Mayank Shekhar's Review: Break Ke Baad

By Hindustan Times

Director: Danish Aslam
Actors: Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone
Rating: ***

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about certain couples. While they may be in a serious relationship, a good way to figure if they started out being close friends, is if the girl calls the boy by his last name. As does the heroine here.

She (Deepika; innately natural) calls her boyfriend (Imran) ‘Ghulati’, his surname -- also a popular Pandara Road restaurant in New Delhi, where the two drive around in yellow Volkswagen Beetle, pick up Gudang Garams from the local ‘Prince’ paan shop.

The couple first bumped into each other when kids at a cinema. They’d simultaneously rattle off lines from Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India, wear red glasses for the show. Both were Bollywood buffs, growing up in the ‘90s, when Ek do teen… made for fine lyrics, and Shah Rukh Khan’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was the ultimate in mush.

So much about recent Hindi movies is a nod to movies from the past. This one’s no different. To be fair, the hero’s “Papaji” owns a theatre himself. Watching films from the projectionist’s room is part of their lives -- not being ‘filmy’, I guess, their sole symbol of youthful rebellion (recall I Hate Luv Storys, this is a superior take).

The couple was best friends for 10 years; they dated for 10 years after, having made no common friends in the meanwhile! The two remain stuck to each other. “You complete me,” she tells him, quoting from the ultimate ‘90s rom-com, Jerry McGuire. They do complete each other in many ways: she only has a mother, he has only a dad. She’s “focused”. He is “unsure”, laidback (daddy's wealth can dull the brightest brains). She has ambitions. He has her. Symmetry is complete. She shifts to Australia, inhales new life, rooms in with a sort of alien (for a romantic flick) who’d sleep with anything that moves (haw!). The hero at home gawks at his cellphone -- the closest he can come to a girlfriend. The phone merely blares out issues each day they can barely resolve. It’s called growing apart. Those who’ve been in long-distance, insecure relationships will know. It’s best to move on.

Here, the boyfriend moves in instead to be with his girl, now his ex. She dates no one else in the interim. He's determined to get her to love him back. The picture makes for an entire subset of richly urbane, romantic Hindi movies that reflect at some level a ‘feminised’ young man (Wake Up Sid, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na), who graciously, lazily balances out the fiery new woman. And eventually, comes of age.

These films progressively question human expectations and complications we call love, yet sweetly retreat at once to soul mates that last forever. The equilibrium is smartly restored. Intellectualising further bears few fruits. Some could find them slightly sappy for their belated conclusions. But you take on the exhaustion only if the film is subversive enough and remains endearingly exciting for most parts. This one certainly does.

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