I don’t want to be a pile-on but in my opinion, Love Aaj Kal is one of those ok-could-have-been better movie. What saves it from falling into the bucket of mediocrity is – surprise – not the so-called refreshingly different story-telling of director Imtiaz Ali but the matured performance by Saif Ali Khan. A love story where realization dawns late in the day is something Bollywood has churned out effortlessly. Saif’s own Hum Tum comes to mind immediately. Love Aaj Kal tells the same story set in the present…but the past acting as a catalyst. The goings on in the present are disparate but yet intertwined, occurred decades apart but yet are parallel. This essentially is the crux of the story and is both the high point as well as the downside of this movie!
Present Day: Jai Vardhan Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera Pandit (Deepika Padukone) are a new-age dating pair. Less of lovers, more of friends, foreseeing each others’ moves, knowing each other intimately, they are not tied down by commitments or promises. When a higher calling beckons, they’re not afraid to end their relationship and remain friends. But there’s something they don’t know, rather, don’t realize. Veer Singh (Rishi Kapoor) is the catalyst to their realization; but how does he know that it is love in between them? Simple…coz he’s been there, done that!
44 Years Ago: Veer Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and Harleen Kaur (Gisele Monteiro) see each other everyday. Silence speaks louder than words between them. Veer Singh pines for Harleen and albeit belatedly, Harleen also reciprocates. Veer promises to the skies and to himself that in this birth and in all births, Harleen will be his soul mate. Do they overcome the hurdles and come together? How does yesterday’s love comes to the help of today’s love? Well, you’d have to see the movie to know that 😉
The story maybe of the ghisa pita types but the storytelling could have enriched it further but director Imtiaz Ali’s narrative style seems cramped, especially with the current-day love story of Jai & Meera. There is zero zip, zero passion and almost no chemistry between them! The opening reels are all yawn yawn groan groan and it is only towards the second half that the movie picks up. The story from the past isn’t just confined to one long-drawn flashback but is concurrently shown with the present and one realizes that Veer’s story is not all that different from Jai’s. That also can be the downside of the movie…as the common audience may not easily correlate the two stories. The layers have to be peeled off to understand the underlying emotion and that’s not something I expect the non-multiplex audience to be doing so easily!
The saving grace of the movie is Saif Ali Khan, no doubts about it. From Aashiq Aawara to Love Aaj Kal, Saif has grown as an actor and his nuanced performance stands out. The characters of the noveau riche Jai and the 60’s brash Veer Singh may be different as chalk n’ cheese but Saif enacts them with brilliance. Deepika Padukone looks beautiful but is not someone who can be termed sexy and doesn’t have the oomph n’ magnetism of, say, a Kareena or a Priyanka and to makes matter worse, can’t even act! Long pauses and forlorn looks aside, she keeps on chattering throughout the movie. Saif’s idiotic prattle, we love but Deepika’s annoying chatter? I’ll Pass! Rishi Kapoor churns out a seasoned performance as the present-day Veer Singh who helps in making Jai understand what he’s missing. Rahul Khanna’s short role goes away unnoticed and so does Vir Das’ and Raj Zutshi’s. Giselle Monteiro plays Harleen Kaur and she looks cute-sy. With some polishing of the rough edges, she’s gonna turn into a fine actress…hopefully!
Music is definitely the second strong point of this movie. Though Twist seems sadly out of place, its the best one of the lot and the background song of Yeh Dooriyan enriches the narrative. Chor Bazaari is surprisingly picturised in an ordinary manner that doesn’t do justice to the hep-factor of the song. Aahun Aahun brings up the rear and its after a long time that I’ve seen the audience stick back in the theatre to catch a post-credits song! The cinematography is also good with the locales of London and San Francisco beautifully shot…Delhi’s past and present charm is also glitteringly shown.
The overall impact of the movie is diluted somewhat, thanks to the passiveness of the aaj and with only Saif Ali Khan and Rishi Kapoor holding aloft the acting torches. Many a times in the movie you wonder at the scene’s meaning and most of such moments involve the realization of love! Remember Saif Ali Khan’s confusion about love in Dil Chahta Hai? Well, he could have done well in re-living the same feelings here…if only to spicen up the Love Aaj. Clearly, in the battle of the times, Love Kal scores better than the present. Watch it only for Saif and the songs…and of course, for the pure love between Harleen & Veer.