Revisiting Love Aaj Kal before Love Aaj Kal: Fooled by the discreet charm of juvenoia
Juvenoia is an unsubstantiated, exaggerated belief that the youth is going to the dogs. The young generation is worse than all those that preceded it and by the extension of this argument, the past seems gilded with gold. While the young people waste themselves away on videogames and TikTok, it was their grandfathers who were living their God-given lives to full potential. Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal (2009) is also blinded by the same idea.
In one scene, Veer Singh (Rishi Kapoor) in a sharp suit and Jai (Saif Ali Khan) in his tight T-shirt are talking about love after the latter has just bid a final goodbye to his girlfriend Mira (Deepika Padukone). Veer tells Jai in his sepia-toned words how he once went after the woman he loved to another city without ever having exchanged a single word with her. Jai finds it incredulous and laughs in his face. But Veer knows there is wisdom in his words, his love was true and worth pushing mountains for.
Throughout the film, supplemented by nostalgia, folk songs and Calcutta trams, Imtiaz builds a charming case for the glorious past. As a younger Veer (also Saif Ali Khan) falls in love with the village belle Harleen Kaur (Giselli Monteiro), we root for them every step of the way, even though we aren't sure of her side of the story. He follows her on his cycle with his merry band of brothers for what seems like days, weeks and even months but is this equally cute and romantic for her or is it stalker behaviour 101? Thankfully, in a rare and welcome scene for a Bollywood film, the belle lets the man know about the embarrassment he is causing her. Even better, the stalker boy realises that's not what he wanted and mends his ways. Of course, that lasts only until she leaves for another city and he follows her all the way there.
And if we have learnt anything from movie romances, it's that persistence is key. Follow a woman long and hard enough, she will give you her heart.
Despite the two arms' distance romance and still not a spoken word exchanged between them, love blossoms. She dances in a courtyard for him, he tugs mattresses around the house to catch a glimpse of her. She makes lovely eyes at him and his heart explodes into such unadulterated joy, it turns your heart to goo. It's easily one of the sweetest, most quaint romances you've seen onscreen. But it's not ideal.
The two stories of Veer and Jai run parallel through the film. While Veer's story is straightforward to the point of being too simplistic, Jai's is loaded with confusions and complications. Jai's decision to take keep his work before love comes back to haunt him while Veer marrying a virtual stranger gets a happy ending.
"You young people are always thinking from your brains and never your heart," Veer tells Jai, trying to make him realise how he made a mistake by letting Mira go. As the story progresses, Veer's words prove true. Despite a dream job, a PlayStation and a cheese sandwich for lunch everyday, Jai grows lonely without Mira while Veer spends a life with his wife swimmingly.
In a fairer telling of the story, Veer or his wife would have realised a few years down the line how falling in love with someone's pretty face may not always entail a happily ever after. One at least should have some idea about their partner's hopes, ambitions, thoughts before jumping into a lifetime with them. Does wanting to make a more informed decision about one's partner necessarily come at the cost of romance?
Things may have worked out well for Veer and Harleen. He gets his evening tea ready and served as soon as he steps inside his posh suburban home in London. But the older generation, too, made mistakes. It, too, did not care for the wives or married the wrong person. To simply pick the best of the old and worst of the new and branding it as emblematic of the two generations is juvenoia. And juvenoia is nothing but a lie. -Hindustan Times