Film Review: Break Ke Baad

Directed by: Danish Aslam

Starring: Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone, Sharmila Tagore, Shahana Goswami and Navin Nischol

All pictures courtesy of:

I’ve often felt writing a review of a film is like conducting a scientific experiment where certain variables will affect my perception of the film. For example, running late to the cinema, seeing a huge queue at the ticket office, a bad seat, a bad mannered audience and technical woes all do not bode well for a good review whereas a considerate audience, arriving relaxed and in the right frame of mind to enjoy the film are all good omens that make for a good review. Of course, as we all know by now, the world of Hindi cinema is not to be measured or explained by any sort of theorem and often, will throw something up that totally transposes my science theory and defies any sort of logic.

So, the following happened when I went to see Break Ke Baad – I finished work early, got to a decent late afternoon showing, there was no queue at the box office, a half full cinema with some loud teeny boppers who silenced themselves  when the film started (so I did not have to discipline them), a technical error which saw the picture stretched on screen that miraculously corrected itself as the film started and the film finished early so I was home in time for a dinner of saag [spinach] and roti [chappatis]. So, were these all good omens or bad? Hmmm…

Break Ke Baad is the story of Abhay (Khan) and Aliyah (Padukone), a young couple who are opposites – Abhay is sensible, dependable and mature whilst Aliyah is selfish, carefree and ambitious. Their relationship faces a major challenge when Aliyah moves to Australia to study – she suggest the couple go on a break which eventually leads to a break up. But Abhay cannot accept the break up and follows Aliyah to Australia and we see what happens break ke baad…

I have to be honest, I wanted to like this film but just could not connect to it. I couldn’t figure out whether it was the cast or the script or the direction but there was something about BKB that seemed to keep me at arms length. BKB is a real mixed bag which goes from time pass to engaging to just coasting along and finally crashes in its own comfort zone.  This is a real shame as there is a very good film fighting to get out of BKB – I liked the way the opening sequence showing a young Abhay and Aliyah bonding over a love for films (with a tribute paid to one of my fave films of all time Mr India) and I also liked some of the themes the film touches on – the idea of young people not knowing what they want to do with their lives, the dialogue heavy scenes cleverly referencing classic films, and exploring some of the dynamics of modern relationships.

However, BKB is heavily inspired by Friends which made the whole film feel familiar to me and the film also suffers a massive identity crisis as it wants to be a coming of age film, a rom-com, a character driven film and an entertainer all at the same time and of course, ends up not falling under any of those categories. There is a fantastic scene where Abhay and Aliyah have an argument in a men’s restroom about Aliyah moving to Australia – this scene works really well and offers the film an interesting direction to follow but instead, BKB takes a whimsical path which stays firmly in candy floss land so eventually the film is watchable but not engaging – and I had to groan aloud at the ending which felt so cliched and boring, it left me feeling disappointed.

Technically, the film is good with some interesting aerial shots, lots of close ups and simple but effective cinematography. The dialogue is very well written – funny, modern and relevant, it is a shame that BKB provides a poor showcase for it. The film also features plenty of property porn with some gorgeous interiors – whether it was Sharmila Tagore’s character’s house or the beach hut in Australia, I was suitably envious and distracted from the main story by the colour schemes. I liked elements of the styling, in particular the ethnic looks and Deepika’s look for the film. Deepika looked gorgeous in very skimpy backless cholis and the very daring bikini as top (covered with a chunni) with lots of brocade, sequin trims and deep colours that felt wearable and real. I really liked Imran’s sherwanis, in particular the mocha and oyster ones, with embellishment on the collar and arms and teamed with patiala style salwars and punjabi jootis. Deepika has an amazing figure and worked the life out of her denim/shorts teamed with graphic tees and a tuxedo style blazer and regulation gladiator sandals that she always seems to be in (maybe she doesn’t like heels?)

Performance wise, there isn’t much to write home about. I felt Imran was perfunctory but rarely went beyond the call of duty and indeed, the film didn’t give him that opportunity either. Personally, I felt there was a massive I Hate Luv Stories hangover and Imran’s performance offered nothing new to the viewer nor to his body of work. I really feel he is in danger of losing the goodwill he had with Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na and really needs to reinvent himself rapidly to get back in pole position. Hopefully Delhi Belly will show us a different side but for now, this film does him no harm but no favours either – the only positive to be gleaned perhaps is that Imran can do the romantic hero role with his eyes closed and can perhaps return to it after a period of artistic experimentation.

Deepika fares a bit better, not because I am biased and think she is super hot but she really seems to be improving. She puts in a spirited effort and seems to be less inhibited than she was in her first few films. Yes, she is a little shrill and hits the wrong notes at times but like Priyanka in Anjaana Anjaani, she commits fully to the role and is definitely heading in the right direction. Though this isn’t nearly as good as her career best in Love Aaj Kal, Deepika is growing as an actress and performer, and that should be applauded. Sharmila Tagore is wasted in an insignificant role as is an unrecognisable Shahana Goswami, both of whom phone it in and cannot be blamed as their roles are written as two dimensional. Credit must go to Lillette Dubey as the thrice divorced modern aunt who has the best line in the film – at a fashion show, whilst appraising a model, she says: “Just get her some boobs please” delivered note perfect and had the audience laughing well into the next scene.

This is the problem with BKB – a few good moments do not make for a great film. It is clear Aslam has a deep love for film and is a talented filmmaker – the scenes and lines which do work are very good and if even half the film had retained that standard, this would have been a different review. I do realise this is Aslam’s debut film and in that sense, it is  a promising debut as Aslam has a voice that connects to modern audiences and I have no doubt his next few films will be interesting to watch. But BKB feels like it wants to be a Salaam Namaste or a Wake Up Sid but ends up being a pale imitation hybrid of the two. All in all, this is perhaps one to catch on DVD or on telecast rather than cinema (unless you are a die hard fan of the lead pair) and will no doubt be usurped by the next romcom that comes along. I guess that the only plaudit I can give Break Ke Baad is at least it managed to confound my theory of writing a film review which means it is not all baad …..

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