Subhash K Jha: Love Aaj Kal is a incredibly enchanting excursion into the matter of the heart

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The first thing to be said about this incredibly enchanting excursion into the matter of the heart as seen in contemporary times and in times gone-bye-bye , is … what’s wrong with these two people who are so much in love ? We can see that love. They can’t. That’s the paradox of love in any era. The realization of its existence sometimes takes inexcusably long. And by then, Cupid forbid, love is gone.

Love Aaj Kal is a take on love in current times, as seen through the eyes of a filmmaker who can keep an outstanding balance between cinematic language and the grammar of today’s young generation.

Imtiaz Ali often weaves dialogues about the enduring place of love in times of acute contemporary contempetitives into conversations in American cafes without sliding into cynicism. He is clued into today’s moods. But he doesn’t subscribe to them. Nor is he judgemental about how today’s youngsters treat love.

That’s no small achievement, considering cinema about protagonists who are cynical about love in today’s twitter-ing times often cannot tell the difference between the language of love and the cynical attitude that colours contemporary relationships.

Love Aaj Kal connects with the feelings of love and commitment in a relationship deeply and with delightfully captivating candour.

Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan play our two too-cool NRIs who think love is a commodity to be used at their convenience. Or, so they would like to believe that they believe.

Astoundingly the pair lies to one another about mutual love without for a second seeing through each other’s deception. It’s the way of today’s world.

Imtiaz Ali portrays contemporary commitment phobia on a canvas that echoes an elaborate symphony. As we ‘listen’ to the heartbeats that pervade the magical moments of love, layer after layer of relevance and resonance emerge so effortlessly, you almost miss the compulsive passions that underline the director’s vision of a world where emotions are often smothered for what today’s people feel to be more important issues.

Imtiaz had proved himself to be a raconteur of remarkably unaffected and yet deeply affecting skills in Jab We Met.

There’re elements from Jab We Met reverberating across the expansive horizon of Love Aaj Kal. The bustling Punjabi household, for one. Its infectious bonhomie is intact. The great geographical distances covered by planes trains and more metaphorical means keep us watching the frames for much more than just the characters and their words which are joined in a tight embrace to convey the emotional content. The director doesn’t squander the engaging narration in pursuit of passions that could take the film into the dark region.

While addressing issues that directly question sexual and moral values in present times, the tone remains bright bouncy and bubbly.

Into the story of today’s couple Jai(Saif) and Mira(Deepika) Imtiaz Ali weaves the incredibly romantic story of Veer Singh(Rishi Kapoor) and his balcony-ke-neeche love for the pretty Harleen(played by a newcomer who takes the ‘pretty’ status pretty literally).

The editing pattern and the mellow merger of the present and past replicate Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti. But here the issues are not political but passionately personal.

Passionate love often looks preposterous to the onlooker. Not this time. The director derives a fulsome fragrance of mushy feelings from his two set of love birds without letting them surrender to self-indulgent schmaltzy sensations. Though the protagonists are lazy about love, their lives are captured in movements that are as life-giving as that first morning cuppa.

There’s a peculiar pragmatism to the way Imtiaz Ali puts forward his love gyan. In his realm of romance cynicism too is given a place. But it soon dissolves as the characters resolve their dilemma of prioritizing practicality and emotions to realize that worldly ambitions are obtainable only when personal emotions attain a state of fruition and liberation.

Mira and Jai’s journey into love is segmented into fascinating compartments of self-deluding aspirations, some so self-contained they could make independent films. Saif’s tryst with job-satisfaction in San Francisco and his rapid disillusionment with his work-related dreams is done like rapid images seen from a moving train.

Catch them if you can.

Would this film have worked without its two main players? Deepika Padukone’s Mira is a moving image of modern misapprehensions on love, a magnificent montage of seductive emotions mapped on a face that’s meant to be a classic yet a ‘Mira’- image of contemporary times.

It’s significant that Deepika plays an art restorer. In her performance she indeed restores the era of the leading lady who doesn’t need to talk constantly or take off her clothes to be supremely appealing. Deepika creates a graph for her character without growing judgemental about the character’s obvious shortcomings.

The script ‘belongs’ to Saif. He weaves in and out of the character of Jai who goes from smirking about Majnu to almost becoming one, with a conviction and energy that are symptoms of a hungry actor’s pursuit and obtainment of a place to rest his considerable skills. In his other role as the Sardarji silently courting the girl next-door Saif does away with his habitual restless-energy and gently focuses on getting the emotions right without losing the character’s body language and speech.

Rishi Kapoor comes up with the third fully-credible performance. But the off-centre space in the narration is also filled with other people who know this is not just a film about getting the accent mood and flavour right.

Love Aaj Kal is about a lot more than technicalities of love. We journey with the ‘cool’ urbane couple through three continents and many more emotional plateaus to finally crack that age-old mystery about the thing called love.

The truth is, love will always hurt. And from that hurt is born some great contemporary art.

Take a bow, Imtiaz Ali.

Rating: ****

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