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Love’s Labour’s Lost

Film: Love Aaj Kal

Cast: Kartik Aaryan, Sara Ali Khan, Aarushi Sharma, Randeep Hooda

Directed by: Imtiaz Ali

Duration: 2 hrs 20 mins

Rating: *

“Mere liye tough hain, robot banti jaa rahi hoon,” (It’s tough for me, I am turning into a robot) says the leading lady in this film. I wished I was a robot watching the film it would have been less painful to endure it.

There are love stories that can be entertaining, some can be touching, some might be emotional and then there are some that are just a pain in the brain. Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal belongs to the latter category. The writer-director’s fixation with love and ‘self-discovery’ continues and after the mega disastrous When Harry Met Sejal (2017) and Laila Majnu (2018), which he wrote but didn’t direct.

The universe in which some of his films are set in are completely different – as in physically they are set on this planet but few of the characters exhibit normal human behaviour. And when it comes to love, they are even worse. Like most of the characters in his other films, even in Love Aaj Kal (he made a film with the same title in 2009) there are at least a couple of them, starting with the leading lady, who is in dire need of a therapist.

The issue is not only with the manner in which the female protagonists are written, there is a certainly filmi cliché involved, there is no doubt about that – but the larger point is just the shoddy writing, it grates on the nerves and how. A lot of our cinema suffers from the bane of showing, telling and sometimes repeating it again. Take this one scene in the middle of the film where the narrator says: “Phir usne mujhe paka diya” (and then the person caught me), this is followed by the actual scene of how it happened – now if you have verbally already told the audience that the person was caught, why bore them further by showing it, when we already got the point.

Besides, nothing is drearier than watching people talk pretentious stuff in a serious manner.

Love Aaj Kal has two stories set in different timelines – one in 1990 and the other in 2020 – hard to tell which one is worse. The first one is set in Udaipur where a young Raghu (Kartik Aaryan) is in love with Leena (Aarushi Sharma), the girl next door, when they are in school. Most of the ‘school’ students look like they could be eligible for the job of a teacher. This story starts off in a decent manner but falls apart pretty soon. There is an elder version of Raghu (Randeep Hooda) who gives gyaan about love and all that jazz.

The other one set in present day is doomed from the start – Veer (Aaryan, again) is in love with Zoe (Sara Ali Khan) but she is no mood of settling down in life and wants to focus on her career. Fair enough but once the two start interacting and fall in love, I was already yawning for the eleventh time.

Neither the characters nor their actions are relatable in any way and the editing just lets the scenes run on and on. For instance, we are told that Raghu became a playboy of sorts – now after telling that, we are shown quick cuts of him of getting cosy with women and that runs for quite a bit. Also, no one seems to be having simple and to-the-point conversations, they all love to talk in a round-about manner.

Of the cast, Sara Ali Khan is on slippery terrain. The confidence she showed in her debut film is missing and her performance is quite patchy. Kartik Aaryan saves the day and is the only silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud.

Love Aaj Kal is marketed as a date movie on the occasion of Valentine’s Day. I think it’s more of a first-date movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date (with apologies to Roger Ebert).

All Games, No Fun

Film: Fantasy Island

Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Duration: 1 hr 50 mins

Rating: * *

Fantasy Island is a film version of a popular television series of the late 1970s that also had a reboot in the 90s. It should have remained a TV series and they shouldn’t have bothered making it into a film. Occasionally amateurish, sometimes funny and mostly clumsy, Fantasy Island reminded me of our very own Shalimar (1978) which in turn was inspired by a James Hadley Chase novel.

Set on an island (surprise, surprise) and a lavish luxury resort, Michael Peña plays Mr Roarke, the manager of the place who calls the shots. It doesn’t take long to figure out that there is more than meets the eye that is going on, on the island. A bunch of new guests arrive and they have come there because their fantasies will come true there even though they are not sure how. All they have to do is post about it on social media, once they are done and dusted. The newcomers on the island include Elena (Maggie Q) who has a regrettable past, the two brothers JD and Brax (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang) who are always high-fiving and behaving like teenagers, even though they are not, Patrick who aspired to be a soldier and Melanie (Lucy Hale) who has a few emotional scars from school but nothing prevents her from hitting on Patrick, the moment she sees him.

Each of their fantasies, all from the past, is made to come true but then there are complications, as expected. It all turns sinister and their lives are under threat. They then have to find out the ‘source’ of the ‘power’ of the island and destroy it to save their lives.

The interesting premise starts off in an entertaining manner but once it is clear that they can’t check out, forget about leaving it gets very tepid. By the time it comes to an end, you couldn’t care less about the fate of any of them, except your own.

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