It is ironic that Imtiaz Ali chose to release his film Love Aaj Kal on Valentine’s Day. For, the gimmick that Valentine’s Day now stands for, it probably deserves a film like this one. Starring Sara Ali Khan, Kartik Aaryan and Randeep Hooda, Love Aaj Kal will only leave the audience heartbroken, more so if you’re an Imtiaz Ali fan.
To say that Love Aaj Kal 2020 relies heavily on Love Aaj Kal 2009 is an understatement. From screenplay to songs, Imtiaz Ali has done little to improve on the original and done more to actually ruin the Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone starrer. Actually, maybe not. Because now it is only going to make us want to go back and watch the 2009 release again.
Love Aaj Kal 2020 starts off with two juxtaposed scenes – one with Kartik (Raghu) and newcomer Arushi Sharma (Leena) set in 1990, and the other between Kartik (Veer) and Sara (Zoe), set in 2020. The men are immediately established as stalkers, while the women as firebrands who can take these creeps on. Like most love stories of Bollywood, incessant stalking eventually turns into love – the mad, the sticky kind that doesn’t leave you even when you try to scrub it off. Except no, it’s not okay even when someone like Imtiaz Ali, with supposed understanding of human character, its depths and its darknesses, says it. Year 2020 is, after all, post #MeToo era. Did Imtiaz Ali forget to take that into account when he was trying to tell a story about modern-day love?
Kartik Aaryan squints well, and if only that were the requirements of a good actor, he’d be one. His various hairstyles perform better than him, his facial hair grows more and in a more defined way than the two characters he is essaying. But without a monologue and misogyny, he is out of depth. What can Kartik do?
Sara Ali Khan’s hair looks perfect in every scene, her detailed eye make-up leaves us envious – does anyone ever realise how much time, practice and effort it takes to perfect the smokey eyes? But Love Aaj Kal will not do for Sara what Highway did for Alia Bhatt.
The fault is not in the stars but the director himself. To see that Sara and even Kartik, who hasn’t really cemented his foot as an actor but clearly wants to, have surrendered themselves to Imtiaz Ali, and then ended up with a poorly written script, limited characterisation and sub-par direction, is heartbreaking.
What we cannot forgive Imtiaz Ali for is killing Mahabir Bhati. Randeep Hooda remains the most underutilised actor in the film, perhaps the only actor who came with skills and experience on his CV when he landed up on the sets. The blue-and-wood colour palette at his cafe in Delhi, where 50 per cent of the film is set, was better utilised than Randeep, the actor who immortalised Mahabir Bhati.
Unpopular opinion alert: the film actually had potential. The characters actually showed some spirit, some spark that only needed some harnessing. Which one would think Imtiaz Ali is capable of doing.
Veer is an old-school fellow who believes in that all-consuming kind of love or nothing at all. Zoe, on the other hand, is modernity and feminism’s answer to patriarchy, where as a woman she chooses career first and puts everything else later, just like men have been conditioned to do over centuries before this. But she struggles to choose between love and career, she struggles to strike a balance, and that right there makes her you and me. And then there is the infidelity angle, where the age-old concept of monogamy is questioned. None of these have received the Imtiaz Ali treatment that we’ve seen in films like Tamasha, Rockstar, Highway or even Jab We Met.
Ultimately, Raghu remains a hybrid between Tamasha’s Ved and Rockstar’s Jordan. His angst is without cause or effect. Zoe remains a hybrid between Jab We Met’s Geet and Love Aaj Kal’s Meera. Her fire is doused by unnecessary outbursts that make her seem bipolar. And Randeep remains a character the film should have actually been built on – the most interesting and layered of the lot, honestly.
If you walked into Love Aaj Kal as an Imtiaz Ali fan, despite the debacle that Jab Harry Met Sejal was, you will walk out broken, even more disappointed. And perhaps with the realisation that Imtiaz, the man with the untamable hair and the insatiable appetite for delving deep into the human psyche, has ebbed.
And sleepless. It’s 3am. And we’re writing, we’re bleeding.
We’re going with 1.5 stars out of five.
Source – India Today