Sunday, January 12, 2014

Love Aaj Kal

I love watching the videos of my favorite songs on YouTube. One of them is Yeh Dooriyaan from Love Aaj Kal. Not only is the song a beautiful melody but also it is gorgeously shot. By watching the song itself, we can get an idea of the film. I have been watching and listening to it repeatedly and it made me want to watch Love Aaj Kal. I have seen it before but I did not like it much then. I watched it again and this time I really, really enjoyed it. I saw many things which I did not understand earlier. I am still quite reluctant to say that I loved it totally because there are some things which I could not relate to, and some things were unconvincing. But still any Imtiaz Ali film is so well written that it makes you think and I love movies which do that.

Love Aaj Kal is an interpretation of how love has changed over the years, what is different in love that was in kal as compared to the love that is in aaj, and why the role of love in our lives has become different. The film is based on the story of Meera and Jai who play contemporary lovers and their love is contrasted by another pair whose story is based in the 1960s - Harleen and Veer. The film uses various props and references to show us the contrast between the two loves. 

At one point, Veer and Jai are talking to each other with Veer drinking a glass of black tea and Jai having a cup of black coffee. That in itself was a metaphor for love. Both of them love this bitter, sugar-less and milk-less drink of theirs. Tea, that was the staple drink in the early period, has now given way to coffee that is more urbane and cool. But we are still addicted to love just as we are addicted to those drinks. The drinks that they love was also referring that even though they might be bitter, they still drink those, symbolizing the fact that perhaps love too gives us a bitter-sweet feeling and it is only after a constant struggle that we develop a taste for it. Later, we see that both Harleen and Meera drink this tea and coffee, respectively, even though they completely fail to understand why their lovers drink it this way. Meera, when she saw Jai drinking black coffee, had said, "Black coffee bina cheeni ke? I feel like puking." Later, she herself drinks this sugar-less drink. Very nicely the film makes a point that she herself accepted the taste of love; what made her puke earlier now gives her comfort and as if by drinking this coffee, she feels closer to her lover. In a way, love is also about accepting someone with their flaws and their unique tastes. Harleen's reaction is even more telling. When she first took a sip, she almost puked but still she continues to drink it. I found this thing very romantic.

Tea and Coffee - Love

Love for Veer

Love for Jai

One of my other favorite references was the Purana Qila. Whenever Harleen and Veer used to meet, they met in the Purana Qila. Wikipedia says, "Purana Qila is the oldest fort among all forts in Delhi and, the oldest known structure of any type in Delhi." Just like love - the oldest and the most perennial theme in our movies that never seems to lose its sheen. Purana Qila was the testimony to love. It was very fascinating that Meera's profession was art restoration. She also worked and restored the Purana Qila, referring to the fact that love has changed over the years and they are giving it a more contemporary look. The film is restoring the definition of old love and giving it a new definition - the old love has become stale with time and hence, a new love has taken its place, just like tea has become coffee. Meera's profession of art restoration was referring to giving love a new meaning. Again, it is no coincidence that when in the climax, Jai comes and professes his love for Meera, she is working in the same Purana Qila (where Harleen and Veer met) and giving its walls a new look - signifying the film's theme of a modern day love. I loved this profession reference. At one point in the film, Meera reads Jai's online profile which says, "To enter the Golden Gate, Inc. in San Francisco and make bridges." What I felt was that this Golden Gate referred to love in the old times (Old is Gold?) and it is Jai who learns the story of old love from Veer. Again, Jai and Veer being played by Saif Ali Khan was also related to he going in the golden age, and making bridges, and listening and connecting with the older generation. The film never mentions he is an architect, and instead only mentions about his passion for making bridges. Also, the story of Veer and Harleen is sepia-tinted which gives a feeling of yellowish (somewhat goldish?), brownish, something nostalgic. Again, I loved this.

Purana Qila refers to Love

Veer and Harleen meet here

Art restoration of the Qila - a new definition for the modern day love

Giving love a new meaning

Jai and Meera also meet here

To enter the Golden Gate - Golden Age of 60s

Not only that, most of the conversations of Veer and Jai happen near a bridge. Most of the film's scenes are shot near a bridge. Even the iconic poster of the movie shows the Golden Gate bridge. The bridge was connecting the love of the aaj and the kal, the present and the past. I also found it very fascinating that Howrah bridge was shown for the love kal as it is located in the East, and the Golden Gate bridge was shown for the love aaj as it is located in the West - symbolizing that old love was more traditional and oriental, and the modern day love has more of Western influences.

Bridges connecting the Love Aaj and Love Kal

Love Kal - Eastern

Love Aaj - Western

When I had earlier seen the movie, I had really liked the old story of Harleen and Veer. This time when I watched the story, for reasons that I cannot explain, I somehow could not care much about their story. All I wanted to see was the story of Jai and Meera. There was something very different about their story that made me care for them. They are not at all perfect, they make rash decisions, but yet at some level, I could understand their reasons for doing so, even though they might be completely ridiculous. At one point in the movie, Veer says to Jai, that "Pehle to main sirf aawaragardi karta tha, Harleen ke saath rehne ki lalach me main serious ho gaya. Tum zindagi me itne serious ho ki tum Meera se alag ho gaye ki tum apna kaam kar sako." I really loved this line because it clearly shows that how our careers have become more important than love. Jai and Meera broke up for the only reason because they knew long-distance relationships are very difficult to manage, even though they had no problems with each other. Would you ever sacrifice your career for love, now? I think I am a very selfish person and I would never give up my career just for the sake of being with my lover who I am not even married to. Maybe we have become more real and more aspirational, and that is why I was able to understand why Jai and Meera broke up. Later in that brilliant scene, Veer and Jai talk about sex. Jai talks about how he is completely fine with someone touching his ex-girlfriend because it is logical and life keeps on changing. "Zindagi badalti rahegi, aur humein uske saath badalte rehna hai." But at the same time, his expressions show that he is not alright with it and there is a slight element of jealousy that he feels when he says that. It was an excellent scene that also showed us that maybe we are not as cool with some things that we pretend to be, we are slightly hypocritical, and we are not as liberal as we may think ourselves to be. Even when Meera calls Jai and tells him that she is seeing someone, he feels jealous and makes an excuse that someone is at the door, just to reconcile himself with what he heard.

Logical Love

Hypocritical Love

Zindagi badalti rahegi, aur humein uske saath badalte rehna hai

In one of the film's another terrific scene, Jai calls Meera back and tells her that he is seeing Jo. Immediately after that call, Meera looks herself in the mirror and smiles as if mentally comparing and assuring herself that she is better than her ex-boyfriend's present girlfriend. Again, referring that may be we are not as alright with things as we think we are.


Self assurance

At another point in the film, when Vikram proposes Meera, she meets Jai at Qutub Minar and says that they should get real and stop meeting with each other. She says, "Mujhe vo jagah khali chahiye jisme koi aur aa sake." I loved this line because I completely agree with this and I have written already that I feel once you love someone, you always love someone unless some other person and comes and takes that place. How can you move on if you are still stuck with your old flame? And she says, "Yeh tum vali feeling, aadat." She says he will have to go away from his life. And of course, they were clearly not over each other, because Jai kisses Meera after this and she does not even object, as both of them still had feelings for each other.

Mujhe vo jagah khali chahiye jisme koi aur aa sake

Still having feelings

In her book First Day First Show, Anupama Chopra had written a deeply insightful essay on Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge (DDLJ). One part of the essay focuses on the moral twist in the film. She says, "Rebellion is part of Bollywood's formula for cinematic romance. Every decade has a defining love story in which the lovers confront their parents (Mughal-E-Azam, Bobby, Love Story, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Dil). In DDLJ, Raj's dissent is unique. He rebels by refusing to do so. In a poignant scene, Lajjo gives Simran her jewelery - the only thing she owns - and tells them to leave. But Raj refuses. There are always two roads, he tells Lajjo, the right one and the wrong one. And though the wrong route is seductive  in its ease, he will take the more difficult, correct path. Because, he says, he does not want to snatch or steal Simran. He wants to marry her with the approval of the family. He believes that their love will conquer all opposition."

The reason I quoted the above passage from her book is because at one point I felt Veer and Harleen's story was so reminiscent of DDLJ. Even Veer getting beaten at the railway station reminded me so much of DDLJ. Harleen's mother helps her elope because she knew Veer would keep her happy. It absolutely fits with the old love as well when the only way to take care of parental opposition was to elope as Anupama mentions. And in Love Aaj Kal, they also run away. In DDLJ, Lajjo also tries to do the same but Raj refuses. Maybe that is why Raj and Simran, so many years later, remain our favorite couple. But I digress. 

Mom helps in eloping

Ab aap hi bataiye, Maaji, mera raasta sahin hain ya galat

One of the biggest problems that people felt was with Meera's decision to marry. Earlier, I felt the same as to why did she agree to get married in the first place? And why did she meet Jai just before the wedding? Why did she invite Jai to the wedding in the first place? But I tried to rationalize her decision by thinking from her point of view. Maybe she thought that since she is going to get married to Vikram and with she telling Jai not to meet her, she can love Vikram. She can fill the space that Jai will vacate with Vikram as she had said "Mujhe vo jagah khali chahiye jisme koi aur aa sake." Vikram loved her, so maybe she thought she could love him too. Who does not develop cold feet before the wedding? She had her doubts but maybe she felt that by getting married she will able to forget Jai. Don't people do that today? So, I will support Meera's decision, even though later it might turn out to be wrong. In fact, I was reminded of the brilliant scene from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna when Dev and Maya meet for the first time before Maya's wedding to Rishi. Remember what Dev said to her? He said, "Zindagi ke jis maqaam par tum ho, waha sirf do raaste hain, ek khushiyon ka jo main chahta hun ki tumhe mile, doosaraa intezaar ka, mohabbat ke intezaar ka, jo ho sakta hai, zindagi bhar naa mile. Maya replied, "Aur wo mohabbat mujhe shadi ke baad mil jaye to?" And then he says, "Nahi dhoondhogi to nahi milegi." So, Meera also tried to find some happiness, no? 

Searching for happiness

Aur wo mohabbat mujhe shadi ke baad mil jaye to?

Nahi dhoondhogi to nahi milegi

As it happens, Maya could not find happiness. She felt trapped. But Meera immediately realized that she did not do the right thing. I completely supported her when she told Vikram about her feelings for Jai the second day of her marriage because she says, "Kuch phasa hua hai Jai or mere beech." She says that she cannot be fake to him as it will be wrong for everybody. Did she not then do the right thing, unlike Maya who just kept quiet? Meera takes her car, stops in the middle of nowhere and makes a call to Jai to tell him that she loves him. But Jai told her that he is going to San Francisco, his dream job. So, she stops herself and then turns back the car. The car stopping in the middle of nowhere and then turning back was symbolic of the mental state of Meera herself - she does not know where she is and that is why she says to Vikram, "Main kahan hun? Yahan hun ya vahan hun? Yeh sab clear karna hai."

Main kahan hun? Yahan hun ya vahan hun? Yeh sab clear karna hai

There was one more moment when I felt a similarity to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Remember how Dev and Maya went completely separate ways and they did not tell each other that their marriages had broken apart. For three years, they lived separately. Here, Meera did the same and she did not tell Jai that she is no longer married to Vikram because she did not want to spoil Jai's dream of going to 'The Golden Gate'. Only later, when Jai realises his love, he comes to know about this. This was so reminiscent of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. She waited all the while and had this belief that Jai will himself come to her one day.

Jai was extremely happy when he went to San Francisco as shown in the song Main Kya Hoon. But slowly and slowly he realized that there is something amiss in his life. Maybe what he was looking for all this while is not what he actually wanted. When the song ends, there is a complete transformation in his appearance. He has a haggard, tired look on his face and grows a beard signifying his restlessness (the beard was also used as metaphor for Kabir's restlessness in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani). The bowl in which he keeps mayonnaise pouches is now full, referring that there is no space within him to store the things he did not want. Even the character of the video game that he plays possibly dies as if referring that Jai too is tired of his own daily battles. The black coffee that he so loved is spilled all over, alluding to the fact there is something amiss. So, he finally breaks up and starts smashing things for reasons that he still cannot fathom.

Main Kya Hoon 

He cannot take more

Tired of the daily battle

It is only later when he is mugged by a bunch of gangsters that he realizes as to why he felt restless. When the muggers ask for the picture of Meera from him, he refuses to give it to them. A lot of people called this scene ridiculous. It might not be realistic but I think it was more referring to the fact that Meera is so deeply entrenched in him that he cannot let go of her. It is confirmed later when he says, "Itne saalon se dekha bhi nahi hai, phir bhi mere andar ghus gayi hai vo." I really, really liked the film's message that that we all make mistakes but it is never too late to correct them, even if you are in love and the other person is married. It is never too late to tell that you love them."Bahut der ho chuki hai lekin zindagi khatam to nahi hui hai." 

Phir bhi mere andar ghus gayi hai vo

As always, I go back to Dil Chahta Hai. I felt that at many places the character of Jai was so much like that of Aakash. Like Aakash, Jai does not really believe in love. Just like Aakash, he likes girls but her prefers more to be the 'khula saand'. He does not believe in soul mates and says that people need to be more practical and logical. Their happy go lucky nature was another thing common between Aakash and Jai. It is through their respective partners, Shalini and Meera, that they understand the importance of love. As I had written earlier here, Aakash and Shalini's relationship was based on the theme of separation. Slowly and slowly, Aakash is in love but he refuses to accept it but when he realizes that Shalini is going to get married to Rohit, and that he is going to lose her forever, then he fights for her. He goes to her wedding and stops it because he just cannot bear the thought of being separated from her. He says, meri saans, meri har dhadkan, mere har pal me sirf tum aur sirf tum ho Shalini. She is his breath, his heart beat, his time and if she is not there, he would not survive being separated from her. Isn't this so similar to what Jai felt for Meera? When he says, "Vo mere andar itna ghus chuki hai", it means that he cannot separate Meera from himself because she is inside him. Distance made them realize the importance of their love for both of them. I found it very fascinating that even in Love Aaj Kal, when Jai realizes that he loves Meera, we see a flashing picture of Meera in Jai's memory, just like Aakash who saw Shalini in the opera scene. Also, remember the deeply moving scene where Aakash breaks down? Similarly, Jai also felt a whole plethora of emotions that he could not control. Aakash calls Sid because he wants to talk to him. Jai calls Veer because he wants to talk to him.  It's amazing that even after so many years, Dil Chahta Hai, continues to inspire film makers, consciously or unconsciously and it is truly a film that has changed so many lives. I love it.

Meri saans, meri har dhadkan, mere har pal me sirf tum aur sirf tum ho Shalini

Vo mere andar itna ghus chuki hai

Aakash breaks down

Jai breaks down

Shalini in Aakash's memory

Meera in Jai's memory

What also struck me the most that all of Imtiaz's films make the point that somehow journeys are more important than the destination. Whether it is Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, or Rockstar - all his films involve some element of a journey either travelling to different places or as is shown in Rockstar - the spiritual journey of Jordan. Also, all his films contain at least one song that beautifully shows these distances. Like the song Aao Milo Chalo has the line "Hum jo chalne lage, chalne lage hain yeh raaste, manzil se behtar lagne lage hai yeh raaste" or Yeh Dooriyaan which says "In raahon ki dooriyaan." And again, it is no surprise that his next film is also called Highway and the first song that is released, Patakha Guddi, beautifully shows another journey all over India, perhaps also referring to the growing up of a girl.

I love, love, love this scene.

Main theek hun, Meera.

My problem with Love Aaj Kal was the songs. No doubt, songs are melodious but all of them are placed randomly in the movie. There was no need of any of the songs. Jab We Met had an excellent song placement; here it felt forced which disrupted the narrative. My favorite song is Yeh Dooriyaan - but I did not get it as to why did he show the entire story in the title credits itself! The song Aaj Din Chedhiya has one of the finest lyrics and it has classical beats. Again, I just could not identify with old story of the 1960s, I did not care much about this song (blasphemy - I know). Twist was the song that was absolutely not required at all. That is why a lot of critics called this Bollywoodization of Imtiaz :) My other personal issue with the film was the lack of melodrama. I am a sucker for romantic melodramas. I felt the movie underplayed the emotional aspect a lot. Films, such as Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna had similar shades but the emotions in those movies made me cry copiously. I understand that this was perhaps intentional on Imtiaz's part, keeping it with the theme of the film but at some places, I missed the emotional high that a film gives me. Like the scene where Meera cries in front of the mirror is too subtle. But who am I? If only they made films for me :) I liked the film the second time, maybe the third time, I will totally love it :) Saif is really good as Jai. It is one of Deepika's initial films, maybe that is why there is a lack of emotional connect in her scenes, but without a doubt she looks gorgeous and stunning throughout the movie. Somehow, I am more partial to her after seeing her brilliance in Cocktail. She looks so pretty even when she is crying. There are very few people who look good when they cry. Saif and Deepika make a very beautiful pair.


Yeh tum vali feeling 

Like always, some trivia:

Jai's office has a book 'Wireless Web Usability'

A poster of Billy Elliot and Jersey Boys

The background poster - 'The Edge of Love'

Imtiaz Ali does a Vishal Bharadwaj. There is a poster of Shakespeare's Macbeth

Jai reads 'Weather Flying'

Making Bridges and a Deauville poster

Hotel Decent's Clerk in Jab We Met

Taxi Driver in Love Aaj Kal. He is played by Teddy Maurya, who is also a production designer.

Dolly Ahluwalia (Vicky Donor's mom)

No idea whose painting is it :(

Shah Jahan?

Lady Girija College of Arts

Mother India poster

Tapasya poster

Any Imtiaz Ali film will give you much to think about. Love Aaj Kal does the same, even if you do not completely agree with some of the decisions taken by its  characters. Imtiaz never claims that they are perfect because we, humans, are not perfect either. He gives us many insights which I never, ever thought, such as in Hindi romantic legends, the name of the heroine always comes first (Heer-Raanjha, Laila-Majnu), where as in English, it is generally the hero. Love Aaj Kal might not be perfect but it gave me enough to satisfy my thinking instincts. If someone is in love, they would perhaps understand this movie more and maybe help us understand its layers too :)

Dialogue of the Day:

"Aisa kyon hota hai. Chahe jitni bhi bar bye boldo, lekin jaane se pehle ek aakhri baar milna zaroorai kyun hota hai." 
– Meera, Love Aaj Kal


  1. Awesome blogpost!! I personally loved Love Aaj Kal as well. The point about bridges - the link between Golden Gate and Howrah was fantastic!

    And yes it is unbelievable that you don't like Aaj Din Chadeya! Stunning lyrics.. The smile on Saif's face when he is returning on the train is awesome.

  2. Thank you, it takes repeat viewings to understand a film. You should write one too :)

  3. You have a great eye for detail. Just landed here through Google while searching for 'Love Aaj Kal tea scene' but I am amazed to found something like this.

    Though this is one of my favorite movie I never thought of these things. Just mind blowing write up. :)

  4. Thank you for your kind words, Sonia :)

  5. Awsome review though i also started liking this movie only after seeing it second time
    And i thought i was the only one who understood the meaning of lines "mujhe kisi aur ke liye wo jagah khali chahiye"

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  7. I was searching for the dialogue where Deepika Padukone walks out of the marriage and chooses not to tell Saif Ali Khan because she wants him to realize himself and get back. I came across your article, the way you've pointed out every little detail and contrasting with the general film-making trend is Wonderful.. made me watch "Love Aaj Kal" again.. It anyhow is a very special film for me and i feel my life itself is like an Imtiaz Ali film, just confused if its Jab We Met or Love Aaj Kal.. Let me figure out !!

  8. I just read this after reading your post on Tamasha. Must say brilliant as usual.

    FYI Teddy Maurya is there in Tamasha too. He is in the past memories of Ved, I think he works in their house. He is the one putting dhoop in the house and later he is sitting with him when they are watching the Ram Leela :)

  9. I came here searching for the mad villain brother in Rocky Handsome - Teddy Maurya. What I found instead was a beautiful and insightful post on one of my favourite movies. Well written indeed! It was a pleasure reading your post.

  10. brilliant post.. i just love keep reading you.. i loved the movie is first watch... but your description.. details.. little things.. just loved it.. the way you connected it with dil chahta hai.. kabhi alvida na kehna.. and ddlj.. just awesome.. i also agree with that first song.. the old love story reference.. i dont understand it earlier.. i loved veer and jai love story.. imtiaz is just best.. some things i cant understand .. but its ok


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