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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Love Aaj Kal Movie Review: A Cinematic Mishmash of Human Complexities

Love Aaj Kal (LAK) created huge waves back in 2009. The chemistry of Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone was not only powerful, but it was also unique to see two love stories narrated simultaneously in two different time periods.

To see the same title and concept retained, 11 years later, has evoked a bittersweet reaction from the audience. Though this promises to be more contemporary and up-to-date.

Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan play Zoe and Veer, respectively – she is a headstrong, extremely career-driven 22-year old with a lot of emotional baggage.

He, on the other hand, is an idealist software programmer who doesn’t believe in a ‘compromise’ relationship, like the one his parents have.

As such, the spans from 1990 (in Udaipur) to 2020 (in Mumbai), the movie portrays two love stories from widely different eras facing widely different obstacles.

It promises to show how the couple battles society’s restrictions while the other must learn to balance work with love, but both portray the same true and unfiltered feelings of love.

However, we all know that Imtiaz Ali films are never as simple as they seem. Therefore, one expects to see another heartfelt and layered love saga.

Remember how Tamasha followed the caption of ‘why always the same story’? Well, this saying also extends to his filmmaking style.

In LAK, we see Ali once again explore human awkwardness, journies of self-discovery and the conflict of profession versus passion.

But this time, these aspects are minimally compelling. There seems to be a lack of zest or passion in the storytelling, which contributes towards a rather drab first-half, due to a weak screenplay.

There is no conviction through the setup or even the characters. Whilst the Millenials are daring and hot-blooded, we are not just party-animals who are commitment-phobic.

On the contrary, many of us are also quite rooted in our traditions. There is a lot more to the youth of today and our complexities.  

I appreciate the way Imtiaz has utilised ‘social media’ style of scenes to highlight the pressures of striving for success as a backdrop, but this could’ve been more consistent throughout the film.

As such, the ‘Kal’ storyline wasn’t really necessary. Rather than making the movie a dual narrative, this could’ve been a simple story of Veer and Zoe, instead of 1990 one. 

At certain places, ‘stalking’ is normalised in a way which is presented to be endearing, which is so problematic.

Given the fact that there is an onus on female empowerment in today’s day and age, no woman would be able to be flattered by a guy who follows her around everywhere, it’s so unethical and creepy.

Which makes one really question — Is this film an apt reflection of India’s generation next? I personally, couldn’t resonate with most aspects. 

Having said that, there are some quotients, especially in the second half, which are intriguing. Especially when Veer tells her that he wants her for love, rather than just as a rebound.

It is sequences like these which really make us love Imtiaz for his work as a director. But sadly such parts are very few and leaves us yearning for much more.

When it comes to the principal performances, they (unfortunately) are average at best.

Despite the promise shown by Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan in previous works, they seem very disjointed with their portrayal and the director’s visions.

Both of them try a bit too hard and seem to be following strictly what the character profiles outline… Organicness is lacking – even during the intense moments.

At times, Kartik’s ‘bemused’ expressions just are a rehash of him in the Punchnama series so then when it comes to the serious parts, we can’t really take him seriously.

He hails from an affluent family but yet chooses to live like an average joey… There were so many layers to his character which should’ve been revealed. We needed to know a bit more about Veer.

Sara is quite a hit and miss in this. There are moments where she is charming, but then there are scenes where she hams her dialogues and that comes across as cringe… She tries a bit too hard during the emotional parts.

Newbie Arushi Sharma shows promise in certain places. Even though she has minimal dialogues, she holds herself well during the silent quotients.

But whilst watching her, I just couldn’t stop remembering how effective Giselle Monterio was as Harleen in the 2009 film. 

Randeep Hooda, as always, looks handsome and is such a brilliant performer.

But sadly, his character is wasted in the movie because as I mentioned earlier, the entire ‘Kal’ narrative could’ve been done away with.

His role is quite reminiscent of Rishi Kapoor’s in the 2009 movie, where he plays the ‘Love Guru’. He does well with whatever he is given.

Simone Singh does her job well as Zoe’s protective mother. It is a relief to see that the relationship between mum and daughter is not a toxic one. 

Thankfully, the film’s soundtrack is decent. Songs like ‘Shayad’, ‘Mehrama’ and ‘Haan Main Galat’ are winners… But is it as iconic comparatively to the soundtrack which released 11 years ago? I don’t think so.

All in all, Love Aaj Kal had such high potential in being an iconic, refreshing and a youth resonant romantic movie. However, it proves to be a damp squib.

The lacklustre screenplay, underwhelming performance and questionable representations make it a disappointing watch. 

In the words of Sara Ali Khan’s character: “Yeh Sort Out Nahin Hoga.”

⭐⭐ (2/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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