Film Review: Break ke Baad (After the Break)A modern Indian couple takes a “little break” when she goes to study in Australia, only to break up for real.
Laid-back Abhay Gulati (American-born Imran Khan), who works for his father because it’s easier than figuring out what he wants to do with his life, and aspiring actress Aaliya Khan (model-turned-actress Deepika Padukone) have been dating for ten years. Since they already squabble like an old married couple, their friends and family wonder when they’re just going to tie the knot. But they’re in no hurry, in part because both know—whether or not they’re willing to admit or even articulate it—that a major life change could shatter the fragile balance that keeps their relationship alive.
Which is exactly what happens when Aaliya is accepted into a one-year program at Australia’s Goldcoast University, a school known for its acting program. Aaliya applied without telling either Abhay or her mother, Ayesha (veteran Bollywood star Sharmila Tagore)—a former actress who wants to spare her daughter the heartache she experienced—knowing full well that neither would want her to go. But when she’s not only accepted but awarded a full scholarship, there's no stopping her.
Ayesha arranges for Aaliya to live with her sister, but Aaliya has other ideas and moves into a beachside house owned by Desi siblings Nadia and Cyrus (Shahana Goswami and Yudhishtr Urs). They also run their late parents’ bar/tattoo parlor/surfboard-rental business, which attracts a steady stream of boisterous, if fundamentally friendly and well-behaved, 24-hour party people.
When Aaliya suggests to Abhay that they take a break from their daily phone calls, he assumes the worst and flies to Australia to win her back. He too moves into Cyrus and Nadia’s party house, a situation that spawns complications galore as the longtime sweethearts break up but try to remain friends.
It would only take a once-over-lightly rewrite to turn Break ke Baad into a vehicle for Katherine Heigl and Justin Long, but that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea. Yes, it’s light, formulaic entertainment that doesn’t miss a rom-com cliché. But while Aaliya and Abhay are educated, sophisticated children of the 21st century, they’re also the products of a culture that prizes respect for tradition and obedience to parental authority. The conflict between personal desire and family expectations that now looks ridiculously contrived in Hollywood romantic comedies—because, let’s face it, smart, ambitious, talented Americans in their 20s have few reservations about doing what they want and telling their meddling mamas to back off—have real weight in their Bollywood counterparts. And while Break ke Baad has none of the sumptuous production numbers that punctuate classic Bollywood movies—presumably because they’d be out of place in a thoroughly modern love story—it does feature catchy songs by Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani that clarify and reinforce the characters’ roller-coaster emotions.