Green Goblin (to Spider-Man): “But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying. In spite of everything you’ve done for them, eventually they will hate you. Why bother?”
Dear Imtiaz Bhai,
When you did Socha Na Tha, you were the underdog. We critics love the underdog, because we like to pride ourselves on discovering a hero. When you did Jab We Met, despite a limited actor like Shahid Kapoor and an over-enthusiastic Kareena, we gave you a thumbs-up because you proved us right. You were the hero we said you were. You could entertain us with your charm and your writing was fresh.
Then as you readied up your third film shot at lavish budget (FYI, critics like myself hate big budget films because we rarely get the money to make the films we want to make), we sharpened our pencils.
And you defy us further by not casting Kareena in a Saif production. Obviously we are going to hit out at you at the slightest excuse.
So Viren can ask Aditi “Yeh kaunsa angle hai,” because it was your first film. But today when you make Jai ask Veer Singh “Aapka angle kya hai” you are trying hard to please the SMS generation with some phrase nobody has ever used. Does not work. Sorry. Only Farah Khan and Karan Johar have the licence to make their heroines come up with cool catch phrases like “A-void” or “Whatever”.
And suddenly, we realise that your conversation films have too much dialogue in them. How dare they, when they are supposed to have Kathakkali.
But then, we are critics, we need to find something to pick on to keep our jobs and reputation in tact.
Even mango people today turn armchair critics thanks to free blogs and a little time. No word limit restrictions, free hai. (That explains this long post)
We understand that ‘song and dance’ is an alienation technique employed by Indian filmmakers to constantly remind us that we are just watching a movie but that does not stop us from finding “logical errors” in the film – like why did a racist attack lead to a guy being beaten up and even going into the specificities of the choreography of this attack. It didn’t matter in Dilwale Dulhaniya that Shah Rukh Khan got beaten to pulp and spat out blood before the patriarch changed his mind but when a racist punk bites a hand in Love Aaj Kal, it’s deliciously funny.
Green Goblin was right, you know. Some of us are desperate to see you fail.
But there are the cynics and there are the romantics. And some of us in the criticism business happen to review with our Dil rather than Dimaag.
So Imtiaz Bhai, seriously, nobody seems to know the confused generation more than you do. If you were a girl, I would’ve said: Tu Hamesha Correct Baat Bolti Hai, Jaaneman.
In Socha Na Tha, a confused dreamer Viren fell in love with a practical Aditi on the verge of proposing to his girlfriend of three years and wrecked havoc on three families – his, his girlfriends and hers. The dreamer turned practical and the practical girl dared to dream.
In Jab We Met, a workoholic Aditya met a full of life Geet when he’s on the brink of suicide and she’s on her way to elope. He finds his life back on track during an unexpected road trip that takes him to the heartland of India and realises there is no right or wrong when you fall in love while she finds her life derailed and turns into a hardcore cynic. Again, all you did was switch the character graph quite predictably but nobody complained because we were having fun.
The heart versus head conflict is back on a more intimate scale in Love Aaj Kal – a modern take on romance in a world that’s finally rid itself of warring families (Again, nobody had a problem with the age old conflict of families that don’t get along in Socha Na Tha) and the old need to manufacture parental consent (DDLJ to Jab We Met).
But this is the I, Me, Myself generation post Dil Chahta Hai and all we care is for ourselves.
What would have happened if Dev D instead of taking to alcohol, mindlessly just kept skipping from one relationship to another to escape his reality? But you are no Anurag Kashyap, you love life and like to find moments of fun even in the most serious situations.
I totally related to that. I remember once how I completely convinced an old girlfriend that it was only practical that we part ways because of the distance and immediately after that, held her tight to say: No, please cancel that. Forget I said it. It was the funniest moment to have happened in the middle of a break-up but it did. It always does because life has those unpredictable moments. And it’s moments like that, that make your film everybody’s story – the story of mango people.
I love how you rather beautifully employ the great confusion of our times (Man versus Himself) to explore how the young and the restless look at romance. We want all the good parts and when it comes to the tricky parts that may potentially cause pain, we want to hit the Escape button.
After the easy going Jai (Saif) and the grounded Meera (Deepika) have decided to part ways, Jai stifles his angst by pumping up the volume on his car stereo. As the dancers break into ‘Twist,’ I love how you turn the film temporarily into a full-fledged musical – Jai’s magic world of escape, freedom and beauty. Now I wonder why some of us who had a problem with a racist punk biting an arm didn’t have a problem with a street-side carnival where firangs danced to a Hindi track. Oh wait, they did. Because this is a realistic biopic type ka docudrama and it surely couldn’t have happened, right?
I am a huge fan of subversion and I loved how you completely subverted the notion of post-relationship-trauma and turned it into a celebration, yet making it a bitter-sweet moment. Yes, because breakups happen quite often and in this age of rising divorce rates, people are less likely to kill themselves over a break up.
So I love the fact that Jai believes he has no heart and keeps running away from pain, turning every occasion to brood into a full-blown celebration. He throws a break up party, becomes best friends with his ex, even gives her tips to get a new boyfriend, gets himself a new girlfriend and does everything that brings him instant happiness.
One such effort to escape his pain brings him to Delhi where he rediscovers what it was like to be with Meera. And the confusion continues.
I also like how you contrast Jai by introducing us to an older Veer (Rishi Kapoor), the eternal romantic who wooed his love Harleen (Giselle is such a beauty, who wouldn’t go to Calcutta chasing her) in the sixties, the good-old fashioned way, literally following his dream miles away and found focus in life just so that he can afford to be with her and the irony of today’s career-chasing rats racing towards depression.
Love Aaj Kal is essentially a conversation between Jai and Veer (the young and the old) and how they look at romance. You sure are aware of the restlessness of modern day audience. The dialogue is snappy and the scenes well snipped as the young continue to lose and find love till they finally find themselves.
I also love that simple beautiful moment when Jai fondly pokes Meera and she pokes him back and scenes after they’ve broken up, Jai stands with his new foreign girlfriend and pokes her hoping to get that familiar experience from his new girlfriend. He takes her to their old haunts, hoping she could substitute Meera.
Saif Ali Khan delivers the performance of his career and even the dollish Deepika Padukone shines with her understatement and naturalism (though Kareena fans may staunchly disagree and I am glad Meera is not an overenthusiastic chatterbox). I mean I just loved these actors delivering two of the finest scenes ever filmed in recent times – one where Jai walks up to the tell Meera on her wedding day that he’s really OK and that she shouldn’t worry for him and then goes on to vocalise the confusion in his head and the immediate one where Meera tells her husband on their honeymoon that she made a mistake.
Love Aaj Kal is an intense rollercoaster of romance drama and luckily for the sappy ones in the hall, you have kept the mood light, never running out of laughs, even in the film’s darkest moments; scenes a Karan Johar would’ve used to milk your tear-ducts dry.
Indian mainstream cinema has not seen a more contemporary love story. It’s a complete film; the dialogues are breezy and refreshingly candid, there’s not a song out of place, the smart choreography adds to the richness of the narrative, the editing keeps it tight, and the visuals are rich with metaphors – if the Purana Qila epitomises old world romance how interesting that Meera is the restoration artist.
I think it’s because we overanalyse our relationships so much that we have ended up dissecting romance even in our movies. We focus on the flaws and miss out on the larger beautiful picture.
So from one romantic to another: Thank you so much Imtiaz, for this beautiful moving picture. Thank you very much.