If you were worried that a new movie would have an old name by the same director, you were right. If you thought that despite this obvious lack of imagination, this “Love Aaj Kal” 2.0 was going to fly, you were wrong. Imtiaz Ali’s last attempt at romance at that time was just an incoherent mess.
The 2010 film, Love Aaj Kal, with Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, went back and forth in time and showed us two confused lovers. This one does the same while trying to relate to contemporary notions of romantic encounters by following in the footsteps of the current couple Vir (Aaryan) and Zoe (Khan) and Raghu (Hooda) and Leena (Sharma) who find themselves in the same arm wrestling match in the early 1990s.
It is one thing to focus on the confusions of two people struggling to understand what is between them. Every love story is the same, but different, and who doesn’t love a lover? But it’s another thing to watch a series of awkwardly constructed confusions unfold on the screen: What happens between Vir and Zoe as they go over things in and out of bed, slipping between loudly declared “career” decisions and an understanding of the value of pyaar-vyaar? There is talk, but no emotion. Ali’s films have always been full of dialogue that seems to come from a space inhabited by the poet-philosopher in the film, but there must be a limit when it comes to the sticker, because on this path there is only banality, no real emotion.
The last time I saw the messy feelings of pain-joy-exhilaration, feelings that touch and move you, that come from true lovers, was in Ali’s most successful film, Jab We Met, and before that in her endearing and underrated Socha Na Tha. He hasn’t been able to capture those emotions since, not in Rockstar, not in Tamasha, and certainly not in the failed Jab Harry Met Sejal.
But at least those films had some brilliant moments. I’m having trouble finding any in this one, in which the characters play familiar types. Aaryan tries desperately to play a lover in Udaipur-and-now-Delhi, but that effort doesn’t translate into anything real. Khan is feisty and lively, but he is trapped in the flat writing that surrounds the film. Sharma, having his first experience, does well in his shyness and boldness, and it is Hooda that I followed throughout the film as he brings the experience of a life lived to his character of a serial cheater with commitment phobia.The story of Raghu and Leena, who is older, is the more interesting of the two, and one would have liked to see it explored better.
The film ends with a song, the usual medley of actors dancing during the credits, and that’s it, the film. What vibrancy, what enthusiasm: if only the whole film had the same feeling. I came out of it with a feeling of satisfaction.