There are times in life when, in the middle of doing something with purpose and hope, a question pops into your head — “Why am I doing this?”
It is a question that haunts you throughout Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal.
Starring Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan, Love Aaj Kal is a remake of Ali’s 2009 film of the same name. It follows a similar structure, juxtaposing two love stories set in different decades and drawing some parallels between the two. The new film introduces you to the two romances — one between Veer (Aaryan) and Zoe (Khan) set in the present day and the other between Raghu (Aaryan again) and Leena (Aarushi Sharma), set in the 1990s. Predictably, the two stories are fraught with drama and confused emotion — mostly what many describe as ‘young love’. Ali takes this concept of young love and tries to give a current twist to it. He tries to show a passionate, tumultuous love, but instead, gives you a lesson in what not to do when making a film. Here are a few pointers to pick up:
Don’t try to make a film about young people if you don’t understand them.
It is important to admit, before breaking this point down, that a lot of relationships today are confusing, irritating and nothing like the preset notions of how relationships work. While Ali has captured that emotion really well, he goes overboard in trying to establish that the two lead characters are young in 2020. Zoe is a woman in her early 20s who already has her own event management company that she runs out of a co-working space. Veer, on the other hand, is a gifted coder who apparently can afford to waste his time waiting for the right opportunity and not really work otherwise. There is only one scene that shows him in an office, and that, too, is introduced as randomly as it is taken away. The characters, especially Zoe, obsess about life and work, but seem to be confused between being 30-year-olds in some scenes and 22-year-olds in others.
Don’t get actors who very evidently can’t act.
This is a no-brainer, sure, but one that evidently needs repeating. Aaryan seems to be the flavour of the season — one that leaves a bad after-taste. His portrayals of Veer and Raghu are equally abysmal as he valiantly tries to be an awkward geek with the former and an awkward teenager with the latter. In both roles, he fails miserably and comes off as socially inept. Khan, while great to look at in most scenes, breaks the charm when she tries to emote. She tries to pull of a feisty young woman who thinks she knows everything but comes off cringe-worthy, jarring and downright annoying.
Don’t write a film without a clear plot in mind.
Another obvious point, but it’s not our fault that Ali forgot that he needed the story to go somewhere eventually. The film starts just as abruptly as the first half ends. Ali goes through the beginning and the conflict in the first half, forgetting that he has a second half remaining. Hence, post-interval, the film takes an interminably long, convoluted route to the very predictable end. The drama and the conflict are stretched to the point of being exhausting. Also, if you don’t have anything new to say, maybe don’t say anything? (Just a suggestion.)
Toxic relationships aren’t meant to be celebrated.
It’s 2020 and we’re still watching movies about toxic relationships and celebrating them as true love. Zoe and Veer’s relationship starts with the two meeting at a club (who even goes to clubs anymore?), followed by him stalking her for weeks until she relents and engages with him. Raghu and Leena’s relationship, too, starts similarly, but still somehow manages to maintain a level of innocence. Another toxic relationship is the one between Zoe and her mother (played by Simone Singh), an ambitious, bitter woman who projects her insecurities on her child, affecting the way Zoe views relationships. Later, she pushes Zoe into considering an option totally contrary to her beliefs. While nobody’s relationship with a parent is perfect, it is highly confusing when it is hastily compressed into a 30-minute window.
Decent music is not enough to save a bad film.
The songs, composed by Pritam, are possibly the only decent part of the film. However, they are not enough to save you from the incoherent mess that is the story. Shayad and Mehrama, sung by Arijit Singh, Darshan Raval and Antara Mitraare, are the ones to look out for. But when set in the context of the film, the songs don’t work. They don’t further the plot, intensify the emotion, or lend any substance to the faltering storyline.
In conclusion, I have only one message for Imtiaz Ali — “Tum mujhe tang karne lage ho.”