Tells a love story of a young couple who break up and try to get back together.
Danish Aslams’ debut feature Break Ke Baad (After The Break) fits very snugly into the current trend of insipid Gen-Y coming-of-mature-age romantic comedies that have been spewing from western film industries of late. (This year alone, Hollywood gave us Going the Distance and Life As We Know It; Australia, I Love You Too and The Wedding Party.)
Granted, Aslam’s shrill, shallow work is very upfront about its roots in conventional cinema storytelling. In the opening scene, two under-fives strike up a friendship whilst mimicking the dialogue from their favourite movie; from that first moment they are never apart, as he grows into Abhay Gulati (Imran Khan) and inherits his father’s cinema while she blossoms as aspiring actress Aaliya Khan (Deepika Padukone). Break Ke Baad is young love according to the movies; it never strives to be anything other than a purely cinematic exploration of romantic clichés. (Even the extended opening credits are interwoven into the very fabric of the film.) In this regard, it proves all too effective.
Aaliya begins to feel the urge to spread her wings and, without thinking it necessary to tell her childhood sweetheart or any member of her family, applies for and is accepted into one of Australia’s leading tertiary education institutions, the University of The Gold Coast (!). Gulati lets her leave India, however reluctantly, understanding that she needs to experience life but equally certain the journey will overwhelm her and she’ll return to his arms, a broken spirit. If such inconsideration and manipulation sounds particularly unromantic, you are spot-on. So plot-driven are everyone’s actions in Break Ke Baad, it does not take long at all to lose empathy and interest in key character arcs.
Once in Queensland (we assume, though stock footage of Sydney Harbour would suggest otherwise; the actual and unconvincing location for the Gold Coast scenes was Mauritius), Aaliya hooks up with a beachside household full of gross caricatures (slathering ladies’ man; bitchy alpha female) and hits the booze pretty hard. She foregoes her communications degree to follow her dream to be a drama major and soon loses focus of her love for Abhay. Meanwhile, he mopes around India until, racked with a sense of being dispossessed of what he feels to be rightly his, seeks her out.
It is impossible to take one’s eyes off Deepika Padukone, as loved by the camera here as she was as the femme fatale in Nikhil Advani’s action spoof Chandni Chowk in China (2009) and opposite megastar Farah Khan in Om Shanti Om (2007); she is one of the most beautiful screen actresses working in contemporary international cinema. But her Aaliya is just plain infuriating; so inconsiderate are her ambitions and petulant are her reactions, it is inconceivable that the focussed, business-oriented gentleman that Abhay has become would give her the time of day, let alone chase her across continents.
Pitched way too high in every regard (exteriors are overlit; support players are one-dimensional; set design is slavishly gaudy) and playing like a sitcom/soap opera, Break Ke Baad stumbles into a charming exuberance on the odd occasion but is far too frantic and slight to register in any meaningful way. All involved will someday provide stronger evidence of their obvious talents, and audiences are advised to wait until then.