Sunday ReRun: Baar Baar Dekho! Let’s Look At the Last Time Sid Did a Rom-Com

I really need to rewatch this movie. I think I might like it a lot better knowing where it is going. And I already liked it a decent amount. It wasn’t great, but it was far from terrible. Oh, and it’s on Amazon Prime! So you should all watch it. Oh, and watch out, I had a lot of time the week this released so I did a full scene by scene discussion. VERY LONG.

This was a very impressive movie in a lot of ways.  A complex concept very nicely executed.  As we know from the trailer, our hero falls asleep the night before his wedding and wakes up in the future, and then keeps skipping forward through his life.  Every skip is handled slickly, nice new technology, subtle fashion changes, nothing that feels clunky or beyond the reach of the CGI they have available.

Everything else is slick too.  Songs are excellent, for one.  And all composed by different people!  What’s up with that?  All newcomer/outsiders too.  Amaal Malik, Badshah, Bilal Saeed, all of them newish singer/composers, all of them more form the popular music side of things than film.

(This was the end credits song, and the entire audience stayed for the whole thing.  It’s just that good)

Although that matches with some of the other things about the film that feel very anti-mainstream.  Lots of songs, but most of them montage type things.  Very minimal extended family stuff.  Family was important, and mentioned, but it wasn’t the same kind of integral to conflict thing that it usually is.

Everyone is very upperclass.  So upperclass that there is no awareness of an alternative.  They don’t exactly have a cab driver or a storekeeper at their wedding, or any consideration of a career as a way to make money to buy food, rather than to fulfill themselves.

And everyone is very international.  Although, that leads to one of my favorite things, which I will get to in a minute.  But still, this casual travel between Delhi and Cambridge on the part of all the characters, not just that the expense isn’t considered, but that everyone is at that level where being in Delhi or Cambridge is kind of the same, because money can make it comfortable.

But, like I said, this also leads to one of my favorite things, they way they integrate Katrina’s real life transnational background into her character.  Her mother is white and her early years were spent in Britain.  But, as we see in the opening flashback, she was lonely and sad her whole time there.  When the family moved to India when she was 8, she blossomed, become confident and happy.  Katrina’s identity as Indian in this movie, just as in real life, is a matter of choice, not birth, and is all the stronger for it.

And it’s this sense of identity that drives the conflict.  I was nervous going in how they would handle a love marriage between a long time couple and still create conflict.  But, that’s where the conflict comes from!  These are people who have been together long enough to take each other for granted.  And who are old enough to know what they want out of life.

We open with a nice montage song showing how they met as children, grew up together, started a romance as teenagers, and have now been together so long that they are like an old married couple.  Only, they aren’t actually married.  So Katrina suggests that they just go ahead and do it.  None of this is spoilers, by the way, it’s all in the first five minutes and most of it is in the trailer too.

But it sets up a great conflict, essentially Sidharth’s freak-out is his midlife crisis, only at his wedding.  He has already spent a lifetime with Katrina, he doesn’t appreciate her anymore, or what they have together.  And Katrina is in the position of a middle-aged housewife, she has planned her whole life around and about Sidharth, she is completely thrown and doesn’t even know how to react when he claims to be unhappy.

And that’s also what drives the time jumps.  It’s not that “something goes wrong” after they get married, their relationship is already moving on a set path now, pre-marriage, the problems were there are along, and all the time jumps do is show him what was already a problem.

So, Katrina’s identity is someone who knows how important her family, her friends, and her life is.  Because she only really felt like she had family, friends, and a life after they moved to India, after her lonely early years.  What’s Sidharth identity that is causing him to want something different from life?

Well, he is a mathematician!  Now, full disclosure, I have a mathematician in my family, I have spent WEEKS of my life at mathematician social events, and in almost all ways, Sidharth is not what real mathematicians are like.  For one thing, his hair does not look like his wife cuts it.  For another, he can apparently actually dress himself.  For a third, he can do arithmetic in his head.  I don’t want to burst any fantasies you may have, but theoretical mathematicians can’t actually to arithmetic.  Numbers confuse them.  They could give you a brilliantly theoretical system to calculate the answer, but once you put actual numbers in there and look for a real world results, then it all falls apart.  Actually, once you ask them to do ANYTHING real world, it all falls apart.  Watching people try to use the coffee machine in the MIT math lounge is hilarious.

One thing that is kind of accurate, is that high level mathematicians have a super stressful and time consuming job.  The expectation is that you can drop everything at a moment and travel halfway across the world, that you work everyday all day skipping family events and your own health, and that you have a wife somewhere in the background to take care of everything else in your life.  And that’s what Sidharth is dealing with, he wants to achieve his dreams and his goals and be satisfied in his professional life.  And that means that his personal life has to come second, all those things that make Katrina happy have to fall in line behind his career.  Which is, of course, a perfect thing to unlearn before you actually get married.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Like Watchmen, the best part of this film is the opening song montage.  We follow our hero and heroine, Sidharth and Katrina, from birth to the present day.  And I find what it does with Katrina much more interesting, and much more relevant to the later film, than what it does to Sidharth.  Interesting, considering Sidharth is technically the main character.  The film was written and directed by a woman, although it has a male hero, and sometimes it kind of feels like the goal was not so much for the hero to learn about himself, as to show the audience how this particular kind of a person can be blind to the problems of women.

(Such a good opening!  And then the rest of the film happens)

Right, so, the opening montage starts in 1986 when they are both born, Sidharth in Delhi and Katrina in London to a white mother and desi father.  They both grow up as solitary kids, Sidharth by choice and Katrina by situation.  While Sidharth resists joining a crowded children’s party, Katrina is alone, pouring tea for her dolls in a chilly London park.  Katrina’s parents, Ram Kapoor and some white lady who did a really good job, look at her and then each other, and then there is a plane landing in India.

Katrina is shy her first day of school, and little Sidharth gives her a candy and takes her hand.  Little Sidharth is chased and teased by the other kids, little Katrina comforts him.  Sidharth’s father dies, his mother mourns, and Katrina holds his hand.  Sidharth is part of Katrina’s family, joining them in a prayer service, and falls asleep, Katrina nudges him awake.  Teenage Sidharth brings a bouquet of flowers to Katrina and she starts sneezing immediately while he throws them away.  Sidharth shows up with a book for her birthday, just in time to see the car her father has given her, and hides the book.  The two of them sit together on a swing and stare into each other’s eyes.  Katrina takes his hand and draws him into an empty outhouse, implication being sex.

I may have missed a few moments from the song, but overall I love it!  It establishes right away the relationship conflicts that will carry through the whole film.  Katrina is half white and half India, which isn’t a conflict in itself, but because of her lonely experience as a child and the way her parents have embraced their Indian identity since returning, it makes her extra committed to India, while Sidharth is more neutral.  Sidharth is always awkward and scared of others, probably exacerbated by his father’s death, and Katrina is always the one who takes the lead, who comforts him, who shows him what to do.  Katrina is richer than him and spoiled by her parents, and it makes Sidharth feel inadequate.  None of these are big problems, and central to the song is that the two of them are fine when it is just the two of them.  But when other people, or other considerations, get involved, then it can go wrong.

(totally different edit that in the film, but same kind of vibe)

Montage over, in present day, Sidharth is teaching a class.  It’s very Indiana Jones, all the girls are sighing and dreamy over him.  To the point where, when he finishes his lecture, they ask him to give a for more examples and stay all dreamy watching him work the blackboard.  But, this makes him late!!!  He finally finishes and checks the time and runs out, to run into a gallery show where Katrina is talking to the press.  He knocks over a sign, making a huge clatter just as she is making her main point.  She frowns at him.

At dinner, she is still angry, and he tickles her nose with a flower, to make her sneeze and cheer her up (a cool reference back to that song we just saw).  He apologizes, says he got caught up in class and it made him “a little” late.  She points out he was 2 hours late.  He apologizes again, the waiter comes by and she orders for him, butter chicken with extra butter on the side.  He mentions something about how they are like an old married couple, and Katrina leaps on that, saying yes, they are!  And they want the same things in life!  A home, two or three kids, a happy life, a happy…..  She waits for him to finish the thought, and when he doesn’t finally says herself “wife!  A happy wife!  Me!”

I’m usually pretty harsh on Kat, but she does a good job with this speech.  She is clearly unhappy being the one to propose, but is still ready to do it, and deal with it cheerfully.  It sets the tone for the whole relationship, Katrina would always rather that Sidharth took the lead on these things, but she is used to being the one to make decisions, to move their relationship forward, and she doesn’t dwell on the unfairness of it.

Sidharth hesitates, and Katrina flinches a little, then plows ahead, saying he can take a day to think about it.  Or a week.  However long he needs.  Sidharth, finally, says okay.

And then, Ram Kapoor!  He is definitely the funnest part of this movie.  He sits in his big office with a big smile and asks Sidharth how he will take care of his daughter.  Sidharth starts listing off how he has a good job and they know each other.  Ram Kapoor cuts him off and asks if he loves her.  Sidharth mumbles something, and Ram immediately embraces him and announces he will throw them a HUGE wedding!!!  With SNOW!

And cool cut, we go straight to the perspective of the wedding videographer.  He is going around asking for best wishes for the couple.  And we quickly learn a little more background.  Katrina’s mother loves India, and loves Sidharth and is very excited about the wedding.  Sidharth’s mother is delighted to finally have a “daughter”.  Sidharth’s younger brother is delighted to be at a wedding and flirt with everyone.  And Sidharth is a little over-whelmed by it all.

There are a lot of little things in both these sequences, the wedding video and the Sidharth and Ram meeting, that I thought would come up again later in more depth.  They never really did, but at the same time, if you notice them, they also provide a little extra tone to scenes later, almost like the director was planning to explore them and then forgot.  Or ran out of time.  For instance, Ram asks Sidharth to call him “Papa”, not “uncle” as he has called him his whole life.  Sidharth flinches a little, and on the surface it could be just about Ram’s over-whelming personality.  But also, remember that Sidharth’s father had died when he was a child.  Whether or not he is consciously aware of it, that might be why he is resisting not just calling him “Papa”, but all his efforts at support and welcome into the family.  And Ram’s coming on of the tough father may not just be an act, or going through the formalities.  He may have already seen that Sidharth isn’t really into this relationship in the same way Katrina is, and is trying to sniff around and make sure their problems are solvable.

In the same way, there are little clues dropped that Sidharth’s mother feels closer to Katrina than her own son, that Sidharth’s younger brother has never really been given respect or treated as an equal to Sidharth, that Katrina’s mother is warm and loving but Katrina may still want to leap onto Sidharth and his family as a way of re-affirming her Indian identity.  All of that is very interesting, and is never really explored, but is also never really contradicted by anything that happens later.  This is what I am saying about it being maybe too little plot.  I wish there had been time to explore all of this a little more.

Oh right, wedding!  This stuff is just fun.  Like Ram gives Sidharth a grain of rice, which he just sort of brushes off his fingers thinking it was a blessing or something, and then finds out it was worth thousands of crores, and had the entire Hanuman chalisa written on it!  And has to pick up hundreds of grains of rice and then look at them with a magnifying glass late into the night.

Sidharth is increasingly stressed, and shutting people out.  He avoids his mother, his brother, only Katrina seems able to make him comfortable, pulling him into a closet to get him to loosen up and get out of himself, trying to pull him into a song with everyone else, and finally when she realizes he just can’t handle it anymore, taking him off by themselves.

(Isn’t this interesting?  They completely re-edited the song for the promo, putting in Sidharth dancing and joining in the fun, whereas in the film he just stands and watches the whole time)

Which is when it goes wrong, even when it is just the two of them.  Katrina becomes yet another person he feels is putting too much on him, when she shows him the new apartment her father bought for them.  And Sidharth Freaks. Out.

For the past 20 minutes, we’ve been seeing how their relationship had a few flaws, but this is the first time these flaws turned into actual cracks.  In my non-spoiler review, I talked about how they felt more like an old married couple going through a mid-life crisis than a couple getting married.  In this scene, when Sidharth asked by what right Katrina got this apartment, Katrina says she always makes the decisions, “I’ve been making the decisions for both of us since we were 8 years old!”  And maybe when they were 8, or even teenagers, it wasn’t bad that Katrina always took the lead and Sidharth took her a little for granted.  But now it’s been 22 years of her doing everything and Sidharth doing nothing, and it has reached a breaking point.  Not Katrina getting tired of it all, but Sidharth getting so blinded that he has lost track of how they got there.  This isn’t 22 years of Katrina being pushy, it’s him being passive that has gotten them to this place.  And putting the blame on her for everything is not going to help.

Oh, and Sidharth got a phone call during the wedding prep telling him that he got his dream job, but it means he has to move to Cambridge.  That’s the other reason for the fight, that Katrina really really doesn’t want to move to Cambridge.  She tried it, she hates it there, she wants to stay in India.  It ends with Katrina storming out and announcing she is calling off the wedding unless Sidharth stops her right now, and Sidharth decides to drink a whole bottle of champagne and fall asleep.

And when he wakes up, it’s 10 days later and he’s in Bangkok!  There’s some okay physical comedy here when he tries to run out of the hotel room and figure out what happened.  Also, he sees a woman in his bed, just the back of her head, and is terrified trying to put it all together.  And then, finally, it is revealed to be Katrina!  If the trailers hadn’t spoiled the whole thing, this would have been a great reveal, that the audience and Sidharth both think he got black out drunk and slept with some random stranger, but in fact it was just Katrina!

And then, happy honeymoon song!  Only, just like in the wedding song, Katrina has to do all the work.  She sings to him, she dances for him, and, finally, he relaxes and joins in.  But only because she forces it, just like she has had to force every other part of their relationship.  And in the end, after the song, she is the first to say “I love you”.  And when he responds, she asks him “why?” and all he says is “you’re my wife.”  And she sort of smiles, but it isn’t a completely happy smile.

(I have these exact shorts.  Only, I don’t look anything like Katrina in them)

Sidharth falls asleep again, and this time wakes up to a yelling voice.  And, finally, a pillow to the face.  He’s in a strange room, Katrina is furious, and yelling.  And, he finally notices, pregnant!  Sidharth takes a bit to orient himself, helped along by the row of photos on the wall as he stumbles down the stairs after Katrina.  They were married, they went on their honeymoon, and so on.  And then he steps outside, to discover it is freezing cold, because they are in Cambridge!  He walks right past the car because, of course, he doesn’t know what it looks like.  And he can’t find the way through the streets.  Until finally, Katrina makes him change places so she can drive herself.  She also says, for the first time “there are two kinds of people in live, drivers and passengers!  And you are a passenger!”

They get to the hospital, and Sidharth seems to have finally gotten things a little under control.  He is pushing the wheelchair and asking to be checked in.  And then, foom!  THE ENTIRE FAMILY DESCENDS!!!  Sidharth’s mother, both of Katrina’s parents, Sidharth’s little brother and his non-Desi girlfriend (Thai, maybe?), all there!  They sweep Katrina off with them, and Sidharth is left to linger behind.  He finds an empty room with a white board and starts making notes on the board trying to figure out what is happening.  A doctor comes in, and he explains what is happening, only of course it’s not a doctor, it’s a patient pretending to be a doctor.  ha ha, never seen that before (sarcasm).  He then tells a real doctor the same thing, they take him off for tests, and can’t find anything wrong.  Finally, Sidharth wanders back to the maternity ward and is looking at newborns when his mother finds him.  And tells him that his father felt the same way, terrified, before Sidharth was born.  This is one of those moments that feel like a missed opportunity.  It’s a fine conversation, but it would have been so much more powerful if it had picked up on Sidharth’s position as a fatherless-father, or on his mother’s position as a grandmother whose husband will never see their grandchild.  Or on anything about Katrina’s position as the mother of said child, and also halfwhite, and also someone Sidharth’s mother has known since she was a child.  Instead of just the usual “fatherhood changes you” pablum.

Sidharth finally goes back into the delivery room to briefly try to help Katrina, and then get out as soon as she orders him.  In the hallway of the hospital, he sees in the distance, the same priest who was at their wedding!  He gave him a lecture about learning to give up on logic and have trust and faith before the marriage.  And then tied a sacred red thread around his wrist, which Sidharth just now notices is still on his wrist.

Sidharth runs after the priest, who gives him some general words of wisdom about learning to appreciate what he has, the present, the moments.  Sidharth takes that as “don’t be afraid of the future, because now you have seen it and it is wonderful”.  He also takes the priest’s words about “it’s all in your hands” to mean that all Sidharth has to do is break the red thread, and he will be back to the “present”.  Only, just as Sidharth learns this, his mother arrives, holding his newborn son.  She hands him to Sidharth, he is immediately besotted and forgets everything else.

Later, he and Katrina both stare at the baby and laugh about how it has her eyes, but his nose.  And Katrina asks again if she loves him, he says yes, she asks why, and he says “because you are my wife and the mother of my child.”  And she gives that same not-quite-happy smile.

I was so mad at Sidharth during this whole sequence!  He seemed to be seeing Katrina’s labor as just an inconvenience for him, like his time travel was a bigger mystery and problem than her life threatening medical procedure.  Plus, he was always so happy to give up responsibility.  First to her, when she drove the car.  Then to their family, as soon as they showed up at the hospital.  And then even in the delivery room, she said one little thing about throwing him out, and he left, leaving both mothers there to help her instead.

These are the same kind of little cracks we saw in that argument that started this, on their honeymoon when she had to sing him into being present and with her.  He isn’t a “bad” guy, he just doesn’t want to do the work if he doesn’t absolutely have to.  He leaves it up to Katrina to fix things, and when she’s unavailable (because she’s in labor) he leaves it to their family to clean up their mistakes.

Although, he is a hot guy, which goes a long way with me.  And he is still hot when he wakes up this time, with shaggier hair and a bear and a little grey at the temples.  He is in a lecture room and realizes he must be teaching a class.  He looks for the blackboard, and asks a student to right the date on it (he’s learning, getting faster at figuring out how to find the info he needs), but the class laughs because they don’t use blackboards anymore!

The future is very nicely done.  Big clear computer screens instead of laptops, self-driving cars, little dyed bits in people’s hair, but otherwise more or less like it is now.  Much better than if they’d had flying cars or anything ridiculous like that.

Sidharth cancels class, because he has no idea what he is teaching, and then runs across campus.  He sees his mentor, the one who called him at the wedding, and rushes over to tell him how much he loves his work.  And how young he looks compared to his picture!  I thought that was a bit of a red herring, that his mentor never seems to age in all these sequences, so maybe he is the “magical” one.  But then the Pandit is explicitly the magical one?  So either this is a really subtle clue that it is the mentor math professor all along, or they just didn’t want to bother making up one more actor with old age make-up.

Sidharth keeps running and is almost hit by a car.  The driver gets out, a young kid with crazy died hair, and Sidharth yells at him.  The driver yells back and calls him “Dad” and says that they are late, today of all days!  Sidharth immediately is fascinated with him, as any father would be with a son he is just meeting.  He tries to pick up clues, figures out that he isn’t that close to his son, has been absent from his life, and maybe because of that his son is now skipping college entrance exams and has dye in his hair.  Sidharth tries to make a connection, but before he can, they pull up at a civil court building.  Sidharth immediately assumes that his son is getting married.  He is concerned that he is so young, but does his best to be supportive!  And he is thrilled to see his mother their as well.  And Katrina!  They seem less enthusiastic, but Sidharth sets that down to them not approving of the marriage.  Until the judge announces the divorce decree, between Sidharth and Katrina.  The sound goes out, and Sidharth’s voice goes away as you see him yelling, and Katrina ignoring him, as she signs the papers and walks out.

And, sad song! Sidharth wanders around Cambridge (at least, it’s supposed to be Cambridge.  Did they film on location?).  He sees things that all look slightly off because it is the future, and also has visions of Katrina, just out of his grasp.

(Is this Cambridge?  I’ve been there once when I was 14, and don’t exactly remember it that well)

Finally, he goes home and walks up the same stairs, to see a new arrangement of family pictures, Katrina and him and a little boy and girl.  And he goes to his room and prays “please take me back to when she was mine and we were happy.  please please please.” and then removes the red thread.

And, interval!!!  I think?  I don’t remember exactly.  Anyway, it’s a good breaking point and I want to take a nap.

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 thread 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.

(See!  Chemistry!)

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 sad 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 half 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)

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2 thoughts on “Sunday ReRun: Baar Baar Dekho! Let’s Look At the Last Time Sid Did a Rom-Com

  1. Sorry, don’t have time to read the whole post, but just wanted to say that I liked this film, too, and thought it was underrated (though I also need to rewatch to confirm). Always wondered why it didn’t do so well. I kind of think the high concept didn’t mix well with the usual expectations for a light rom-com for Indian audiences. The fact that it was written by an Indian-American and directed by a woman is interesting and very telling as well. It would have played better to a Western audience, maybe?

    Speaking of Western (and very British) rom-coms…I just watched Juliet, Naked and it was kind of interesting. A bit under-cooked, but kind of cute and could have been a bit longer to develop the romance. Ethan Hawke as a washed up musician (ie Reality Bites the later years) really made me feel old and nostalgic.

    Like

    • I barely had time to read the whole post! I had to, to make sure there were no glitches before I reposted, but MAN was it long!

      Interesting point about the director. I think she also came out of a Western filmmaking tradition. Obviously for this movie they put in songs, kind of the basic element that makes a film “Indian”, but otherwise somehow the style just felt western. Maybe it was because there was a different kind of show-not-tell? Where in an Indian movie I might expect over the top speeches or big dramatic moments, it was all quieter and you really had to focus to see what people were feeling.

      On Mon, Jul 8, 2019 at 9:39 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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