There are three things in “Love Aaj Kal“, the new film by Imtiaz Ali, that are real, true and accurate. The love story between Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone isn’t one of them. In fact, that’s the most fake thing in the entire film (and it isn’t helped by the bizarre and choppy editing). There’s less chemistry between them than there was in my blighted attempt to make copper sulphate crystals at age 10. Much like my failed experiment, their love story is pallid, weak and fails to crystallise. At no point do you feel they want to tear each other’s clothes off (though that might be because Deepika, the only person in art restoration with perfectly-manicured, unchipped talons, is intimidated by the cleavage Saif flashes throughout the film; I would be). In fact, they seem to be like the friends who should never have become a couple because they’re so good at being platonic. The city of London as shown in the movie isn’t particularly authentic either. I’ve been to London many times. At no point have I ever turned a corner and found myself being invited to a party by a bunch of runaway circus performers. Realism was also absent from Rishi Kapoor’s beard, which would have looked more convincing if they’d actually drawn it on him instead. Neither was the hero Saif Ali Khan’s dream job real. Golden Gate Inc is a company that offers “Real-Time Data Integration and High Availability solutions”. I doubt anyone wears a hardhat and takes pictures of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco in the process of coming up with these solutions.
Saif Ali Khan in general wasn’t particularly realistic, particularly as the modern dude. The one scene where we see him wearing nothing but a towel, his skin looks like plastic and his body seems to have been inflated by a bicycle pump. He was dressed in clothes bought from Shoppers Stop, which even a cheapo Indian wouldn’t do while in London (there’s Primark), and there are only two possible explanations for why all his shirts were constantly unbuttoned till the navel. Either the costume designer bought one size too small or Saif was subtly undressing during the course of shooting the scenes where he had to wear shirts instead of tees. The first few takes probably have him buttoned up while the last couple show him shirtless or perhaps even in another shirt. I guess the editor picked the half-undressed takes for consistency.
Here’s what was bang-on in “Love Aaj Kal”.
One: The restoration work done by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) really is as bad as the ugly, florid-hued stuff you see acting as a backdrop to Deepika Padukone’s dazzling Pepsodent smile. Anyone who has been to the Ajanta caves or the Taj Mahal can vouch for that. The process of restoration probably involves something more than making a paintbrush flutter like Betty Boop’s eyelashes but the end result in India invariably does involve the hideous shade of pink that artfully splatters the midriff area of Ms. Padukone’s jumpsuit.
Two: Back in the day, Punjabi girls from conservative, middle-class families really were as demure and quiet as director Imtiaz Ali shows them to be in the character of Harleen Singh (or so people who grew up in Delhi’s West Patel Nagar tell me). Even if in Love Aaj Kal this demure beauty is actually a Brazilian girl called Giselle Monteiro. Monteiro is far more convincing and real as the pretty-as-a-picture Harleen than Padukone is as a cosmopolitan, young Indian girl (i.e. herself). Monteiro even managed to deliver her three lines in Hindi better than Deepika I-have-my-dialogues-on-a-teleprompter Padukone did.
And three: there are certain faces that were made to be smothered under a moustache or a beard or both.
Sandwiched between a more credible beard than Rishi Kapoor’s and a turban, Saif Ali Khan’s face looked… nice. His nose didn’t threaten to pierce through the projection screen as it does when he’s clean-shaven. The weird, pointed chin was hidden. It was all surprisingly good. Then day after I saw “Love Aaj Kal”, I saw this. And, I hate to admit it — because really, no matter what anyone says the moustache is not an aphrodisiac — but Manish does look rather dashing. There is a certain resemblance with Ajit, the Bollywood actor who made two phrases, “Mona darrrling” and “Lily, don’t be silly”, immortal but it certainly isn’t all bad. Jenny’s comment about Manish’s ‘tache drawing attention to “a fine set of lips” (scroll down that Ultrabrown page) may be the explanation for why men across boundaries of time and geography have shown such an instinctive failing for the bristling upper lip. They have thought that facial hair is like shadows — the more it obscures the face, the better it looks. In some cases, like that of Saif Ali Khan and Manish Vij, it works, albeit briefly.
Even so, I’m personally rather thrilled that the raw alcohol of Old Spice can act as armour against swine flu. Maybe it’ll lead to less facial hair on men in India, even if this does mean that they lose the accessory that makes their lips look like a fine set.