Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Aaj’ Love Is The Most Backward Thing I’ve Ever Seen
What the hell did I just watch.
Sometimes you hear bad reviews about a film, you go watch it anyway because you have nothing to do on a Friday night, you’re expecting the worst experience possible and...it turns out okay. Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal is not one of those films. If someone’s told you its a bad film, I say you assume they’re putting it mildly. Love Aaj Kal is as bad, and only gets worse if you actually start to notice what’s happening.
While the flaws with the film are many - the direction is poor, the acting is poorer, and the storyline is broken and jumps unnaturally but what is most disturbing about the film is truly the lack of understanding.
Did no one on set sit down and discuss the many problems with the script? Love Aaj Kal, which is (sort of) a parallel with the similarities and differences in “love” from today and thirty years ago, is a bewildering mess.
While the “past” side of things seem believable and almost cute at times, the “aaj” - the today, the present, is traumatizing. While one would expect some semblance of progress, what Imtiaz Ali serves to us is the story of a girl too weak to balance her career and love life. This wild, fierce woman can do anything, but that. Truly, LAK is a feminist horror story in the garb of existential confusion.
Sara Ali Khan or Zoe, is a young woman traumatized by the ghosts of her mother’s past. Her mother wants to make sure Zoe focuses only on her career so she doesn’t have to ever look at a man for money. And so Zoe is basically hell bent on building her career and putting all her energy into it. HOWEVER, she also goes around making men pay for her. She sits there giggling and getting drunk with a man telling her how he doesn’t get other girls to such expensive places. And she’s cool with that. Because why would a woman SO AWARE of such issues of dependence ever see it when its happening to her? Makes full sense.
To add to this mess of a strong woman character Imtiaz presents to us, he also bothers to give her “dialogues” asserting her sex appeal and comfort with her body.
This, when before an interview she pops open a button which the interviewees see and question her about. She says “I do it for myself, looking attractive makes me feel confident and then I can perform better”. Okay, Zoe. Thing is, that’s not what Feminism is. You shouldn’t have to bank on your sex appeal to feel worthy. Women are worthy of being looked at as strong professionals without having to be seen as stereotypical sex symbols. Your little speech about how “its for me, not you” was just awkward, and didn’t sell.
And so we come to our leading lady’s BIGGEST problem, her sheer inability to balance love and work. She truly cannot fathom how to take care of her career AND fully love her boyfriend, while our man Kartik has no such problems and is basically watching her deal with it because he kind of looks as confused as we feel. Zoe then realizes she’s in love, and then in a series of flashbacks that haunt her has a full blown attack where she starts screaming at Kartik in front of his parents (who she’s meeting for the first time), because that’s the sort of maturity we can expect from her, obvs. Women can’t possibly handle stress or emotional breakdowns after having consciously decided to be somewhere, makes sense.
Oh, did I forget? She’s yelling at Kartik who at this point is just a sad looking puppy, saying “Hey, I didn’t tell you but I got a job in Dubai and now this is a compromise”. Of course she didn’t tell him she got an offer. How could a fully grown, strong woman who has been focussed on her career her whole life possibly have considered having a conversation with her boyfriend about something so big for her? Love hasn’t changed. Women are still ONLY about compromise, she fully understands that, and doesn’t even bother to logically think of all her options. Maybe he’d have moved for her? Guess we’ll never know…(sort of glad we won’t)
How could a fully grown, strong woman who has been focussed on her career her whole life possibly have considered having a conversation with her boyfriend about something so big for her?
Another truly maddening point is the lack of strong female characters overall. Zoe doesn’t have ANYONE around her, in her idea of reality, who as a woman is managing her love life as well as professional life. I mean...what? How is this relatable? This girl works in fancy places and has fancy clients and yet hasn’t known ANY such woman? Why is she clinging on to Randeep Hooda’s story of his past love to believe in it? And so she gets piss drunk, completely irresponsibly with a man who she knows is no good, and ends up calling Kartik after having left him because who else will save our small princess but the man? Of course she got into this mess. There’s no female friendships. She can’t call her mom. Without Kartik, she’s a mess. A total vomiting mess.
Nothing ever stands in the film - the female characters are truly pathetic.
The one character who seemed to have a toxic but prevalent spine, her mother, quickly also tells her to get married when the famous Mehta’s send a rishta for their son. Because now suddenly taking money from a rich man wouldn’t be a problem. Nothing ever stands in the film - the female characters are truly pathetic.
Finally, what is most infuriating about the film is its end. All of its problematic portrayals and unnecessary dilemmas would have, or could have been redeemed if in the end Zoe says, heck, I am a strong woman and I will take care of my needs without having to compromise on my personal or professional life. Instead, she cries and hugs Kartik saying “I know I’ll never balance my career and love life but I want to make this mistake with you.”
WHAT? That’s what the takeaway is?
God damn, Imtiaz.
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