From just the title alone – and knowing the formula of Hindi films – the synopsis of Break Ke Baad can be captured in one sentence. Boy meets girl, boy and girl break up, boy gets back together with girl. First-time director Danish Aslam has put together all the ingredients needed to make a hit film: add the fresh casting of Deepika Padukone (Aaliya Khan) and Imran Khan (Abhay Gulati), throw in a Vishal-Shekhar soundtrack, spice it up with an Indian wedding or two, and blend together in a story that takes you from Delhi to Australia and back.
Things start well with an innovative opening credits sequence (think Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na closing). So far so good. What then follows is an extended montage of scenes showing Aaliya and Gulati (for his first name hardly gets a look in) and their developing friendship beginning at the age of four. More jump cuts, establishing scenes and very little dialogue, and we arrive at the point where the grown-up-in-a-few-reels aspiring actress Aaliya decides she wants to go to Australia and become a star. Opening credits aside, the first thirty minutes of the film, though glossy, fast paced snapshots of Aaliya and Gulati’s back-story, leave you questioning when the film will actually start.
When things do really begin (with the break-up), one of the high points of the film is its main leads. Deepika plays Aaliya as a cigar-smoking, beer-drinking, bin-kicking feisty heroine, with aplomb. Imran projects Gulati as a believable and realistic three-dimensional figure. As he comes up with a four point plan to get his girl back, you can’t help but be on his side. So for performances alone I would award a star, with Imran and Deepika’s talent one of the key strengths of the production.
As with a lot of recent Bollywood films Break Ke Baad is knowingly self-referential, from Deepika spouting: “Main Shah Rukh Khan” to a DVD of Mr. India and the obligatory scene where the loved-up lovers sit down to watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. And here the film scores more points. No film fan can resist Bollywood in-jokes and referencing, and director Danish, who has assisted on films like Swades, Salaam Namaste and Fanaa, makes a well considered nod to earlier filmi magic.
Certain areas of the film, which on paper might have looked good, in actuality do not pan out well. One such weakness is location. Whoever thought that setting three quarters of the film in Australia, but actually shooting those scenes in Mauritius, was a good idea, deserves to be locked in a room with only Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag for company. With Hindi films so international these days, and audiences equally transglobal, nobody is going to be fooled by a couple of Aussie props and some badly dubbed ‘Australian’ extras, that this film was shot anywhere remotely down under.
The music by Vishal-Shekhar is perfectly toe-tappable, modern and hip, but unlike much of their recent work, does not have you exiting the theatre being able to hum more than a few random notes from the film. I also thought that the production missed a big song and dance number with lip-synch action and slick choreography (as most Imran Khan films have had). The closing track in the credits, which has nothing to do with anything really, does not count.
Lilette Dubey is perfectly cast as the gravel-voiced been there, done that three-time divorced Pammi, in the type of role that she excels in. Sharmila Tagore (Ayesha) is commendable, delivering her part with gravitas and elegance. My only gripe here is that in the veteran actresses most recent films (this and Life Goes On), she constantly seems to be doing something. Here she cooks, she gardens, she polishes mirrors, and all the while you want her to just stop and to just be, to appreciate her remarkable acting talent from her dialogues and delivery alone.
Shahana Goswami (Nadia) and Yudhishtir Urs (Cyrus) are competent in their roles as the beach shack dwelling Indians in ‘Australia’, but as foils to the rom-com leads their characters are sketchily etched with not much in the way of definition.
Break Ke Baad is another transnational love story with peppy characters and hip styling, similar in fare to Love Aaj Kal and I Hate Luv Storys, though – it has to be said – less well executed. These films, while populated by rebellious youth questioning ‘What is love?’ ultimately play it safe in that the end result is always the big fat Hindu wedding, conformity and sticking with tradition.
Break Ke Baad is a decent enough debut for Danish, a further notch on the way up for Imran and Deepika, but I would be rather surprised if this film breaks any box office records.