Saif Ali Khan has two brilliant monologues. Both involve him starting off with a certain point of view and realizing that his heart has been running on a different track midway through it. He does this switch so naturally, makes this realization seem so unforced, that you really get a sense of how confused his character really is.
The girl who plays Harleen Kaur has a moment on her balcony in Kolkata when she realizes that Veer Singh (Saif again) has come all the way from Delhi to see her and is standing across the road. Watching her smile is a delight.
The structure is interesting: two love stories, one set in the past and one in the present, both differing in how the lead characters approach love. Hao Hsiao-Hsien did it in Three Times a few years ago, I believe — I haven’t seen it, so I’m not sure how much this structure owes to that one. But even if it was inspired, we can credit Imtiaz Ali for having picked a good inspiration.
That’s about it. The rest of the movie is a total loss.
You know the feeling you get when you’re in a groove while writing and it’s all you can do to write as fast as the voice in your head is telling the story to you? When the words start to tumble over one another in their hurry to get out? Contrast this with those moments when you want to write but really don’t feel like it, and have to force the sentences out word by word. If the first half of Jab We Met felt like the former experience, nearly all of Love Aaj Kal felt like the latter.
After two fantastic movies, Imtiaz Ali seems to have lost his way. Watching the movie unfold, I was left with the distinct impression that his heart wasn’t in it. It felt like he first wrote out what the screenplay should be, and mechanically filled in the scenes. We get precision when we need rhythm.
Central to the appeal of his earlier movies was the funny, sassy dialogue. Best of all, it felt natural. This time around, hardly any of the dialogue works. Worse still, the actors don’t seem to have fun with the material. The dialogue delivery is plagued with the split second delay that is fatal to comedy. The characters seem to smile not because they’re happy, but because they are in a movie made by the guy who made Jab We Met. Deepika, especially, spends much of the movie looking like she’s endorsing Orbit chewing gum. She even says “It works” at one point — if she had said “It really works”, I think the producers could’ve raked in a little sponsorship money. Then again, if they had spent the casting budget on a better actress, it might’ve worked a damn sight better for them on the whole.
When the leads don’t seem to have much fun, you look to the supporting cast. Trouble is, there really isn’t one. Friends and family, other girlfriends and boyfriends, none of them have anything to do. Even Rishi Kapoor, one of the most dependable character actors working today, starts off with a good scene and then simply fades back into the woodwork.
That’s it, I guess.
ps: When I write a review, I usually spend some time working on a good opening and closing paragraph. But when the filmmaker doesn’t work towards crafting a good ending, I figure, why should I go to all the effort?