Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal is a little more than a decade old but the man-child Saif Ali Khan trying his best to woo Deepika Padukone with a friendly advice from so-called ‘love guru’ Rishi Kapoor feels just like yesterday. Maybe because we have seen Saif Ali Khan, charming as ever, pull off the urban, perpetually (and comically) confused lover boy all too often, be it Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste or Cocktail. Just when you thought the blockbuster Tanhaji’s irrepressible antagonist is finally maturing like fine wine, he makes a comeback to his wild days (“khula saand,” to use a Love Aaj Kal terminology) with Jawaani Jaaneman, complete with “Ole Ole” of the good ol’ heyday.
Love Aaj Kal released in 2009, and thanks to Saif’s candy floss charm, Deepika’s ascending star power, Rishi’s turbaned wisdom and of course, Ali’s sharp ear for easy-breezy music, it became an instant hit. Much has changed since then. Today, the hit rom-com’s sequel is headlined by Saif’s grownup daughter with heartthrob Kartik Aaryan filling in for her father, who is approaching 50. Sara Ali Khan’s famous dialogue from the trailer, ‘Tum mujhe tang karne lage ho’ has hit it off the same way that her dad’s cute yet confused protagonist Jai’s (played by Saif Ali Khan) pronouncement did, “Romeo-Juliet, Heer-Ranjha, Laila-Majnun… janam-janam ka saath-type wale log ye sirf kahaniyon mein hote hain, do jism ek jaan-type log… yeh kya hai?”
In this generational shift, one thing that has remained constant in an ever-changing world is the incorrigible Imtiaz Ali’s belief in love and the idea of it. Let’s see how the Rumi-inspired director’s new film looks at love and how its fresh cast holds up to the original hit.
Saif Ali Khan/Kartik Aaryan
Nobody plays the suave fool better than Saif Ali Khan and nobody plays the male victim at the hands of a domineering woman better than Kartik Aaryan. Saif is the original poster boy of romance and dandy-cool while Kartik is middle-class Indian male royalty. One of the strengths of Love Aaj Kal was Saif’s double role, with the director drawing parallels between Rishi Kapoor’s old-world romance with Saif-Deepika’s modern take. Besides the yuppy Jai, Saif also played the endearing Sardar (long before Sacred Games’ tough cop), a younger version of Rishi Kapoor as the great actor walks down the memory lane reminiscing his own sweet love story back in his hometown. In the sequel, Ali is apparently banking on the same tactic, comparing love in the time of 2020 with a nostalgic twist of the ’90s. “Two stories, separated by time,” as the trailer put it.
Deepika Padukone/Sara Ali Khan
Deepika’s Meera Pandit was a strong, independent-minded, career-oriented girl, typical of Ali’s female protagonists. But then, love beckons, and it turns out, she does have feelings for Jai (Saif Ali Khan). Sara’s Zoe has a similar spirit, but as the young star pointed out in a recent interview, women like Zoe are more “vocal about their needs and those needs have also evolved so much over time, whether it is financial independence, physical intimacy or emotional volatility.” Like Sara, Zoe has a handle on her life. She seems to enjoy taking things in her own hand and lead the way. When you have puppy-faced Kartik for boyfriend, you do need to initiate it all, as feisty Zoe can attest.
Rishi Kapoor-Rahul Khanna/Randeep Hooda
The ultimate lover boy may be a tad old but has lost none of his charm and still has a few aces up his sleeve. In the 2009 original, Rishi Kapoor played Saif Ali Khan’s partner-in-crime who helps him get his love back. Saif essayed Kapoor’s younger self, as he romanced the Brazilian Giselli Monteiro passed off as a dainty Punjabi kudi. Her replacement in the new film seems to be model Arushi Sharma. Meanwhile, Randeep Hooda who gave a bravura performance in Ali’s Highway teams up with his favourite director for a role that’s been kept under wraps thus far. Perhaps, he might serve the same purpose as Rahul Khanna did in the original? One of the delights of the 2009 film was Neetu Singh’s cameo as her real-life husband’s wife. Wonder who’s making a meta-appearance this time.
Imtiaz Ali’s idea of love
Imtiaz Ali is a man deeply in love with the ‘idea’ of love. The eternal romantic has tried to prob the nuances of love in pretty much all his films, with a little push from humans of Bollywood like Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and best of all, Ranbir Kapoor. Here, he updates love with all its compulsions and complexities as suited for a modern audience of 2020. He seems to be suggesting that times may have changed, but the vagaries of love shall remain the same.
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