by Kartik Aaryan), is smitten by Leena (Arushi Sharma). Theirs is a delicate romance potentially thwarted by objecting parents and a judgmental society. There are some nice bits here, like a scene during a school event where the pair dances awkwardly. But this segment is sweet at best; it’s also mostly inert.
The real problem with the film, however, is the present day track, and particularly the character of Zoe. Between the way she’s rendered on paper and the way that Sara plays her, Zoe is pretty much insufferable. One can appreciate her ambition and her single-minded focus on her event-planner career, but using a feminist argument to justify unbuttoning her blouse while going into a job interview is far-fetched. The work-love conflict that she makes a big deal about isn’t fleshed out enough to feel convincing. Practically nothing about her situation suggests that her relationship with Veer could come in the way of her achieving her professional potential. If anything Veer is supportive and devoted to the point of being a pushover.
Sara plays Zoe as high-strung, shrill, and prone to unprovoked outbursts. Zoe is meant to be complicated and confused, but she comes off as self-important and infuriating. Kartik, meanwhile, fares better. He brings a boyish innocence and goofiness to Raghu, who is experiencing love for the first time. As Veer, his body language is awkward initially, but he grows into the role of the idealistic romantic. Arushi Sharma, in the role of Leena, has a nice, likeable presence. But it’s Randeep Hooda who grounds the film in some modicum of believability. As a man looking back at his life, reflecting on his choices, Randeep brings a lived-in quality that this film is sorely missing.
Love Aaj Kal 2.0, if you like, is largely contrived and superficial. It’s a love story in search of a conflict. In that, it reminded me of Imtiaz’s other film, the polarising Tamasha. Like that film, it doesn’t have a lot to say yet pretends to be deep and profound. The filmmaker’s opinion of the millennial generation and their take on love, sex, and commitment is unmistakably patronising. The film claims to hold a mirror to modern love, yet it judges that very thing.
There is no polite way to say this – Love Aaj Kal is pretty awful and dreadfully boring. It’s also overlong and hammy. The pursuit of romantic fulfilment has seldom felt so banal. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five.
Rating: 1.5 / 5