It was a brilliant idea to begin with, no doubt. Two love stories in two different time periods with the same actor playing the lover boy in both and the two stories running almost parallel. But sadly, Love Aaj Kal (LAK) is unable to go beyond its one-liner. As it goes through the development stages of forming a story, treatment, screenplay and finally a film, it loses something at each stage. Maybe the expectations and pressures were too high, maybe there was too much at stake for LAK to be the big Bollywood blockbuster and, for all you know in a world of hype and savvy marketing it still might be one, but qualitatively, the film fails to deliver.
In LAK, in 2009, we have Jai (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera (Deepika Padukone), who are a modern-day couple in London. They are very happy together but do not believe in tying each other down. So when life pulls them in different directions, they decide to go with the flow. In 1965 Veer Singh (Saif Ali Khan again ) is struck by a thunderbolt when he sees Harleen (Giselle Monteiro) for the first time and decides she would be his wife, He travels a thousand kilometers by train to stand under her balcony only to have a glimpse of her face. And yet not speak a word with her. An older Veer Singh (Rishi Kapoor) does not understand how Jai can treat matters of the heart without passion, like a financial transaction. Jai does not understand how Veer Singh could have been so naive and silly about Harleen in the days of his youth. But as both stories unfold, one realizes that the process of relationship might be different in different eras, but the experience of being in love remains the same…
Looking at Imtiaz Ali’s past record, one surely expected a better and more coherent screenplay. Instead the narrative flow is tedious with just the odd clever dialogue or situation (the break-up party) to liven things up as the film fails to take off until it is much, much too late. The contemporary love story really doesn’t work and seems more silly and juvenile in its ‘moments’ rather than cute and cool. True, the film does pack in issues relevant to contemporary modern living but superficially so and even as the film avoids certain clichés, it is unable to use the ‘naya angle’ properly. Thus, there are few moments you remember in the film and even those you do are mainly from the older loves story, which still has a nostalgic and heartwarming feel about it.
More importantly, the film fails is in its cinematic treatment. It is far too verbose and over dependent on the hope that dialogue would carry it through. Consequently, it falls short of imagination in creatively setting up scenes, thinking about interesting transitions from one era to the other and using the camera creatively to tell its story. More often than not, the transitions seem to be arbitrary as if done on the edit table rather than on the script level. All this doesn’t help the film much.
Incidentally, not that Indian mainstream films follow logic, but the makers mention 1965 as the era in which the older love story take place. Which means even a young lad of 22-23 then would be 66-67 today. But in the present, Rishi Kapoor doesn’t look that old and neither does his wife who too would be in her early 60s at least.
The performances too fail to lift the film. As for the current life story, Saif has played this character far too often now and he is unable to give any new take on it and seems to be going through the motions while the older love story doesn’t really give him much scope to perform. In fact, he looks far too old now for such goofy, boyish characters and maybe it’s time he starts playing his age. Deepika looks nice enough but still has miles and miles to go as an actress. She was correctly cast and well utilised in Om Shanti Om (2007) and Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) but, frankly, finds the role here just beyond her comprehension. Her dialogue delivery is stilted without any modulation whatsoever and she is just embarrassing in the scene where she tells Rahul Khanna she knows she hasn’t done right by him. Rishi Kapoor and Rahul Khanna are wasted. Giselle Monteiro, is cute and pretty but sadly no actress. Neither is the firang playing Jo. The less said about the supporting cast, who look little better than junior artists, the better.
Technically, the film is so-so. The music is energetic and peppy but picturised rather ordinarily, except maybe the Delhi song. The Twist song is placed most awkwardly and surely a proper scene could have been created for Saif to start his relationship with Jo rather than this song. The Production Design is found wanting as the 1960s mohalla looks too, too obviously set-like and nor is 1965 credibly recreated; nowhere do Saif’s clothes look like out of the 1960s. Surely these details could have been looked into. One steam engine and the odd old car don’t a period make. The editing is unable to pace the film properly making for a choppy and inconsistent narrative flow.
All in all, highly disappointing.
Hindi, Romance, Color