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Love Aaj Kal - neither here nor there, now or then

Love Aaj Kal, which released on Valentine's Day this year to capture the compulsorily mandated romance crowd, is now on Netflix. A surefire sign that a romantic drama is not hitting its mark is when your romantic partner abandons you halfway, as my wife did, in order to find solace in old saas-bahu serial reruns. I, on the other hand, plodded through undeterred, like a champion at a hot dog eating contest. It has been my principle my entire life to never abandon any movie that I have begun, and now of course with this blog site, as a philanthropic service to humanity and you the dear reader.

I have no problem with directors revisiting their own movies after the passage of a decent amount of time, and maybe using a different lens or viewpoint, in order to appeal to a new generation of movie watchers. Alfred Hitchcock did that with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956), David Dhawan did that with Judwaa (1997) and Judwaa 2 (2017). Putting Hitchcock and Dhawan in the same sentence is blasphemy, but you get what I am saying. Here Imtiaz Ali has chosen to go back to this story after a scant 11 years, with the previous one starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone having released in 2009. But this one tries very hard, and the desperate effort is excruciating to watch, to appeal to the hashtag/Instagram/Tinder generation, and the way they view love, relationships, hookups and career.

Like the original, this one too runs on two parallel timelines in two different cities -here they are 1990 and 2020. In 2020 Delhi, Veer (Kartik Aaryan, acting desperate and desperately trying to act soulful and bearded like Ranbir Kapoor in many other Imtiaz Ali movies) and Zoe (Sara Ali Khan, acting weird and schizophrenic, and unnaturally trying to act natural) are always meeting up at a cafe called Mazi (Mazi means past in Urdu, get it?) run by always-ready-to-drop-his-work-and-play-agony-aunt Raghu (Randeep Hooda, trying to act deep, profound and enigmatic), hooking up (well sort of, and unintentionally hilarious both times), and breaking up. In 1990 Udaipur, the younger version of Raghu (played by a clean shaven Kartik Aaryan) and Leena (newcomer Aarushi Sharma, the only one showing a modicum of acting chops) are playing out their small town, besieged by chhoti soch, romance. There is a story to be told here somewhere of balancing career ambitions and steady relationships, and the often competing demands of both, but finding it in this mess of a muddle of a jumble of a movie is like trying to find tits on a flea.

Imtiaz Ali started out with such promise in the Abhay Deol vehicles, Socha Na Tha (2005) and Ahista Ahista (2006), the Shahid-Kareena blockbuster Jab We Met (2007), and the quintessential Ranbir "Saadda Haq" Kapoor starrer, Rockstar (2011). Even the original Love Aaj Kal (2009) was decent enough (the late Rishi Kapoor narrating the love story of the past in that one) and had great songs. In the last few years however, he has been on an ever-accelerating downward spiral, with Tamasha (2015) and the ghastly Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017), culminating in this remake that nobody, not even probably his own family, was asking for. Watching it, I felt robbed of love, na keval aaj, na kal, na parson, magar shaayad barson.

May 3, 2020

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