Love Aaj Kal screened as part of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) at the Castro Theatre last night. I was a little alarmed when the man in front of me announced that since this was a Bollywood movie, it was sure to be at least two and a half hours long. At 9:00 pm?! On a Sunday night?! Luckily Love Aaj Kal clocked in at a demure two hours and 10 minutes and it was a toe-tapping, hip-thrusting, rollicking good time.

The movie follows Jai and Meera, a modern-day couple living in London with a philosophy of love that is either realistic or jaded, depending on your point of view. They’re deeply connected but focused on their careers and intend to squeeze love into the margins of their modern lives. Jai’s dream career move leads him to San Francisco and Meera, who restores frescoes, moves back to India where she becomes involved with her boss.

Jai’s romantic mentor, an older man named Veer, advocates for the romantic notion of soul mates. Veer’s love-at-first-sight pursuit of a woman named Harleen back in the olden days is told in parallel to Jai and Meera’s contemporary story. I was a bit confused, because the SFIAAFF literature and the festival director who introduced the movie and said that the stars portray the modern couple as well as the old-timey couple but the women didn’t look the same, but both men had bodies like Mario Lopez from “Saved by the Bell” so… maybe?

A Google search reveals that each character is actually played by different actors and that there seems to be some grumblings in the Bollywood world that Harleen is played by a Brazilian actress. Personally, I can’t get over the fact that there’s more than one Indian actor who resembles Mario Lopez, but I digress. What ever the case, Love Aaj Kal is an entirely lively movie and I wondered why these types of Bollywood films don’t have a wider audience when comparatively dopey movies like Mama Mia do so well in the US?

The biggest laugh for the San Francisco audience, who clearly have been following the tussle over Obama’s health care initiative, was when Jai is savagely beaten by muggers in San Francisco and the bystander who runs to help him says he’ll be okay as long as he has health insurance. This prompted loud guffaws from this Castro Theatre audience.

Although Love Aaj Kal only screened one night, I was pleased to overhear an audience member tell the man in front of me that she had just seen the SFIAAFF centerpiece movie, The People I Slept With. She declared it hilarious and sexy. I’m going to see The People I Slept With tomorrow at the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley. It also plays on Saturday at the Camera Cinemas in San Jose.

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