The curtain was always rising on Imtiaz Ali’s next. The details trickled in slow. We first learnt it will be a sequel to Love Aaj Kal, his 2009 hit starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. The film’s template — a cross-generational tale of romance over two timelines — was to be recreated with Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan.
Sara is Saif’s daughter, a fact that lent a nostalgic hue to the sequel but also opened it up for comparisons. But that was about it. No crucial plot information was revealed, and we had to wait for the film’s trailer to get the final title.
"I feel this is a franchisable idea," Imtiaz reasoned at the trailer launch of the new Love Aaj Kal. "I have made two films with the same title because, after ten years, the basis of the first film has completely changed. I am getting to say something new in the original style," he said. Kartik agrees with the avowed ‘newness’ of the sequel. "True love evolves over time," he says. "It’s unfair to restrict it to one definition."
In the film, the actor essays two characters — a filmy schoolboy named Raghu in the 90s, and an ardent lover named Veer in the present times. Newcomer Arushi Sharma plays the female lead in the first timeline.
In the second, Sara steps up as career girl Zoe. The stories, like in the first film, are likely to converge and collide. "It was a life-changing experience playing these two characters," says Kartik.
"Both are miles apart from our world. Veer, at times, can appear weird. He’s a bit robotic and loves to stay in isolation. He doesn’t have a filter and might appear stalker-ish. Raghu, on the other hand, is a fan of 90’s cinema and music. His approach towards women is informed by the movies. His rhythm and body language are totally different," he says.
The trailer of Love Aaj Kal drew criticism online. One scene in particular, featuring Sara, was clowned on social media. Two-films-old with multiple upcoming projects in her kitty, Sara says she’s unfettered by meme culture. "I think it’s great that people make their judgments quickly. It means they will take it back just as soon," she says.
The actor feels one shouldn’t give undue importance to online noise. "In today’s age, everyone’s opinion is fickle. It comes and goes. So I try not to take it to heart," she says
Talking about her character, Sara describes Zoe as a driven and ambitious girl who’s also soft and frail on the inside. This, she adds, is at the heart of Zoe’s conflict. "What drew me to the character is her mix of emotions. Nearly always, as people, we never express our inner feelings to the world. Career and competition have become top priorities in our life. It’s difficult to survive in this cutthroat world and fulfill our dreams while also keeping our simplicity intact. It can become incredibly hectic — and that’s what we have tried to portray," he says.
As with all Imtiaz Ali films, the soundtrack of Love Aaj Kal is widely anticipated. The makers have dropped three tracks so far: Mehrama, Haan Main Galat, and Sayad. Released last week, Mehrama has performed exceedingly well, becoming a showcase piece for Pritam’s album.
The romantic number is sung by Darshan Raval and Antara Mitra. A former Indian Idol contestant, Antara broke out with her chartbuster duets with Arjit Singh, most memorably Gerua and Janam Janam from Dilwale. She’s a staple Pritam voice, having worked with the composer across films like Jab We Met, Raajneeti, Azhar, and the recent Kalank.
"Pritam’s briefs are always to the point. For Mehrama, he wanted us to keep it simple and relatable. While singing a romantic track, it’s important to see what the words are saying. As love has many shades, it can be a longing song or a first love song. Emoting according to the mood is key," Antara notes.
Love Aaj Kal is set for release on Valentine’s Day (February 14).