It works in parts but makes you sorely miss the golden age of both Anurag Kashyap and Imtiaz Ali films
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Writer: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Alaya F, Karan Mehta, and Vicky Kaushal (Cameo)
It is a story of two sets of teenagers navigating through life, love, and societal demons such as homophobia, patriarchy, love jihad, etc. They have two parallel tracks, one unfolding in London and the other in Dalhousie.
In the first story, it is London. Harmeet is a young DJ working at a pub. His focus is entirely on making a career in music. But life has other plans for him. Ayesha, a rich kid spots him and has a huge crush on this brooding loner. She relentlessly pursues him until he lets her into his house and eventually heart. What happens next is what one would expect in a rich-girl-meets-poor-boy story of the ’90s. The billionaire father of the girl enters the scene and tears the couple apart. The girl is dragged back home and the boy faces the music. Things get worse as the girl is a minor and of course, she has conveniently lied about her age to Harmeet. The two again meet after three years, but by then, Harmeet is a different man and refuses to give Ayesha another chance. She then takes a drastic step.
The second story unfolds in Lansdowne. Yakub is a quintessential village simpleton; he is the son of a local shop owner. Amrita (a GenZ who reads Amrita Pritam) comes from an influential and affluent family. Yakub and Amrita make Ting Tong videos together. In her Ting Tong avatar, she is Saloni ammi (which seems inspired by Saloni Gaur’s social media avatar of Nazma aapi). He finds her ‘cute’ and hence doesn’t charge her for DVDs he lends out. They elope together to watch a music concert, which is scheduled for Holi. What the teens deem as an innocent act of defiance soon takes a much more serious and eventually tragic turn.
Then there is DJ Mohabbat, who pops up to dole out love and life advice over podcasts/radio shows. He is the sutradhar binding these two stories of ‘Almost Pyaar’ together.
There is nothing edgy, subversive, or complex. This is the most simplistic and the peachiest of Kashyap’s movies. The movie is about his idea of the modern generation but it is shallow and half-baked and too convenient. It almost seems that Kashyap didn’t think that the ‘flaky teenagers’ deserved a better film about their lives.
Ayesha’s story could have been a deliciously dark portrayal of a toxic relationship as well as an expose of the music industry where youngsters are robbed of their credit and often dignity. But Ayesha never reaches the depth of a Rumi. Instead, she comes across as an entitled stalker.
She not only shoots her shot at every possible instance but tries her best to manipulate him. Here the guy’s consent is irrelevant. She lovebombs him into submission. The way she wears him down with her persistence reminds one of the problematic Bollywood heroes of the ’90s.
Amrita is bound to remind you of Imtiaz Ali’s Geet. It unfolds in a Jab We Met kind of a world but gets a love jihad upgrade. But unlike Imtiaz’s movie, this story is told from an outsider’s gaze. It is like a father looking at his daughter’s generation and trying to make sense of it, and he does so in broad strokes. In the process, it never becomes an intimate and relatable love story but remains an ‘almost’ love story that serves as a vehicle to talk about Boomer concerns.
Kashyap crams in too way many issues – a homosexual man in a heterosexual marriage, a millionaire dad sleeping around with colleagues and members of the staff, a music producer trying to manipulate a struggler, false rape charges, predatory behavior, sexual abuse of prison inmates, fragile mental health, the impact of childhood trauma, love jihad, Islamophobia, class divide and more. The end result seems like a compilation of all the tweets he resisted posting over the past few years.
He then peppers it with references to YouTube, Instagram, likes, follower count, TikTok, blue ticks, etc to make it all look GenZ. But instead, the movie looks like a Boomer’s v.ersion of Gen Z. The dialogues and the song lyrics seem like an article on ‘new GenZ terms you need to know’.
The climax, set on the backdrop of the anthem, Mohabbat Se Kranti, is too convenient and casual. You are hardly left with any strong emotions that can justify the use of powerful words like Kranti or Mohabbat.
The music of Amit Trivedi is usually the highlight of Kashyap’s movies. But here that too fails to stand out (but then Trivedi’s music is often slow burns and it takes its own sweet time to grow on you, so fingers crossed). There is EDM to make it GenZ but the album hardly reflects the variety today’s generation has on their playlist. The ‘Hindi songs with English lyrics’ have seen much better days—one can hardly even compare a Netflix and Chill with an Emotional Atyachar. Shellee’s lyrics seem too wannabe.
The best part of the movie however is Alaya F. She ensures that her Ayesha and Amrita both stand out in their individuality. I hope both the character were written better and was given more scope and space. Alaya’s Ayesha and Amrita both deserve their separate movies.
Debutant Karan Mehta is good in parts but his performance often becomes stilted, especially in his rendition of Yakub. He is good in the prison scenes and when he turns from a boy to a man. But a question mark looms on his versatility.
Vicky Kaushal as DJ Mohabbat reminds one of DJ Sandz from Manmarziyaan. It would have been a delight to trace his story but instead, here he is almost just a voice giving out sermons on love and quoting Gulzar.
Verdict: Not only is this the most unlike Anurag Kashyap movie ever, but it also seems to be an unintentional homage to his good friend and colleague Imtiaz Ali. Instead of the strong, independent, badass women of the Kashyap world, his Ayesha comes across as an entitled stalker that reminds one of the problematic heroes of ’90s Bollywood, while his Amrita is a manic pixie dream girl, a soul sister of Geet. This is Kashyap’s version of Jab We Met meets Love Aajkal Ft Boomer angst with a Gen Z upgrade. It is a story from a loving and often bewildered gaze of a father grappling to understand the TikTok generation instead of the immediacy and passion of someone in love. It is a ‘cute’ attempt but makes you sorely miss the golden age of both Anurag Kashyap and Imtiaz Ali films.