Bollywood Review: Love Aaj Kal (लव आज कल)

Image from Love Aaj Kal
I wasn't expecting much from Love Aaj Kal other than some mindless diversion from a much too crazy work week.  And that it delivered, along with a sappy, completely tear-jerking romance that transcended two generations.  There was a rather glossy exploration of traditional vs. modern values that wrapped up into a beautifully tied Bollywood package (albeit the modern version was a lot messier than the traditional one).  It has a slow start, but the rather extravagant romanticism that permeates the movie makes it worth seeing through to the end if you're up for a solidly melodramatic Bollywood movie.

Like most Bollywood movies that come through Netflix this one had a huge scratch in the middle of it, but despite that fact I don't believe I missed too much plot.  I was pleased to see San Francisco featured briefly... Jai, one of the main characters (Saif Ali Khan, who seems a bit too old to be opposite Deepika Padukone, playing Meera, but I feel the exact same way about Shahrukh Khan) is obsessed with the Golden Gate Bridge and eventually comes to the Bay Area to work for a mysterious company named Golden Gate Inc.  Supposedly he is an engineer, although his office looks more like an architecture firm on steroids.  (I'm not sure why an engineer would be needed for a bridge that's already built... besides, have you ever met an engineer with a waxed chest?  I certainly haven't.  Anyway, I digress.)   I suppose the rather disturbing mugging Jai endures that sends him flying back to India does have some basis in fact, but what is he doing wandering around in dark back alleyways in San Francisco at night anyway?   I would have a good chance of being mugged wandering around alone in San Francisco at night, as I would wandering around Delhi.

I was a bit put off that the beautiful shots of the Bay and that the scenes of the cable cars running through the city didn't exactly inspire Jai.  The way San Francisco was featured in the movie falls into a predictable stereotype:  America is a dangerous place.  Of course American is a dangerous place- all large urban centers have problems with crime.  But if I'm really honest, I'm just a bit hot around the collar about the uber predictable portrayal of white girls in Bollywood films.  Yes, I'm talking about Jai's girlfriend, Jo, of some indeterminate national affiliation (French?  Eastern European?  It's pretty clear she doesn't really speak English, but she also doesn't speak much of anything at all).  I mean, come on... she gets featured in "Twist" and she can't even pretend to do a Bollywood/bhangra hybrid in the slightest.  (I know... one shouldn't cast stones... but if you're dancing in a Bollywood movie you'd certainly know ahead of time and have a chance to rehearse.)  I believe there should be a new rule in Bollywood numbers:  if your white extras can't lip sync a basic chorus in Hindi they shouldn't be allowed on the set.  Especially if the chorus is "And we twist, we twist, we twist, we twist, and we twist, we twist, we twist, we twist."  (Yes, if you noticed, that wasn't in Hindi.)

I do know where the stereotypes of white girls in India come from ("Oh!  I want to see your temple, the Taj Mahal!") and why it would almost be believable that Jai could pacify his girlfriend with a package of bangles while leaving her in the hotel in Delhi for three days while he was off running around with Meera in Delhi.   There are all too many American women who come to India Eat, Pray, Love style and get up to all sorts of ridiculous activities.  But give the foreign backup dancers a little credit- if they've managed to hang out in Bombay for a couple months, not become debilitatingly ill, and manage to make it into a Bollywood number, I'm sure they could lip sync a little Hindi.  Give it a try.  Let's see what happens.

I cringe, but here's "Twist" (only so you can see what I'm talking about):