A love story can be bloody spectator sport. And, if you are not rooting for its lead players — moles, warts and all — then you have lost the game even before it begins.
Something on those lines played out during director Imtiaz Ali’s valentine’s day offering ‘Love Aaj Kal’. Two handsome couples — Zoey and Veer (Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan) and Raghu and Leena (younger version played by Aaryan, older version played by Randeep Hooda and newcomer Arjushi Sharma) — relay their tales of love and heartbreak in all their messy, complicated glory. But they are not fabulous enough on their own or as a collective, dysfunctional unit for us to cheer for them or their happy endings.
For instance, Zoey who plays a 20-something ambitious, career-driven woman is mildly annoying. Played winsomely by the supremely gorgeous Sara Ali Khan, her narcissism and commitment-averse nature is such an unsavoury trait. Her constant spiel of career trumping her personal life and her propensity to self-destruct in a relationship are uncomfortable to watch.
The movie opens with party-loving Zoey meeting a socially-awkward, geeky techie Veer in a nightclub. They almost hook up, but he pulls back because he is convinced that Zoey is the ultimate woman of his dreams. He then turns into a creepy stalker in the name of absolute, unconditional admiration and love. Zoey resists him at first, but finds him endearing after he gives her multiple lifts on his bike. We are told that she suffers from a jinx where Uber drivers always fail to pick her up. Aaryan, who plays the earnest Veer, is always waiting in the wings to be her designated driver to her dates. The film is supposedly progressive where you see a modern-day career woman making selfish choices, but the role does no service to women in general. Zoey comes across as a bundle of messy contradictions. Although Khan plays her with a combination of zest and preciousness, there are times when she appears as tinny and over-the-top.
In terms of chemistry, Aaryan and Khan are on an unsure footing. Perhaps, the sloppy chopping of the intimate scenes didn’t help heat things up between them.
The parallel love story relayed by a wickedly handsome Randeep Hooda, now a cool restauranteur, starts off as a vanilla love fable, but turns into a cautionary tale about infidelity and the perils of philandering. Hooda and Khan, who enjoy a strictly platonic relationship in this film, have more chemistry than the actual loved-up couples. And that’s a shame. There’s an incredible spark between them, making you wonder if the movie could go down a different path.
Credit has to be given to Aaryan for taking on a role that goes against the established grain in his career. He’s not some cocky and smooth operator in this one. In his modern-day lover role, he plays a geek. He reminds you of actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan who are adept at playing angst-ridden, intense lovers. If I were to choose, his role set in the 1990s in which he goes from a textbook lover to a philandering adult was more intriguing.
Be warned, the movie moves at a languid pace and takes time to come to a logical conclusion. Just like a typical mercurial relationship, this film hits both high and low notes. While Khan shines in the role of a self-centred career woman who’s perennially confused about love and life, the movie doesn’t come together as a whole unit. Forget neat endings, even their process of discovering adulting is tedious to watch.
Put a ring on this if you are in the mood to watch earnest performances, that tend to go overdramatic, and warped lovers who like complicating their love lives for no good reason.
Film: ‘Love Aaj Kal’
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Sara Ali Khan, Kartik Aaryan, Randeep Hooda and Arushi Sharma
Stars: 2 out of 5