"Love Aaj Kal": Remixed romance lacks fizz

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You know the gig if you have seen “Love Aaj Kal” 2009. There are two love stories, across two time frames, driving home the point that love these days is very different from what it used to be. And then, after the generational gap between romances then and now has been dissected over 140-odd minutes, writer-director Imtiaz Ali ends up with a message that’s not exactly original: Love is a process, a journey. If love is honest, it will find a way.

For Ali, a tale of love invariably becomes a scope to spew pop philosophy too, about self, selflessness, identity, soul and soulmate. It was an idea that he tapped in “Highway”, “Tamasha” and ‘Rockstar”, and even “Love Aaj Kal” 2009, which he goes about reinventing with his new effort. Larger reflections about life continue to find resonance in this remixed tale of mush, too, although the idea seems less impactful this time.

Thematically, and broadly in terms of execution, the new “Love Aaj Kal” is the same film, although the two plots sustaining the runtime are different from the original.

Imtiaz Ali’s storytelling has always been about a slowburn impact. His films start off on a simplistic note, and acquire a deeper context as they move. “Love Aaj Kal” is no different, as his narrative sets out to portray its two stories of romance across time.

Ali bases his concurrent stories in the early nineties and presentday. The first love story, between Raghu and Leena (Kartik Aaryan and Aarushi Sharma) is played out in smalltown Udaipur of yore. Ali spins a quaint little story of the struggles of love. The second story is of Zoe (Sara Ali Khan), a fiercely ambitious young woman who wants to crack the events management business before she gives her affair with Veer (Kartik in a dual role) a serious thought.

In terms of melodrama as well as the existential challenges that lovers face, Raghu and Leena’s lives and love would seem simplistic and sorted out than the world of Zoe and Veer. Yet, as the two stories move parallel to each other, they are cloaked by the same sense of ennui.

Ali’s films have always been as much about writing as they are about direction, and in this film he was obviously trying to initiate a deeper conversation about the conflict between love and career that GenNow faces, through Zoe’s life. Director Ali is let down by writer Ali in this context.

It is interesting to note how the filmmaker reserves distinct palates for the two stories. If Raghu and Leena’s smalltown milieu of the nineties bears the visual template of Bollywood love stories of that era, Zoe and Veer live out a far more complex relationship.

Since Ali chooses to look at the saga primarily from the viewpoint of Zoe, Sara Ali Khan naturally gets the most significant protagonist in the story. Zoe’s conflicts as a confident career woman and a confused lovergirl make for a fascinating character, and three-film-old Sara exudes a strong screen personality. However, her effort is marred by hamming.

On Kartik Aaryan, you could do a double take when he tries to pass off as a school student in uniform, but the actor does well to balance his acts as the impulsive teenager of the nineties and the awkward geek in presentday. The script lets Kartik explore his image as a romantic hero beyond the comic vein that has established his stardom over a short period of time, and he takes to the role with eagerness. Sadly, flawed storytelling hampers his effort, as well as his chemistry with both Aarushi and Sara.

Randeep Hooda is a delight to watch, in the corresponding role that was essayed by Rishi Kapoor in the original “Love Aaj Kal”, although Hooda’s protagonist gets to essay it with a twist. The actor, bankable as ever, pulls off a role that offers limited scope with understated finesse. Most of the others including debutante Aarushi in the cast are strictly okay.

This is a beautifully shot film (cinematography by Amit Roy), although Aarti Bajaj’s editing could have been tighter all through. The film moves at a lazy pace, only to arrive at an ending you would have guessed by interval.

If Ali wanted to re-tell an old story to a new generation with a twist, one fails to understand why he chose “Love Aaj Kal” for the experiment. For one, the original “Love Aaj Kal” is only a decade old, therefore too young for a remake. Importantly, changing perceptions of love across decades is no longer a novel theme in films.

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