Here are some questions which have always crossed my mind whenever I have thought about Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal, starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone. The film completed 12 years on July 31.
1. Why, oh why, was Saif Ali Khan cast as the younger avatar of Rishi Kapoor?And why were both cast as Sikhs? Oh I get it, Diljit Dosanjh hadn’t made his appearance on the scene back then. That explains the fake turban look for the two actors. But I still don’t know why they were cast as the same character since they don’t look anything like each other. In fact Saif was much taller . Imtiaz Ali’s other favourite Ranbir and Rishi playing the same character would have made some sense, though even they didn’t look like one another. But why Saif and Rishi? I asked this question from Saif, Rishi and Imtiaz back then when the film released. I got no answer.
2. Why Deepika Padukone? Why not Kareena Kapoor as Saif’s mercurial love interest Meera? Kareena and Imtiaz Ali had worked wonders together in Jab We Met,and Kareena was very keen to do Love Aaj Kal. Imtiaz instead went to Saif, leaving Kareena fuming and stranded. Love Aaj Kal was a turning point in Deepika’s career. To her credit, Kareena admitted to me that Deepika “was born to play Meera” after the film’s release.
3. Why Brazilian model Giselli Monteiro as Saif Ali Khan’s Sardarni love interest in the flashbacks? Giselli knew as much about Punjabiyat as Meryl Streep knows about the Upanishads. Giselle is a Brazilian model Giselle Monteiro who couldn't speak Hindi or dance to save her life. Why a Brazilian girl to play an old-fashioned Punjabi girl? Well, Imtiaz was auditioning girls from all over the country to play the Punjabi girl opposite the Sikh version of Saif. Imtiaz couldn't find the right girl to play the 1965 ki 'gali mein rehne wali ladki, purane zamane ki’. Giselle had walked into Imtiaz Ali's office to play another part. Giselle came to him through dress designer Anaita Shroff. She was to play Jo, Saif's Caucasian girlfriend in the second-half. She wasn't right for Jo. But Imtiaz’s wife (now separated), who was there, suggested Giselle for Harleen. Imtiaz told me he turned and looked at Giselle and realised she is Brazil's Harleen. She didn't know how to speak Hindi. But she had only two lines to speak, which the director dubbed. Later Imtiaz made the same blunder when he cast Nargis Fakhri as Ranbir’s Paro in the neo-Devdas Rockstar. Nargis laughingly told me that the dialogues in Rockstar could have been in Chinese for all she knew. Ranbir told me just before the film’s release that Nargis deserved the National award for Rockstar. Was he being sarcastic? With Ranbir, you never know.
4. Neetu Singh Kapoor made an appearance at the end of film as Harleen Kaur, Rishi Kapoor’s beloved wife.Which meant Giselli Monteiro played the younger version of Neetu. The two are as similar as Katrina Kaif and Vidya Balan. This was Neetuji’s first screen appearance with Rishi Kapoor after 29 years since Dhan Daulat in 1980. She had just one shot with Rishi. Who brings one of Bollywood’s most romantic screen pairs together after so many years for just one shot? Kabhi kabhie, khel khel mein aisa hota hai.
5. On release, Imtiaz saw Love Aaj Kal with the audience at the iconic Regal theatre in Mumbai (now closed). Regal, you've to understand, is a movie monument in Mumbai. Imtiaz used to watch the best films wide-eyed in this theatre. Imtiaz had brought along his closest friends from his student days who had been specially invited from different corners of the country to share the 'Regal' experience.Imtiaz said: "There was Joy who makes ad films, Avi who's in telecommunications, Anil who's the COO of an ad agency and Rakesh a video maker from Canada. We savoured the film at Regal and then drank ourselves silly all night. My other long standing buddies are Nassif from Assam and Jaggu from Imphal. They couldn't join us at Regal. They are my reality check. Instead of praising my film they kept bullying me. 'Tu apne aap ko bahut bada director samajhta hai? We had all come to Mumbai from various cities to study at the Xavier Institute Of Communications. We were in hostel for a year. Then bunched together and lived in a flat in Parel for two years." Did these no-bullshit friends ask Imtiaz why Saif played the younger version of Rishi Kapoor?
Image soucre: IMDb