Love Aaj Kal Porshu: Love in the Time of Entertainment

14 Feb, 2020 | Reviews by Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri
Image courtesy: BollywoodCharcha

Pratim D. Gupta’s film is a unique and entertaining take on love and the choices we are given to make when it comes to this ageless emotion

Cast: Paoli Dam, Arjun Chakraborty, Madhumita Sarkar, Anindita Bose, Anirban Chakrabarti

Director: Pratim D. Gupta

‘Everything is fair in love and entertainment,’ says a dapper power-dressed Madame K (Paoli Dam) – and the joy of watching Pratim Gupta’s new film lies in the fact that at the end of it you are not quite sure if indeed it is so … in entertainment, or what goes for it in contemporary society, and definitely in love. 

Over the course of watching his films (barring Paanch Adhyay, which I am yet to watch), I have begun to sense a pattern to his films – and thankfully it is a lack of pattern. His films are not what they appear to be on the surface. Hence, Ahare Mon (2018), for all its engagement with longings of the heart, went beyond just that. Shantilal (2019) turned the whodunit on its head in ways that only someone supremely confident of his craft and his story can. 

Ostensibly a love story but one that takes into its ambit a number of other issues: free will, voyeurism (an indictment of both the way entertainment operates in society and society’s own willingness to be part of it), agency, the complexities of reality or its façade…
It is not surprising, therefore, that he would mark a Valentine Day release with something like Love Aaj Kal Porshu. Ostensibly a love story but one that takes into its ambit a number of other issues: free will, voyeurism (an indictment of both the way entertainment operates in society and society’s own willingness to be part of it), agency, the complexities of reality or its façade…

It is impossible to say anything about the film without giving away spoilers and hence suffice it to say this is the story of three couples (played with finesse and passion by Arjun and Madhumita, who makes a fine debut on the big screen). Their names might differ as do their professions (a pop singer-a woman cricketer, a hitman-a chicken farmer [or are they?], a business reporter-a model), but they appear to be going through a ‘groundhog day’ experience, except that instead of it being tedious or unwelcome, it involves falling in love from scratch, again and again, every day. Or are they? What drives them to go through the motions of the game (for love here is a heady game too though the lovers may not know that), and what would they do if they were to find out? Would they be happy with love that only seems to begin anew every day, and that never experiences the many other stages of the process? 
 
Arjun Chakraborty and Madhumita Sarkar in a scene from the film
Image Courtesy: allaboutbanglacinema.org
 
The sparkling dialogues liberally sprinkled with puns adds immeasurably to the film’s entertainment quotient
The sparkling dialogues liberally sprinkled with puns adds immeasurably to the film’s entertainment quotient, and that is a huge plus because at the core this is a film addressing some heavy-duty issues. Then there are three actors doing a fine job. Within the confines of an episodic narrative (rendered essential by the content) that limits them to playing first-time lovers time and again, it is commendable how Arjun and Madhumita bring varying shades to the three couples. Paoli has always reserved her best for the director and after strong ‘character’ roles in Pratim’s earlier films, here she gets her teeth into something more substantial in terms of screen time. There are layers to her character beyond the hard-as-nails entrepreneur exterior which are never articulated except in the haunted look of her eyes. A special word about Shubhankar Bhar’s cinematography, which conveys the claustrophobia of a film set largely indoors. 
Paoli has always reserved her best for the director and after strong ‘character’ roles in Pratim’s earlier films, here she gets her teeth into something more substantial in terms of screen time.
‘The greatest love stories always remain incomplete,’ says one of the lovers in the film. Given their circumstances, the stories of these lovers may probably never count for among the greatest. And Pratim has the understanding to end the film on a note of incompleteness – an open-endedness that does not impose a conclusion but leaves the viewer to interpret it the way he or she is inclined. In doing so, the narrative also leaves you with a sense of loss, a longing for love to find its own way not doctored by anything, least of all entertainment. 

                                                                                                                          

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About the Author

Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is either an 'accidental' editor who strayed into publishing from a career in finance and accounts or an 'accidental' finance person who found his calling in publishing. He studied commerce and after about a decade in finance and accounts, he left it for good. He did a course in film, television and journalism from the Xavier's Institute of Mass Communication, Mumbai, after which he launched a film magazine of his own called Lights Camera Action. As executive editor at HarperCollins Publishers India, he helped launch what came to be regarded as the go-to cinema, music and culture list in Indian publishing. Books commissioned and edited by him have won the National Award for Best Book on Cinema and the MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Images) Award for Best Writing on Cinema. He also commissioned and edited some of India's leading authors like Gulzar, Manu Joseph, Kiran Nagarkar, Arun Shourie and worked out co-pub arrangements with the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives, apart from publishing a number of first-time authors in cinema whose books went on to become best-sellers. In 2017, he was named Editor of the Year by the apex publishing body, Publishing Next. He has been a regular contributor to Anupama Chopra's online magazine Film Companion. He is also a published author, with two books to his credit: Whims – A Book of Poems (published by Writers Workshop) and Icons from Bollywood (published by Penguin Books). He is at present, executive editor at Penguin Random House India. 

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