Yep, it’s a good movie! And Karthik and Sara both do wonderful jobs, especially Sara. Once again, Imtiaz’s vision failed to be captured by the trailers.
An Imtiaz Ali romance isn’t really a romance. It’s a story of spiritual awakening, told through a love story. Unfortunately, that is really hard to capture in a one sentence plot, or a 2 minute trailer. But when you give yourself over to the whole final film, it can be transporting. This movie wasn’t perfect straight through, but there were moments in the middle where I found myself crying at the beauty of it.
I’ll get the bad out of the way first and then the good. There are a couple of scenes that were filmed so shockingly poorly, like a character’s head getting cut out of frame, that I almost wondered if it was on purpose. But I think it was just bad quick filming for some reason. There’s also no “plot”. Like most Imtiaz films, there is no real external obstacle to anything, it’s all about the character’s internal journeys. Prepare yourself for that. And finally he uses a lot of really dreamy techniques to fill in backstory, including coming back from the interval with a random stand up comic talking about relationships, followed by a song that shows the relationship stories of tertiary characters. It’s odd, and it may not work for you. But really, that’s all the bad! It’s a very solid film, and way WAY better than the trailer appeared.
Let me start by cranking through the things in the trailer you might have found off-putting. First, Karthik IS on the spectrum. That’s why he acts like that. The movie never diagnosis or labels him, but it is clearly how his character was written. So it’s not a weird bad performance, it is a performance that is doing what the character was written to do. Wouldn’t it be nice if the trailer makers had included one of his lines of dialogue that made it clear that was what was happening, and not that Karthik had somehow lost the ability to play a character?
Second, it’s Sara’s story. 100% her story. The reason she isn’t in the flashback, is because she is playing the “male” role in the flashback. They flipped the genders between the past and present, in order to give Sara more focus and agency, she is the one hearing the story and relating to past-Karthik. She has so many moments of beautiful silent acting and she nails each one. There’s a moment in the film when she cockily tells Karthik to look at her as much as he likes and then poses for him. But under the surface of her casual cool instagram ready faces, she lets just a tinge of real emotion shine through. Just a magnificent performance, and a real gift of a character for her.
Third, there IS a reason to remake this movie. The only thing shared between the two films is that a present day person learns love/life lessons by hearing the story of a past person. But the stories, present and past, are completely original. And the meaning of using the past/present comparison is radically different and, I think, far more interesting.
The original film was about a modern couple not realizing the privileges they had by being able to love freely where and how they wished. It was a story about a modern day man who had love handed to him learning from a past romance and a man who had to struggle greatly to keep his love. Men men men men men. It was a well-made movie, so the heroine was a clearly defined character as well, but it was definitely the story of the hero and his journey.
This movie is about women. Sara is the lead, and the fascinating story Imtiaz wanted to explore is how, in the present, Sara has the same options that Randeep Hooda (STUPID FACE. Sorry Randeep, I still don’t like the way you look) had in the past. He is exploring how love has changed, for women, in the past versus the present. The first one was about men learning they had to fight for love and take responsibility and blah blah blah. This movie is about how love can destroy a woman, in many ways, along with all the other obstacles they face in life. Sara is confronted in a job interview because she undid a button, she goes on a date with a man who throws in her face how much money he spent on her drinks and that she “owes” it to him to go home with him, and most of all she has Mother Issues in a way that is distinctly Mother-Daughter, NOT Mother-Son (or Father-Son either).
If you watched Tamasha and thought “wait, where’s Deepika’s story?” or if you watched Jab Harry Met Sejal and thought “this is more Sejal’s story than Harry’s and it’s brilliant”, then this is the movie you want. Imtiaz took the life of a young upper middle-class professional woman in urban India and showed all of it, all the mess and struggle and misery, along with all the freedom and happiness.
And love. It’s also a love story. Karthik’s character is just there to support Sara, but he is a good character. And the moments of love between them are truly beautiful, Imtiaz really makes you feel their connection and want them to be together. And understand, from both sides, why that is hard.
Really, watch it! Unless you don’t like dreamy love stories with great music and fabulous performances and heartstopping sex scenes.