Love Aaj Kal: Aaj ya kal, love is confusing but never this annoying
Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal makes Jab Harry Met Sejal look like Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
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Ekko ek kahani, bas badle zamana.
That line from the first Love Aaj Kal's Aahun Aahun is basically the idea behind Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kals (a franchise soon?). Ali, in his mind, has delved deep into this 'Sufi love' where connections happen between souls and bodies are used only for use. His protagonists speak of Rumi and Kabir as wisdom garnered from messages behind trucks and WhatsApp forwards. And that is precisely the problem with Love Aaj Kal. This film is as deep as those quotes attributed to Rumi that you come across all over the Internet.
So what went wrong with Love Aaj Kal 2020?
First, Kartik Aaryan. Misogyny and a monologue have been fixtures in all his films to date. For an actor who shot to fame because of a misogynistic monologue, Love Aaj Kal comes across as quite tough because there's nothing he can do here. Act he can't. His attempts to look 'cute' genuinely made us think there was a development disorder he was struggling with. But no. Aaryan throws even that out of the window.
The biggest shock in this 140-minute exercise in self-indulgence by Imtiaz Ali is Randeep Hooda. More precisely, Kartik Aaryan's potential full beard gradually disappearing and resembling the bristles of a bottle brush, because somewhere down the line he has to become Randeep Hooda. That Kartik Aaryan grows up to become Randeep Hooda is a quake you will take quite some time to shake yourself out of.
Then you have Sara Ali Khan. Where to begin. Sara had quite a pleasant debut in Kedarnath. Then came Simmba, where she did not have much to do save look pretty, and she sailed through. Love Aaj Kal is in a way her first proper project, centred on her. And Imtiaz Ali takes it so seriously that when his camera is on Sara, it highlights just what Khan wouldn't have wanted the camera to see. Ali's camera is not kind to Sara. It exaggerates her flaws one bad facial expression at a time, till you too want to contort your face and say, "Tum mujhe tang karne lage ho." But while she had the option to walk out after delivering that line, we had to continue sitting in our seats and watch this grand self-plagiarism act unravel in front of us.
Now let's face it. Imtiaz Ali lost a lot of his credibility when he made Jab Harry Met Sejal. But jab Imtiaz met Sara and Kartik and delivered Love Aaj Kal, he made Jab Harry Met Sejal feel like Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. At 22, our forced-fiesty protagonist is managing to land a high-flying job, telling her mom to 'just chill', working from a cafe, and rocking salon-fresh hair. AND, has got her eye-makeup on fleek. And getting your winged eyeliner right is an altogether different level of pressure. There's so much overacting going on with Sara that it looks like an over-dramatised nukkad-natak somewhere in the Arts Fac lawns of Delhi University, where you are driven more by the need to look like you're making an impact than actually making one.
The story of Love Aaj Kal is essentially ekko ek kahani, with a badla-hua zamana. But something that hasn't changed since Jab Harry Met Sejal days is Imtiaz Ali's treatment of the audience. His heightened sense of his own work makes him forget that his viewer has also evolved with time. They might be dancing to Twist from Love Aaj Kal 2009, but they have moved on to 2020. Sadly, Imtiaz Ali cannot capture this right-swipe generation. His view of this world and this love is the same as our parents struggling to make themselves acquainted with live-ins over arranged marriages. But even our parents have made themselves learn how to send videos on WhatsApp and how to keep up with our choice of an extra hour of sleep over breakfast.
For Imtiaz Ali, infidelity is a kickass concept to explore, but when we reach the end of the journey, he goes back to his own Beatitudes to deliver morality sermons from there. Because aaj-kal might have changed, but love, to him, is still the same. It is pure and not to be tampered with. It is the love between Rumi and Tabrez, even though that relationship in itself was a different kind of pure. That purity was never about how many people you're sleeping with, like Ali would want you to believe. But there's only as far you can go with a Kartik Aaryan. And this Love Aaj Kal had two.