I already put up a non-spoiler review, and a spoiler-y review that goes into detail all the way through the first half. And now I am refreshed, post-nap, and ready to move on and finish off the rest of the film!
In the first half, lifelong sweethearts Katrina and Sidharth decided to get married (mostly because of Katrina’s urging). They had a big fight over where they would live the night before the wedding (Kat wanted to stay in India, Sidharth had a job offer in England), Sidharth went to sleep and woke up 10 days later on their honeymoon. Then he went to sleep again and woke up 2 years later the day their son was born. Then went to sleep again and woke up 16 years later, to discover his son had grown up to be an arty rebel and Katrina was divorcing him.
This is the part where we finally break away from the trailer. The trailer focused on Sidharth doing math and figuring out that there was a pattern to how he was jumping, and that the next jump would kill him. Like it was a science mystery or something.
But, we already know it’s not. In his second jump, he meets up with the Pandit from the wedding (Rajit Kapoor! Most famous for playing Byomkesh Bakshi in the TV show, but I know him as Aamir’s brother in Ghulam), he had tied a sacred thread around his wrist, and realizes that the Pandit is controlling this whole thing somehow, and that in theory he can always go back by untying the thread. Which he does, and wakes up back in his “Cambridge” bedroom, where he woke up for the first time on his second jump. So, he isn’t all the way back yet.
It’s an interesting idea, how they use this location, Sidharth keeps waking up in the same place with small changes to it, and the audience and he get more and more comfortable in it, picking up on the little changes along the way, like children’s toys on the floor this time that weren’t there before. Only, I wish they had done it slightly more. The opening (and closing) is in India, the first jump was to Bangkok, it wasn’t until an hour into the movie that we first saw this house. It just doesn’t end up feeling lived in enough.
This goes back to my general feeling with this movie, it was very well constructed piece by piece, each scene logically leading into the next. But as a whole, it doesn’t quite come together. Partly because the chemistry between the leads just isn’t quite there. Not that it’s bad chemistry, it’s fine, enough to keep the film moving along. But we need a sense that these people belong together, that their connection is a threat which binds it all. And Kat and Sidharth just don’t have that. I’m not saying they need to be SRKajol level. But even Arjun and Alia in 2 States gave me more of a “us against the world!” vibe than these two did. And the director herself, possibly, kind of acknowledged this, she talked in interviews about having a chemistry workshop between them, trying to build something that just wasn’t there.
But the other construction issue is that it feels like either there was a 2 hour movie that the director expanded to make more “Indian”, and the whole first hour really doesn’t belong (that’s kind of moviemavengal‘s argument in her review), plus there’s some other bits in between that could have easily been thrown out. Or, and this is more the direction I’m leaning in, there could have been a much better movie if we had had a little more time in each segment.
The film breaks down into 3 parts. The first is the wedding-honeymoon-birth-divorce. And then this part, the “get-it-right” bit, up to the end. The whole first part somehow ends up just feeling like set-up, with no value on it’s own, and then this bit ends up feeling slightly rushed. Perhaps if some of those bigger stories that are teased, Sidharth’s issues with Katrina’s father, with his brother, Katrina’s issues with moving to England, perhaps if they had been teased out and resolved along the way, it would have felt less like we were treading water.
For instance, this bit! Very treading water! Sidharth wakes up, looks in the bathroom, and finds Katrina brushing her teeth. He is thrilled that she is still here! And his! And then she tells him to go get “Arjun” dressed. He goes into the other bedroom and finds not just 5 year old Arjun, but also a little toddler girl jumping up and down. He is thrilled, but also a little over-whelmed to meet his daughter. Then he goes down to start breakfast, and discover that for some reason Ram Kapoor is there too! He immediately starts giving Sidhath unasked for advice on everything from how he is making breakfast to how he should hire a studio for Katrina, and borrow money from Ram if he doesn’t have enough. Sidharth is still trying to process this, when he gets a message from his mentor (on his cool wall projected video phone thing) asking him to come into the office. And Katrina enters the kitchen, points out that breakfast isn’t made and Arjun isn’t dressed, but that’s fine, she can handle it all (again), but all she needs is for Sidharth to take Arjun to school, and to go to his soccer game in the afternoon, so Katrina can get ready for her opening. Sidharth nods sort of blankly, looks at Arjun running around, and at his daughter Naina grabbing at his leg and jumping up and down asking to be picked up.
Katrina/the director handle her performance in this scene very well. I didn’t even realize until I was writing it down that it could have come across as naggy. It doesn’t, just rushed. And a little sad. She isn’t mad at Sidharth for anything, really, just disappointed. But she swallows it, just like she’s been swallowing disappointment in him this whole movie, and moves past to figuring out how she can do it all herself.
Sidharth doesn’t see it at all, because he is still trying to figure out what happened on this day to make it the day he was sent to in order to save their marriage. He also doesn’t really see it when he drops Arjun off (almost driving past his school) and Arjun has no hope that Sidharth will actually remember the soccer game. And I have no hope either, as an audience member, this is so clearly the bit where everything is going to go wrong and he won’t learn anything. I just want to get through it and get to the bit where something will change.
Sidharth rushes to campus, where he meets with his mentor, and learns that he has been accepted as the new head of Harvard mathematics! Sidharth is delighted, at least his career is going well! And then he rushes off and totally blows off his class! Justifiably, he walks in the door and they start throwing questions at him about his last lecture and he has no idea what they are talking about. So, he just runs off. And checks his phone, where he is getting messages from his old friend, Sayani Gupta (Hey! Shahrukh’s awesome assistant in Fan!). We first met Sayani and her husband at the wedding. Sidharth was extra friendly to her, clearly he liked her a lot and cared about her, not just as the wife of an old friend. Not romantically, it didn’t come off like that, but also not like she was just an appendage of his “real” friend, her husband. And now she is calling Sidharth and telling him her husband has left her and she doesn’t know what to do.
(Kind of similar vibe to Ranbir, Kalki, and Aditya in this. All three of them are equally good friends)
Sidharth tries to ignore her, but then it occurs to him, of course! He is having an affair with Sayani, and that is why his marriage is ending! So, he runs out of class and hops on a train to London. He gets calls from Katrina along the way, but ignores them. He meets up with Chitra, he is super depressed. He lets her talk, but is clearly just waiting for her to get to the part that is a clue for him. Once he finds out that the marriage is over because she thinks her husband is the one having the affair, he is ready to be out of there! And then Sayani asks him to just stay for a drink, and he gives in. And while they are drinking and talking, they have “a moment” and Sayani goes in for a kiss. Sidharth is thrilled! This is it! This is the moment! He could have let things go further, he is running off after the kiss instead and his marriage is saved!
Spoiler: it’s not. Which I, in the audience, knew all along! I guess the director did kind of too good of a job? Her point was already obvious to all of us, Sidharth was the only one lagging behind, to the point that it got kind of irritating. Arjun was left at the soccer field and Katrina had to pick him up. She was all alone at the gallery all evening. Their little girl, Naina, was put to bed by her grandfather instead of her father, the congratulations sign she had made for her mother forgotten and set aside. And when Sidharth finally did show up, after the show was all over, Katrina didn’t even care enough to be angry anymore.
And that’s when, finally, Sidharth realizes something has gone very very wrong. Katrina locks herself in the bathroom and he sits outside the door, holding the sign from Naina, trying to convince them both that he has fixed everything now, it will all be better from now on.
This is the moment the whole film pivots around. And it’s too bad it is buried in the middle of the time-skipping. I wish this was the day we started with, then jumped forward and back around it. It would have made the whole film stronger, I think. But I suppose the day before the wedding is more romantic.
Sidharth goes to sleep, thinking everything is solved, and wakes up decades on. This is the really bad make-up sequence. It’s not super super fake, but their faces look just slightly puffy from the prosthetics, and they can’t quite move right anymore. Oh, and the technology has advanced again. It’s the same bedroom, but there are odd screens on all the walls now, that start talking to him as soon as he wakes up. Also, as soon as he wakes up, a young woman comes in and calls him “father”. It’s Naina! She’s lovely, which he tells her, but she seems a little shocked that he is talking like this “today”. She rushes him downstairs where “everyone is waiting”.
(Also, so many “Naina” songs! A new one would start in my head every time he said her name)
Okay, small distracting thing. It’s “The Future”, so everyone is wearing these kind of buttonless loose linen things. Sidharth woke up in one, and then was rushed downstairs and out for the day in the same outfit. And sure, it looks comfy enough for PJs, but do you really get to wear the exact same thing you slept in for the rest of the day in “The Future”? That sounds wonderfully comfy and convenient, but possibly a little smelly.
Oh right, Sidharth is delighted when he gets downstairs to see that his brother is there, and Arjun, and he figures everything is fine, because they are all in the same house together still. And I suppose the white and black clothing isn’t a tip-off either because he just assumes it’s what everyone wears in “The Future”?
But, of course, the crowd parts and he sees his mother laid out on the floor, with Katrina sitting next to her. I guess this is sad? But, I mean, it’s really far into the future, his mother would have had a very long life by this point. So it’s not sad in the abstract, a surprisingly young death. But it’s also not said for just the character, I never got a really strong sense of his mother-son bond with her, that was one of the things that could have been there but was kind of brushed past. They had two deep scenes together, one before his son was born and one after his divorce. But both of them felt more like her just telling him general things, not a building of their unique bond together which would really make me feel like Sidharth had lost something here.
In The Future, cremations are very fancy. There is a big empty pretty field, the body is put inside a clear case which opens and closes like the petals of a flower, and then incenerated. Hmm. I think I still liked the old way better. This whole time, Katrina is at his side, holding his hand, and he tells her he could never have done it without her, and she says “of course”. And then, at the wake, a man comes up to Katrina, interrupting their conversation, and she calls him “Jaan”. Sidharth bristles a little, and asks why she calls him that, and Katrina says “What else would I call my husband?” !?!?!?!?
(And now a new song is in my head)
Sidharth freaks out slightly, and his brother shows up to pull him away for a quiet chat to calm him down. And this is when Sidharth’s brother gets that little bit of character work that I wish we had gotten for all the characters. He explains that he was always jealous of Sidharth, Sidharth was the genius, the one with great expectations on him, the charmed life. His brother was never expected to turn into anything much. Plus, Sidharth had Katrina! But now, his brother thinks he can see something Sidharth can’t. It’s the little things in life that really matter, not the big things. And that’s why he lost Katrina, because he wasn’t there for the little things. And her new husband was, for the children and her career and everything else. And Sidharth stands outside and looks through the windows at his family, his children (and grandchild? There’s a baby in the mix) and his wife, with another man.
This is the last, and farthest, time skip. And I like how it gently fills in the blanks. Not the “oh my gosh, they got divorced!” part. But stuff like, he didn’t actually take the job at Harvard and stayed in Cambridge. There must have been a huge fight and a last minute sacrifice for the family for the first time. Maybe that lead to resentment? But also, how kind everyone is to him. How kind they’ve been all along, even on the day of the divorce. He didn’t cut off contact to his children or them to him. Even Katrina is still friendly and there for him on the day of his mother’s funeral. It was a “good” divorce. Only, no one really expects much of him either. Just like Katrina at the end of that “bad day”, they aren’t even angry anymore, they just accept that he can never be what they want, and they might as well look for that somewhere else.
Sidharth takes the bus home. How does how know so well how to move around the city? Did he study in Cambridge before the “present-day” time and that’s how he knows? Is it because there he somehow learned it on his other “days”?
This is really part of a bigger issue. With the structure of just 7 days, counting the wedding day (like the number of walks around the fire, oooooo), there are a lot of things that he feels more comfortable with by the end than he really should, logically speaking. The bus routes, moving in and out of his house, getting around campus, it doesn’t quite make sense. It’s very Groundhog Day, only in that film they made it clear that Bill Murray was reliving the same day for thousands of years, that’s why he got progressively more at home with each time. The Groundhog Day idea is that you slowly move past the petty concerns of daily life as you relive it and become a deeper and better person. But Sidharth should still be dealing with the petty concerns of daily life, because this isn’t his daily life, this is Cambridge where he’s never lived before. Again, if the whole thing had been set later than their wedding, it wouldn’t be such an issue, but because they wanted the whole wedding framework, that means the majority of the film is taking place in a country where he shouldn’t even know how to use the money.
Oh, and on the bus, is the Pandit! Sidharth tries to get answers from him, and he pulls out a watch. And points out that all Sidharth has in his hands is the “now”. The past is gone and the future isn’t here.
And then Sidharth goes home, to his “familiar” house (see rant above), to notice that more and more photos are disappearing along the stairway. In the film world it kind of makes sense, presumably Kat took have the photos when she moved out and Sidharth doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to bother replacing them just to avoid odd gaps on the wall. But it is also a bit too convenient of a way to show the passage of time and the loss of family, for me. A little subtlety would be appreciated.
And then Sidharth falls asleep, wishing for a second chance. And wakes up on the same day! That “bad” day! He has another chance! But, to do what?
He finally, sort of, figures it out. And tells Katrina he will definitely dress Arjun and make breakfast, she doesn’t have to worry. Only, then it all gets away from him somehow. We just come in to see Katrina walking into the kitchen to see breakfast even less along than it was last time. She gives her same resigned speech about doing it all, Sidharth is struggling to tell her it will be better, he can fix it! And then he hears his brother’s words in his head, and looks down and sees his daughter begging to be picked up, and everything slows down, and he smiles at her and picks her up.
Okay, this exact bit is very nicely done. For once, I, in the audience, was in tune with Sidharth onscreen, instead of running ahead of him. I too was thinking that he had to make breakfast and be perfect and it would all be good. But instead, he just has to let go of the future and the planning, and enjoy this moment with his daughter for the moment that it is.
And then everything falls into place. He doesn’t just take Arjun to school, he plays with him and practices soccer. He teaches class perfectly (how? He still doesn’t know what he covered the week before!). And he shows up early to the gallery, and holds Katrina’s hand as they walk in together. And is there all night supporting her. And organizes a surprise party for her that night. And throws together a studio space for her in their extra room. And he tells his mentor that he can’t take the Harvard job until he talks to his wife (so, I guess he still isn’t taking it, but because of a discussion, instead of a big fight).
Oh, and during the party, he goes over to talk to Sayani about her marriage. Katrina sees them together and looks slightly jealous for a moment, but then Sidharth brings her into the conversation. And at the end of the night, he drives Sayani over to the all night grill where her husband is working. He was so ashamed to have lost his job, and all their money, and to be working this job, that he didn’t tell her. And she thought he was sneaking out to have an affair when he was really working.
Sidharth, I think, knows this because in the divorce time jump he called him and heard the grill noise in the background. On the one hand, I really wish there had been more of this! That these side characters had gotten development as “time” passed, that he would learn more about his mother, his brother, Katrina’s father, and everyone else through his journey. And then could bring all of that back to the “present”. This is a nice little closing of a loop, but it feels odd to have this one loop closed and all the others still open. Oh, and also, the divorce time jump is like 12 years after this, so we are meant to believe that he has been working this stopgap night job with no changes at all for 12 years? That is crazy job security! I want that job!
(Am I the only one who saw Jhootha Hi Sahi? Anyway, the loop-closing on the friends was done so much better in that movie, they weren’t just around to advance the central romance, they each got their own little story and development. Also, the songs were great. But the heroine was bleh)
Oh, and Katrina is there too, watching them reunite with Sidharth. Another closing of a loop but not quite. All along, Sidharth hasn’t been letting her in. Whether it is his Cambridge job offer or his initial puzzlement after the first jump or his confusion in the second jump, it is always kept to himself, and she is left to guess and move forward in the direction she thinks he wants. I mean, that’s what I got from him bringing her here. But I’m not sure if that’s what I was supposed to get, because for all the over-emphasis on certain points (live in the moment! Family is best!), there was too little emphasis in some other areas.
And then they return home and Sidharth does a striptease! And I think “oh yeah, Karan produced this!” Only, what’s really nice, is that the striptease ends in the family room, sitting on the couch with the two kids cuddled between them. This is their real happiness now, not the love and sex and fun from the honeymoon, but just being here, with the kids. And this is also why it was so important to establish them as a lifelong couple from the start, because even if “real” Sidharth on the inside is still just a young man the day before his wedding, he has also known her long enough and well enough that just sitting together at the end of the day is all he wants.
And, finally, he gets it and when she asks why he loves her, he says “because you are my yesterdays, my now, and all my tomorrows.” It’s not the best line in the world, a little cheesy for my taste, but at least it hits the point that he has to be in love with her for something about her, not just “because you’re my wife”.
And then as Katrina and the kids sleep, Sidharth reaches over and slowly grabs a Red Bull and starts drinking it. Red Bull, by the way, has apparently not changed their packaging in the next 8 years. It’s pretty blatant product placement, but I will forgive it, because it’s also maybe the cleverest thing in the movie, not underlined three times like everything else, just a gentle touch showing that this is the moment he most wants to keep, to stay awake through.
(Probably a better way to reach the Indian market than sponsoring a Holi themed drag race)
Oh, and then he wakes up. Back in the room where he fell asleep the night before his wedding. To suddenly remember the whole fight with Katrina and start running to her. Classic run through the city streets, and then a rush through the wedding prep, with a pause for a special hug for his mother, and a slight discomfort when he sees Sayani, and then he finds Katrina, curled up on her bed. By the way, she is still dressed fancy, and all the wedding prep is going on. So clearly her calling it off was a hollow threat. Which I guess we knew from the time jumps! If he had changed nothing, then she would have come around and been in love again by the time of the honeymoon, they would have moved to Cambridge like he wanted, and the little cracks in their relationship wouldn’t have widened into problems for years and years.
But now maybe those problems won’t happen at all? Because he tells her that he is sorry, so sorry. And he also proposes, just like he should have done at the beginning instead of waiting for her. And he asks her to ask him why he loves her, so he can pull out the perfect line about yesterday, now, and the future (that line is sounding kind of familiar to me now, I think maybe I read it on a Hallmark card?).
Also, oh the temporal confusion! Now that Sidharth is all reformed, are they going to go to Cambridge at all? Is anything in that future going to come true? Like I said, wrong focus! don’t start with the wedding, start after the wedding, in Cambridge with kids, then flash back and forward and back and forward and so on.
Especially since the flashes weren’t that straightforward anyway. It’s not like he is moving forward in some regular pattern, like the trailer made it look. He went forward to significant (ish) days in his life. Until he pulled off the thread, which threw him back to the day that his life permanently went wrong. And then all the way forward to the day when he fully saw how wrong it was. Then back again to put it right. And then all the way back. Since it was all back and forth, why not make it back-back-back to the wedding and honeymoon, then forward to the divorce, then back, then forward, and so on? Heck, they even had it still in the script! That Harvard offer could have started the same fight that they had over the Cambridge offer. Oh well, then we wouldn’t have had the wedding beginning and ending, and we wouldn’t have known it was an Indian movie.
Anyway, just when I am thinking “well, that was kind of an abrupt ending”, Kaala Chasma! So awesome! Such a shot of energy! The whole audience stayed all the way through for it.
(This is not “Kala Chashma”. But notice the line “Par Superhit picture ka Yo Yo x Factor”. Totally true! Yo Yo didn’t do this one, but Punjabi hip-hop totally brought in the opening day box office and saved the movie, thanks to the millions of views on the promo and general joyfulness. Just like Yo Yo did with Ki & Ka)