Love Aaj Kal (2009)

Love Aaj Kal (2009)

Take any romantic role Saif Ali Khan has recently stepped into (barring the brilliant Parineeta), shake it up with the turban clad, dholak baja-ing, bhangra pa-ing Punjab that Bollywood loves to stereotype and you have this movie that prances between the love stories of today and yesterday (aaj and kal, get it?).  Director Imtiaz Ali attempts to bring back the magic he created with Jab We Met in this girl meets boy tale of two eras but doesn’t manage to rise to expectations.

Love Aaj Kal has all the obvious elements of a hit but unfortunately it has the trappings of a flop too. The story is strong but its execution is poor, the genre is romance but there is no chemistry between Saif and Deepika, the cinematography paints the movie across brilliant locations but there isn’t a single canvas that is memorable. There is a superb star cast but the characters are flat. Love Aaj Kal is consistently half full and half empty, take it as you please.

The one thing that overwhelms the entire film is Saif Ali Khan. Is there any rational explanation to why Saif plays the younger Rishi Kapoor (from the 60s) as well as the modern hero in a double role that makes no sense? He commands more screen time than the entire cast of the film put together and he even lends his poor footwork to the item numbers, pushing a hot Deepika Padukone to the background? Inevitably he trips and falls flat on his now visibly ageing face.

As the casual, urban male in a modern romance with his dialogue restricted to “wow, amazing and mind blowing” Saif has been there, done that and we have been there, seeing him do that, one time too many. As a man whose raging hormones are the highlight of his romance, Saif was fine in Salaam Namaste and Hum Tum years ago. But now, as he hits 40, it’s just sad and pathetic. He comes across as an insecure, ageing star afraid of losing fame to new faces. Good thing for him that Deepika Padukone, as an actress, poses no threat. So Jai (Saif) and Meera (Deepika) meet in a club and step into a casual fling in which they refer to doing “sub kuch” yet fail to hint at any chemistry or physics that they might be sharing. In fact there is more chemistry between Saif Ali Khan and Rishi Kapoor. Not being able to figure out where their hearts might be leading them, Jai and Meera follow their careers instead and go separate ways. Only the feeling of not having closure keeps bringing them back together. It is true love, only everyone knows it but them. Hardly original.

In a parallel (and much more intriguing) story, one is taken back to the 60s where Jai’s friend Veer (Rishi Kapoor) is wooing his true love, the pretty and demure Harleen Kaur.

When Veer counsels Jai saying “I used to be exactly like you: young and dashingly handsome”, you’d never guess that what he means is identical twin-like similar! A turban clad Saif is thrown back in time to play a younger Veer. It would have made a bit of sense had Deepika been cast as Harleen but then since Deepika Padukone is dating Rishi Kapoor’s son Ranbir in real life, it may have been a tad bit uncomfortable playing his love interest. On the other hand, as Saif is dating Rishi’s niece Kareena in real life, Veer’s relationship appears realistic and effortless. It would have been ideal if a younger Ranbir Kapoor had been cast as Jai. It’s no coincidence that Saif has been made up to look like him in the promos. Figure it out if you can.

Love Aaj Kal is a film by Saif, for Saif and he pushes everyone else to the background. It brings back Nikhil Arora from Salaam Namaste and Karan Kapoor from Hum Tum with a hint of Rohit Patel from Kal Ho Naa Ho and even the dance moves of Vicky from Yeh Dillagi (‘Ole ole ole’…remember the song?).

There are moments in the story that gently warm you up, especially in Veer Singh’s story: a shy Harleen bringing Veer his favourite black tea when he unexpectedly turns up in Kolkatta to see her, Veer vowing to never follow her around on his bicycle as it might ruin her reputation, Veer and his friends posing as workers to get into her house for a glimpse of his beloved dancing at a family wedding. These are moments that define Imtiaz Ali’s magic. But nothing in Jai’s story is as effective. Jai and Meera’s story leaves you cold. One expects the heat to turn up in a tempestuous love affair but Saif and Deepika together are like a spray of cool water that hits the hot pan and evaporates instantly. Pfffttt…just like that. As for Rahul Khanna, he’s seems to be stuck with the role of loser lover (Dil Kabaddi). Not that he deserves it.

The stories of both couples are narrated side by side, simultaneously approaching climax by the end. The last half hour of the film, to be fair, has unpredictable moments. So should you head out to the cinema and watch the film? Of course you should. It’s not a bad film, just a disappointing one considering everything it promises to offer and then doesn’t. Plus, the nagin naach in ‘Twist’ and ‘Aahun Aahun’ is enough reason to hang on till the very last scene. But be warned: as the end credits roll, Saif dances to ‘Aahun Aahun’ with a double of himself. Lest you forget.

P.S. Believe it or not! Rishi Kapoor does not get drunk in the film and as a Punjabi hot blooded boy called Veer Singh, he does not enroll in the Indian Army. But wait, then they’d have to cast Sunny Deol as his younger character and that wouldn’t have suited Saif at all. Some things have a prurpose – Aamna Haider Isani (Rating – 3 OUT OF 5)

Cast and Production Credits

Year – 2009, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Dinesh Vijan, Saif Ali Khan, Director – Imtiaz Ali, Music Director – Pritam, Cast – Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Giselle Monteiro, Neetu Singh, Rishi Kapoor, Rahul Khanna, Vir Das