“Tum mujhe tang karne lage ho” - the most meme-worthy dialogue of Love Aaj Kal resonates with meaning and prophecy as one realises that Imtiaz Ali’s grasp on weaving a modern-day love story borders embarrassingly on the meaningless and cliched.
Flawed characters are enticing and their relatability makes them endearing. Love and relationships we all know are complicated... Is it chemistry, is it biology? Does it develop over time or does the first flush of romance leave an indelible mark forever? Such questions are ready fodder for any film about the conflict of the head and the heart. Ali himself has always had such emotionally fragile and flawed characters. While his films like Jab We Met and Rockstar have excelled, he has also ended up making the same kind of film over and over again. But none of his previous films have been as outdated and frustrating to watch as his latest endeavour.
There are two love stories set in two different eras in Love Aaj Kal. One is the 90s ka Udaipur pyaar of Raghu (Kartik Aaryan) and Leena (Arushi Sharma) and the other is aaj ka love between Zoe (Sara Ali Khan) and Veer (Kartik Aaryan, again). Acting as a sutradhaar and connecting the two romances is a weary Randeep Hooda.
Reminiscing about his love Leena, Hooda often hand holds us into the past as we see Kartik Aryan’s Raghu who is socially awkward and smitten by Leena. Halfway through that track, Aryan is given a fuller square jaw and a beard, leaving us wishing that it was Hooda, and not Aaryan, playing the younger Raghu.
This story still merits some credit. It is a genuine attempt at trying to understand attraction and infatuation and love. And could actually have been a complete film worthy of praise had it not been for Zoe’s character shouting and throwing her hands wildly in the air. Then suddenly, we are back to the present where, without any specific reason, Kartik Aryan as Veer is still as socially awkward and stiff and creepily follows his lady love around.
The safe word to end his stalker behaviour is “tum mujhe tang kerne lage ho”. To Zoe ‘s credit, she says it after the halfway mark. Most of us would have sent him packing after the first 5 minutes kyunki he really did “tang karo“ us a lot!
The supposed conflict here is that the woman can’t balance her career and love. Sure, it’s 2020 but well yeah that’s the real problem. Also, the fact that Veer will not sleep with Zoe coz she is ‘special’. The cliches and regressive notions that this film portrays are infuriating. Sex is clearly a bad word because ‘sachha pyar’ is all about avoiding it. And nothing can ruin a good love story as one’s LinkedIn profile because career will always steer you away from pyaar.
Zoe, at some point in the film, gets a job offer from Dubai which she turns down much to the chagrin of her mother and then spends half the screen time beating herself up over her decision. Clearly, it occurred to no one that both could have moved to Dubai or that a long-distance romance could even have been attempted? No, because Zoe and Veer must be joined at the hip at all times and that too in the most sanskaari way possible.
Kartik Aryan as Veer settles in after some initial hiccups but as Raghu, the inadequacies clearly show up. Sara’s character is quite literally loud. She screams most of her lines but that’s understandable given that she has to choose between a confused Veer and a shady boy who calls her “babby” all the time.
For Imtiaz and all his pop philosophy, most characters here are just caricature-ish.
And while music has always been the strong point of his films, almost taking the story forward, here you just want to hit the skip button because the most real scenes in the film are the ones where Zoe books a cab and the driver never finds her location. That’s the bit I related to the most. As for the narrative, the GPS never worked. It’s off the mark and if you are an Imtiaz Ali fan, be prepared to be disappointed but be ready to be left confused first. 1.5 quints out of 5!
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