Love sometimes becomes so intertwined in life that life itself becomes devoid of love ā or so we think. Sometimes storybook romances exist ā but never function in that predictable style that we watch in everyday Bollywood romance extravaganzas, like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ) or even Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Thereās no fluff and gloss in reality, and love also holds no gloss in this world as it does on the movies that are regularly churned out by 'rom-com' makers these days. And I somehow felt that such understated romance could never be translated on the big screen in such a simplistic and straightforward manner.
But Imtiaz Ali, the master storyteller and director who has made the critically acclaimed Socha Na Tha and the cult Jab We Met, (and who has also written for the poignantly moving Ahista Ahista), is back to bring the most different love story on the big screen, the very aptly titled Love Aaj Kal.
Itās the year 2009. Real-life relationships may not be as straightforward. People now are practical in their relationships, are more career-oriented, and think a lot about the future. In this breed of Gen-X exist two people, Jai Vardhan Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera Pandit (Deepika Padukone), living in London, who meet in the most unusual way (donāt want to reveal more about this unusual meeting ā very hilarious sequence in the car; watch out for it), then start to date each other for a year until Meera decides to go to Delhi and Jai decides to pursue his career at the Golden Gate in San Francisco.
His craze in building bridges and her craze to do art restorations forces them to part ways, but they decide to differ from other couples who break-up, and instead celebrate it. This amazes Veer Singh (Rishi Kapoor) who is the owner of the coffee shop in which Jai and Meera decide to breakup and hold a party in that celebration- which makes him relate his own story to Jai.
Saif Ali Khan excels in his dual role ā and guess what; he shines as the Sardar, the young Veer Singh. And as Jai Vardhan Singh ā what should I say? I think this is the deepest and the most meaningful ācool dudeā role he has taken. The depth of his characters in this movie is amazingly portrayed on screen, and maybe the people who really watch the movie with an open mind will know that Saif Ali Khanās cool dude image in this movie is not a been-there-done-that. Never!
Saif might have hogged a lot of screen space with his interpretation of the two roles, but he hasnāt overshadowed Deepika Padukone, who gives her career-best performance in this movie. The pain that Meera Pandit feels is well-translated by Deepikaās acting. Sheās a complete natural, and not once does the viewer feel that she hammed or overdid it. And I am surprised that she cried so well; believe me, her breaking down in the climax and the pre-climax portions wrenched my heart and made me cry a little.
Giselle Monteiro as Harleen is a revelation. Her eyes and expressions speak a lot, and move the story forward as never before. We have seen so many movies depicting the love dipped in honey (and silence), but this one totally changes the way silent love is shown through the emotions that Veer and Harleen share through their expressions and body language.
Technically, the movie is brilliant, and rises a few notches above Jab We Met. N. Natarajan Subramanium has captured the picture-perfect locations through the lens with finesse and perfection. The background score by the duo of Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant is haunting, something which you can carry back home with you mentally.
Pritamās music has scored a ten on the music charts already and something I donāt need to emphasize about, but the picturization of these very songs leaves a huge impact. It is not very often that the music videos are as substantial as the compositions but movies by Imtiaz Ali have had the videos really matching the songs to a āTā. Songs like Aahun Aahun, Main Kya Hoon, Dooriyanā¦. Chor Bazaari is by far the most energetic one on screen, itās so breezy you are left with a really wide grin on your face. I still remember the dance steps of the song, and try them at home ever so frequently. Twist was good, but the entry of the song should have been more sensibly written into the movie.
The color correction in a way sets the tone for the movie. Sepia pulls us back to 1965, and the vibrant full-colored scenes bring us back to 2009. Kudos to Aarti Bajaj for editing a movie with simplicity. I wish I could edit like herā¦
Now to the more complex part of the movie ā the story and screenplay. It is quite evident that Imtiaz Ali has given his all for this movie. Character sketches are explicitly and intricately detailed and so well written that it makes the stars shine in their respective roles. While the first half will be confusing, boring and annoyingly irritating to many, it is those who persevere and attend well who will love the movie the most. And yes, it must be noticed that the screenplay to the pre-intermission has just been deliberately written that way. Itās just like a jigsaw puzzle ā the first half shows us all the pieces of the puzzle, and the second half puts the pieces together, slowly and gradually, until, by the last half-an-hour, a clearer picture emerges, leading us to understand fully why it was written that way.
Writing is flawless, except for a few very minor glitches which are, at best, ignored. It is the writing which wins the most brownie points and brings out the best in the movie. Which is why I always think, āItās amazing how Imtiaz Ali changes a very simple and drab story, straight out of our life, and weaves his magic into it with his writing, thereby changing the movie into something truly magical for the viewers.ā
Scene-by-scene has been written so well that it touches your heart. Thereās not a single scene which you cannot relate to. The most powerful scene is the one in which he (Saif, as Jai Singh) realizes something is amiss in his otherwise perfect life working at the Golden Gate, when he is beaten up, and the photo of Meera is taken away from him. The crashing realization of the fact that the only thing that was amiss from his life was Meera makes out for one of the most emotional scenes in the movie, in which he later breaks down and relates to Veer about his dilemma. Another powerful scene is the meeting of Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone at her marriage, when Saif Ali Khan keeps on blabbering his heart out. Deepikaās body language during that scene has been so well perfected that you feel for her. And as for Saif, he has enacted the dialogues so well that your heart crushes for him. There are many such scenes flawlessly written, which hurt directly there, at the core of your heart.
In conclusion, I would like to input a few observations for the readers to think about:
1. People expecting another Jab We Met from this movie are advised to avoid it, as comparisons should never be made between the two. While Jab We Met spoke about life and love in the most energetic way possible, Love Aaj Kal is far more subtle and serious in nature, tackling how relationships are handled nowadays and how the meaning of love has never changed over the years in the Oxford dictionary. While Shahid and Kareenaās chemistry will be remembered as a cult over the years, the one between Saif and Deepika is by far the best and the most mature chemistry seen on screen. That relationship between Saif and Giselle in 1965 is not overshadowed by the one in the present, and runs parallel, such that the similarities are in our face, making us realize that the beauty of Love is not lost yet, weāve just started losing itās essence, taking it for granted. And that message, according to me, is far more special and heart-rendering than the one put up in Jab We Met.
2. The connectivity between the present and the past and its smooth transition in the movie is very evident. In the very monuments where Meera plans to restore art into the original form, Veer and Harleen developed their love story. Maybe there have been many who havenāt seen this connectivity, but the monuments also play an important role in the movie.
3. This movie is not a candyfloss ārom-comā. Itās not a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai; itās not a DDLJ ā heck, itās not even a Pyaar Ke Side Effects. Itās a very mature take on the way love always takes its true form when we least expect it. And that it hasnāt changed over the years. This might bore the people who expect to be entertained throughout the duration of the movie. But for those die-hard romantics who get absorbed into plots like this, itās a must go for.
4. And last, but not the least, I can relate to the āMango peopleā that Saif and Deepika called themselves when deciding to break-up ā so much so that Iāve made sure I will watch it again, and again, and again.
Imtiaz Ali always creates something different in each movie he writes and directs and his Love Aaj Kal is one of the most unique, complex, and refreshing takes on romance in recent times.