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10 years of Love Aaj Kal: Why Imtiaz Ali's millennial love story continues to be memorable

Even as the filmmaker is working on the remake of Love Aaj Kal, the film remains a memorable watch for millennial love that found a new definition through one of the more abstract directors of his generation. 

Shriram Iyengar

A decade from 2009, a lot has changed. Saif Ali Khan is no longer doing the silly romantic comedies that he was known for. Deepika Padukone is married and ‘settled down’. Even Rishi Kapoor has sobered down, albeit for health reasons. But filmmaker Imtiaz Ali has continued down his own journey to find the perfect tale of romance. As he puts the finishing touches on the sequel to Love Aaj Kal, featuring Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan, we look back at the first film that celebrates a decade of its release. 

The Commercial Element 
Making his debut in Socha Na Tha (2005), it took Imtiaz Ali two movies to finally find the balance between his complex romantic dynamics and commercial packaging. Love Aaj Kal managed this perfectly. While Jab We Met (2007) was commercial, the glitz seemed to overpower the complexity of Ali’s story. 

But in Love Aaj Kal, Ali had Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone to helm the project. With the additional presence of Neetu and Rishi Kapoor, the film had enough star power to take Ali to the next level. 

The Break Up 
Excepting Arijit Singh, few artistes in the world of Hindi cinema share a close relationship with the concept of heartbreak. Whether it is the obsession in Rockstar (2011) or the artistic liberation in Tamasha (2014), heartbreak is the crucial conflict that shapes Ali’s characters. 

In a 2017 interview with Huffington Post, Ali said, “One thing I would say — what I thought love was, has changed completely. And it has been changing for a while.” 

In Love Aaj Kal, Ali focussed on love in a millennial generation. Jai and Meera (Khan and Padukone) choose to focus on their careers, rather than love, as a means to happiness. But it is the separation that forms the crucial moment for the film’s tonal change. The film even begins, quite originally, with the break up party. 

The Nostalgia 
Long before Saif Ali Khan wore the turban to hunt Nawazuddin Siddiqui on Netflix, he wore it to play the younger version of Rishi Kapoor’s Punjabi casanova in Love Aaj Kal. The jump into the past was Ali’s own way of explaining the unchanging nature of love through the times. 

In a 2018 interview with Indiatimes.com, the director said, “It's not a generation thing. It is a person's thing. While you might think that yours is the only generation that's confused when it comes to love, but that's certainly not the case. Maybe you're just confused about a particular thing. The previous generation was confused about some other things. And I have been tricked into believing that confusion is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, confusion is an essential thing for any kind of growth.” 

The Evolution
A signature of the director is crafting of an arc for his characters through their conflict. In Love Aaj Kal, the conflict between individuality and love finds more prominence. While other films like Jab We Met (2007) and Rockstar (2011), and even Tamasha (2015) focussed on the individual’s search for themselves, Love Aaj Kal went the other way. 

In doing so, Imtiaz Ali managed to craft a relatable tale of a relationship for the new generation as well as the older one. 

The Muse 
While Mani Ratnam, Zoya Akhtar, and even, Shoojit Sircar can claim to have crafted powerful female characters in their films, Imtiaz Ali deserves a spot alongside them. The director crafts confident, individual female protagonists that are the heart of his films. In Love Aaj Kal, Meera is a successful, independent architect looking to find her own way through the world. She is not apologetic about her ambition, or impulsive about love. 

Speaking about his female protagonists, the director said in the Indiatimes.com interview, “Girls are really smart when it comes to love.” Where Love Aaj Kal stands out is in Meera’s understanding and acceptance of Jai’s truth. She loves him, but is willing to let go. For Jai, the late understanding leads to the change in his character. 

10 years down the line, Imtiaz Ali is set to create a sequel to the tale of Jai and Meera's journey. While it does not have the same artistes, it has a new generation with their own struggle to find love and understanding. The common factor will be Imtiaz Ali, the storyteller who is still intrigued by the threads that bind people together.