Baar Baar Dekho (“Look Again and Again“) is a romance that feels more like a horror movie.
It’s impossible to write about Baar Baar Dekho without talking about the plot device that moves the story from its first act into its second. Describing that plot device kinda, sorta constitutes a spoiler, so read on with caution.
Diya Kapoor (Katrina Kaif) and Jai Verma (Sidharth Malhotra) have been inseparable since childhood and dating since they were old enough to do so. As young adults, they are ready to take the next step and get married. At least Diya is. Jai agrees to her marriage proposal out of inevitability.
For some reason, Jai is surprised by the lavishness of the festivities thrown by Diya’s dad (Ram Kapoor), as if he hasn’t known the Kapoors his whole life. In the middle of the hoopla, Jai is offered a professorship in Mathematics at a university in England. This is a big deal because Jai freaking loves math.
Jai does the stupid thing only a movie character would do and doesn’t tell Diya about the job offer. He waits to do so until they are in the middle of a fight. Kaif’s delivery is terrific as Diya tearfully says, “Jai, if I leave now, I’m not coming back.”
Earlier in the day, Jai argued with the priest (Rajit Kapur) during wedding preparations. When Jai downs a whole bottle of Champagne and passes out, it triggers the priest’s Ghost of Christmas Future-like curse. Jai wakes up in Thailand on his honeymoon, with no memory of the previous ten days.
This is terrifying. Jai runs about the hotel, frantic to find anyone who can explain how he got there. It’s a stomach-churning sequence amplified by the fact that there are tons of people around, yet no one speaks Hindi.
When he eventually finds Diya, she dismisses his panic because, dang it, they’ve got a tour scheduled. Spineless Jai gives in and goes on the tour.
This happens over and over again in the same manner: Jai wakes up in a different time period; he freaks out; Diya dismisses his concerns and calls him an idiot; Jai just goes along with whatever until he falls asleep and shifts through time again.
It’s frustrating enough that Jai won’t just sit Diya down and say, “Damnit, I’m caught in a temporal anomaly. Help me!” It’s worse that — in every time period — she belittles him. The story is about why they are supposed to be together, but why should they be? Who’d want to be with a partner who responds to your fear with insults?
Also, one of the recurring problems in their relationship is that Jai often prioritizes math over Diya. Isn’t it her fault for not anticipating this? Everyone knows Jai freaking loves math.
Of course, Jai’s not great, either. Whenever Jai tells Diya that he loves her, she asks him why. He never mentions anything about her personality or characteristics, responding instead with job descriptions: “Because you’re my wife.” Even when he finally figures out the “right” answer to the question, it still amounts to, “Because I always have.” So, momentum.
The film’s problems lie in the weak relationship between the main characters, but credit to writer-director Nitya Mehra for cleverly introducing a very science-fiction premise into a mainstream Hindi film. The technological advancements of the future depicted are low-key enough not to scare off sci-fi-haters (though I have my doubts that Twitter will still be around in 2034).
Mehra uses some neat framing tricks to emphasize Jai’s emotions. As the gravity of his impending marriage sinks in during the wedding prep with the priest, the camera cuts between Jai, the priest, Diya, and other people at the gathering. Every time the camera cuts back to the priest — who is explaining the symbolism of the ceremony — the priest’s face appears larger within the frame until he’s nothing but a talking mouth, overwhelming everything else in Jai’s world.
Mehra’s almost too good at this, in fact. The moments after Jai wakes up in each time period are scary. Things are noisy and hectic and full of people he doesn’t know. It’s hard for the audience to shut off the anxiety generated by such scenes as quickly as the story demands. Everything is chaos and fear one second, then we’re suddenly supposed to laugh as Jai ruins breakfast and Diya calls him “useless” for the umpteenth time.
On the upside, Malhotra and Kaif are exceptionally good-looking, and there are worse ways to spend two hours than by starring at them. Kaif’s a wonderful dancer, and her outfit in “Nachde Ne Saare” is stunning.
Still, I’m not sure that’s enough to recommend Baar Baar Dekho. This feels like another case where the audience is supposed to root for the main characters to wind up together just because they’re the main characters, and not because they’re a good match.