Aaj Kal Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya?

Love Aaj Kal

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya

A week ago (since I had nothing else to do), I happened to watch the Tamil film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya. No, don’t worry. I don’t intend to add another review to the multitudes that are already available for this pretty decent (though over-rated) movie in various media, written by those who are (hopefully) much better writers and film critics than me. It is just that I had run out of things to write about on this newly and very enthusiastically set up blog of mine, when I happened to watch this movie. And I thought, perhaps I should write something on that favourite subject of almost all Indian movies – the four-letter word starting with L, ending with E… you know what I’m talking about.

When I thought of the word, another movie that I’d watched a few months before flashed across my mind screen. It was Love Aaj Kal. On further  probing and analysis, I found two reasons (apart from my being a fan of Deepika Padukone) behind the sudden popping-up of this Hindi movie into my mind:

1. The word LOVE appears in the title of the film

2. Both these movies seem to follow a similar approach in dealing with LOVE.

The first reason is quite clear (unless you don’t know English and have still managed to read this much). The second reason perhaps needs a little explaining. But first, some filmy facts. Take a look at the conventional love stories we see in mainstream cinema. Most of them have the boy and the girl meeting (somewhere somehow, very frequently in situations that can be imagined only by a scriptwriter who’s gone  completely mad) and falling in love (which is equivalent to going to the Swiss Alps and singing songs. Or if the producer isn’t that ambitious, singing songs closer home). Then, they want to marry (this is before live-in relationships started happening), which is but natural. But then, their families don’t think it’s natural. So then we have to solve the issue. And what better way to go about it than with fiery dialogues, heroism and villain (yes, he came into the picture somewhere in-between) bashing? Finally, our hero manages to take the beauty home. And they live happily ever after.The families either get fed up of advising (read threatening) the young lovers and disown them, or come to realise their grave mistake of trying to stop the force of divine love.  The sheer number of films built on this basic premise is mind-boggling.

However, it is a notable fact that the two films I mentioned  here tell the story a little differently. Of course, there may be other films as well, but I choose these as representatives of the new-age love story because they have managed to grab the attention of a wide audience.  There are two aspects of these films that make them different from the usual fare.

1. Perspective

Both these films have chosen to portray a close-up view of a love story. The camera probes into the intimate lives of the lovers, instead of focusing on the wider world around them and being philosophical. Lovers’ small and undramatic conversations have found considerable space in both the movies. For example, while watching Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, there are several instances, especially in the second half, when you feel this is going nowhere. You find yourself getting fed up of the lovers’ childish fights and fantasies. You somehow want them to get over these trivial things and move on to more important things like proclaiming their love for each other.

In Love Aaj Kal, this focusing on individuals is in the extremes, so much so that there is no other character of significance in the film, apart from the two lead protagonists. The whole film revolves around just the two lead characters Jai and Meera. In fact both of them act as though they don’t have anyone else who is interested in them and their affairs – not even a friend! This seems quite unnatural. VV (for short) does not go to such extremes though, and acknowledges that both the girl and the boy have parents (and didn’t drop on this earth from outer space like Love Aaj Kal seemed to suggest) who are concerned about their relationships. VV even has the conservative dad who is opposed to his daughter marrying a guy who is not of the same religion. The point is, both films have in common an individualistic (or couplistic?!) viewpoint of a love story. I would even go ahead to say it is a closed view. Nothing is said about the impact the two characters have on the people around them. Even in VV, this is shown only to a very small extent. And even though it is a viewpoint devoid of heroism,  it has managed to gain popularity. I suspect this is because our society itself has become ‘closed’ to an extent. Most of the families have gone nuclear and most people are concerned only about themselves. I have doubts on whether this will be a sustainable trend in mainstream cinema though, unless the dialogues are as refreshing as those (by Imtiaz Ali) in LAK or the visuals as pleasing as in VV.

2. Confused Characters

Every man was once a boy. And every little boy has dreams, big dreams of being the hero, of beating the bad guys, of doing daring feats and rescuing the damsel in distress. Every little girl has dreams, too: of being rescued by her prince and swept up into a great adventure, knowing that she is the beauty. But what happens to those dreams when we grow up?

– John Eldredge in Wild at Heart

Now, the more important point. It is true that secretly every single human being enjoys being loved by someone. However the truth is that most of us are bound by the shackles of logic and practicality and self-imposed ‘constraints’. Love and commitment are all filmy concepts that do not work in practice, or so we think. The beauty of both these films, I feel, is that they acknowledge and reflect this reality of today. LAK starts off with the couple who were till then ‘in love’ deciding to ‘break-up’ as their careers demand their being away from each other. They decide to be just ‘friends’. This is very much like the youth of today, for whom commitment is just not practical and is so old-fashioned. (The Docomo ad for daily plans and the Fastrack ad urgin you to ‘move on’ are perfect illustrations that substantiate my point here!) VV, on the other hand, portrays only the girl Jessie as being confused. The guy, Karthik is sure that he ‘loves’ Jessie. Jessie is depicted as secretly enjoying all the attention Karthik gives her, though she doesn’t have the courage to go against her father’s wishes and marry him. This is aptly represented in the climax where we get a glimpse of Jessie’s real desires  on screen. LAK ends on a ‘hopeful’ note with the message that though the way in which you realize your love for each other changes, the feeling remains the same now and then. VV is more closer to reality!

Now, you must be wondering why I said all these things about these not so exceptional movies. I feel, the films through their characters and plot, accurately reflect two important aspects of today’s society: individualistic nature and lack of purpose or conviction in people. It is a pretty sad fact that today’s youth are very apprehensive about standing up for what their conscience says is right. I just used the characters in these movies as an illustration of the same. It is true that man’s nature is generally very complex and there is nothing wrong in that. What is wrong is that we are apprehensive about chasing our dreams, about living for others, about so-called selfless love. Some even deny the existence of such things. Today, chasing your dreams implies meeting selfish ends by any means. Living for others is almost non-existent. And selfless love? What’s that?!

When I talk of selfless love, it is not just the love between a boy and a girl. It could be anything; where you sacrifice your own selfish desires and start living for something. Sure, you may argue that terrorists do the same. But that is not what I mean. Give yourself up for something just; something worthy; make life better for someone else, instead of just keeping on accumulating for your own and worrying about the consequences. Think big. Paint on a wider canvas.

LOVE is giving up yourself for someone/something that is just and worthy, even if it may not benefit you.

So now coming to the title of this post, do you have the courage to cross the skies?