With “London Paris New York”, the new film starring Ali Zafar, directed by Anu Menon, I’ve concluded one question that has been hanging over my head since last month: This isn’t Bollywood’s month in romance movies.
Hot on the heels of “Ek Deewana Tha” and “Ek Main AurEkkTu”, both romantic dramas aiming at urban audience, “London Paris New York” has Ali Zafaras Nikhil Chopra, who when we first meet him, aspires to be a filmmaker.
At London airport, he meets-cute Lalitha Krishnan (Aditi Rao Hydari), a young woman with an amateurish outlook on feminism and politics – and whose maturity never levels up in the film’s passage of time.
In their first meeting, highlighted by two very long steadicam-takes, one notices a spark gradually, and innocently, developing between Nikhil and Lalitha.
She has missed her connecting flight to New York and Nikhil, on his first day of un-parented “freedom”, suggests they spend her remaining time adventuring through London. So like backpackers, they ride up the city, get soaked in the rain and have a few glasses of wine.
A few years later, in 2007, they do this exercise again in Paris. Nikhil now sports a goatee and Lalitha has chopped her hair. The two also have a brewing conflict about infidelity, the reason for which I found lacking. They, of course, separate — again.
Finally years later, today, Nikhil, now a filmmaker, tracks down Lalitha and they spend another night in New York oblivious to the severity of their differences. If anything, fracases are painlessly, contended in this story.
Yes, “London Paris New York” is a variation of “Before Sunrise” and "Before Sunset", with three episodes packed into little more than 90 minutes. However, there’s a transparent dissimilarity between the two. Even with a short running time, this film’s screenplay (also credited to Anu Menon), forgets to add any spontaneity to its plot.
The London bit starts out welcomingly fresh, where both characters are guided by their youthful convictions. When they do grow up, two years later, their lives are a train-wreck of misguided adulthood. By the time New York happens, we see the film pacing itself for a climax, and little else.
Despite Ali Zafar’s alluring on-screen personality, and his monotonous-sounding voice with the slight Punjabi-drawl, we never build a connection with Nikhil. Lalitha, sheepish and misguided by the pragmatism of her nature, is even more departed to our emotions.
“London Paris New York” has seven tracks on its album, with Music and Lyrics predictably by Ali Zafar. The soundtrack is a snug fit within the overall structure of the film. They, almost never, interrupt the flow of the story.
With his third major Bollywood feature, I can safely assume that Ali Zafar is now a bona fide Bollywood commodity. There’s obvious, untapped, star-power here and this raw resource puts him right up there with the best of Bollywood’s next generation.
Like “Tere Bin Laden” – the finest work in his current resume – one can spot the work he’s molded into his character. Ali Zafar has a definite Pakistani naturalness to his performance. Despite our shared heritage, there’s a vivid contrast between our body languages, and this gradient uniquely deviates him from what we expect of Bollywood leads.
If anything, that unmistakable freshness suits the movie just fine.