Select Page

Love Aaj Kal 2020, Review: 141 minutes of messy, moronic, melodramatic mishmash

What do you do when that elusive commodity called plot decides to stay clear of your net? You dig into your archives and find a film that you think lends itself to building a sequel. You also pay a visit to the Hollywood classic which helped you spawn another set of two films, the first a charmer, the second that should have been much warmer. And so, from the stable that gave us Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal 2009 and Jab Harry Met Sejal, comes a concoction called Love Aaj Kal 2020.

Compared to the above three outings, it turns in at number four. Rated independently, using a standalone yardstick, it flounders to keep its head above water and can be declared a casualty. Jab We Met was a reworking of the Hollywood favourite When Harry Met Sally (1989), which examined the polarised visions of love and sex, as seen by a man and a woman, involved in a battle of the sexes. Jab Harry Met Sejal was described by ShahRukh ‘Harry’ Khan as “When Harry Met Sally… is one of the greatest love stories ever made in the history of world cinema. Our film on, the other hand, is quite original, a fun space love story. But it is a take-off from there, as that movie is a classic. It is a way to attribute.” Now, what is Love Aaj Kal 2020 about?

Let’s play safe. Let us reproduce the official synopsis and press releases here, which will give you an idea of what the makers wanted to make or what they want viewers to believe they have made. “Has anybody figured out the perfect path towards love? The word ‘Love’ itself brings along with it a plethora of feelings and meanings, which has constantly changed over time. While the expression of love has changed over the years gone by, does the emotion still remain the same? Veer and Zoe traverse this tricky path of love while trying their luck in finding the answers to these questions.

In the flashback story, set in the 1990s, in the picture post-card town of Udaipur, Rajasthan, there is small town innocence in the character of Raghuveer Shekhavat (Kartik Aaryan) that makes him endearing. Like many Indians who grew up in the late 1980s – early 90s, he is fascinated by Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (starring Aamir Khan) and Maine Pyar Kiya (Salman Khan), two cult films of that time, and the idea of first love, with his high-school sweetheart Leena (debutante Aarushi Sharma), complete with movie outings, high-school socials and dates at historical monuments.

In the present-day story, Kartik becomes Veer, a software programmer in his mid-twenties, living in Delhi. Amidst all the noise of social media, he exhibits a rare calm. He is an idealist who looks for a certain honesty and meaning in his relationships. A romantic at heart, Veer is a bit socially awkward and inarticulate in expressing his emotions, a trait that makes him endearing, in his relationship with Zoe (Sara Ali Khan).

Imtiaz Ali described the two incarnations of his protagonist as, “Veer is an idealist, a loner, a geek. He is a software programmer by profession. He is socially awkward, very clear in his mind though looking confused at all times. He reads quotations from the backs of trucks and coasters at bars and sets the principles of his life. Raghuvendra Shekhawat or Raghu lives in Udaipur in the 90s. He is extremely passionate and romantic. He is impulsive but very strong. While portraying Veer and Raghu, I did not compare one with the other.” Quoting him from July 2019, “In these ten years after Love Aaj Kal, I see that the process of a love relationship has changed dramatically. The way young people think of relationship now, I could not have predicted ten years back. It’s fascinating and very inspiring.”

“Has anybody figured out the perfect path towards love?”

Nobody. Not even Imtiaz Ali.

“The word ‘Love’ itself brings along with it a plethora of feelings and meanings, which has constantly changed over time.”

Tell us another.

“While the expression of love has changed over the years gone by, does the emotion still remain the same?”

Excuse me, what was it in the first place?

“Veer and Zoe traverse this tricky path of love while trying their luck in finding the answers to these questions.” Don’t blame the path. Veer and Zoe are two morons, as are Raghu and Leena.

“In the flashback story, set in the 1990s, in the picture post-card town of Udaipur, Rajasthan, there is small town innocence in the character of Raghuveer Shekhavat that makes him endearing.”

Not all foolish characters are endearing.

“Like many Indians who grew up in the late 1980s – early 90s, he is fascinated by Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (starring Aamir Khan) and Maine Pyar Kiya (Salman Khan), two cult films of that time, and the idea of first love, with his high-school sweetheart Leena (debutante Aarushi Sharma), complete with movie outings, high-school socials and dates at historical monuments.”

Yes, they do elicit some laughter, but more for their idiocy than genuine humour.

“In the present-day story, Kartik becomes Veer, a software programmer in his mid-twenties, living in Delhi. Amidst all the noise of social media, he exhibits a rare calm.”

Rare calm?

Unwinding poker-faced toy robot is more like it.

“He is an idealist who looks for a certain honesty and meaning in his relationships. A romantic at heart, Veer is a bit socially awkward and inarticulate in expressing his emotions, a trait that makes him endearing, in his relationship with Zoe (by Sara Ali Khan).”

When Zoe strips and throws herself at him in bed, he comes up with “We are under-utilising the moment.” Analyse this, please.

Imtiaz Ali described the two incarnations of his protagonist as, “Veer is an idealist, a loner, a geek. He is a software programmer by profession. He is socially awkward, very clear in his mind though looking confused at all times. He reads quotations from the backs of trucks and coasters at bars and sets the principles of his life.”

Now I must switch to Thesaurus mode.

“Raghuvendra Shekhawat or Raghu lives in Udaipur in the 90s. He is extremely passionate and romantic. He is impulsive but very strong. While portraying Veer and Raghu, I did not compare one with the other.”

Pray, oh pray, why did you not? Except for the sleeping around by Raghu, he and Veer come across as very, very similar.

“In these ten years after Love Aaj Kal, I see that the process of a love relationship has changed dramatically. The way young people think of relationship now, I could not have predicted ten years back. It’s fascinating and very inspiring.”

So what? You are not a prophet, neither is anyone else, for all I know. It’s not only love and relationships that have changed. And why have you set half the film in 1990 when you wanted to compare 2009 with 2019?

Kartik Aaryan (Pati Patni Aur Woh 2) as Veer and Raghu, Sara Ali Khan (Simmba) as Zoe, Aarushi Sharma as Leena, Randeep Hooda (Highway) as a cyber-bar-café owner and Simone Singh as Zoe’s mother, can do nothing to save the film. 29 year-old Kartik does not look the 16 year-old that he plays as the teenage avtaar of Hooda, Sara has a blend of husky and nasal tones in her voice, and what she lacks in classic beauty parameters, she compensates with extended skin show. Aarushi convinces in both age spans and the typical Indian face contrasts well with her ludicrous break-dance act. Randeep is usual, confident self, mouthing inanities with gravity and depth. Simone Singh makes an easy-on-the-eye mother, until she is made to go over the top and start lecturing and remonstrating.

Dialogue and lyrics fail to lift the proceedings, with dialogue being far below par. Music (Songs: Pritam, Score: Ishaan Chhabra) too is not in the big league, in spite of a 46 minute sound track. Indoors in Delhi (homes, café, discos) and outdoors in Udaipur And Himachal Pradesh have all been captured in rich hues by cinematographer Amit Roy, while there is no point in blaming editor Aarti Bajaj for anything, except allowing the ennui to last a full 141 minutes. Having shot for 66 days, Ali has retained a little over two minutes from every shooting day, on an average.

This Valentine Day release has beeps and cuts, wholesale seduction and suggested sex scenes, and has yet been certified as suitable for being seen by youngsters when accompanied by adults.

Borrowing a term from the film itself, the talent of Imtiaz Ali has been under-utilised. Comparing his benchmark foray, called Jab We Met, with this colossal aberration, all talent that he possesses has been left, in fact, unutilised.

Merely designing posters that contrast snail-mail love with #relationships gets the film nowhere. You can make a bad film from a good script, but you cannot make a good film from a bad script or no script (many portions of Love Aaj Kal seem to have been filmed either without a script or with a last-minute stint on a laptop). What could be worse, you also wonder whether some scenes have been entirely improvised, without any idea of where the narrative is headed. On second thought, I already told you where the narrative was headed: messy, moronic, melodramatic mishmash.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QvqHwH_je8