Bollywood films generally deal with crossing time and space with films about reincarnation and dopplegangers.
Time travel films, however, are a difficult breed for the Indian film industry. A few attempts have been made - such as the 2010 film Action Replayy - but none really succeeded.
It was only recently that the Tamil film industry seemed to have cracked the code on time travel films with the 2016 Suriya starrer 24. This smart time travel film had all the ingredients of for an Indian blockbuster along with a storyline and time travel logic that was acceptable to even the physics majors in the audience.
The 2016 film Baar Baar Dekho ("Look Again and Again") tries to unite ancient with modern by introducing vedic mathematics and a wedding priest who somehow has managed to unlock the secrets of time travel through a sacred thread.
Taking a page from The Time Traveller's Wife with a dash of Groundhog Day, the romantic drama centers on the story of Jai Varma (Sidharth Malhotra) who is an up-and-coming mathematician. On the eve of his wedding to his childhood sweetheart Diya (Katrina Kaif) he is offered a teaching position at Cambridge University based on his outstanding thesis on vedic mathematics. As he sees this opportunity taking him in a different direction from his impending marriage to Diya, he calls off the wedding.
What follows is a series of leaps through time to major events in Jai's life. With each leap, Jai discovers that while he did go through with the marriage to Diya and end up at Cambridge, his life has become a series of difficult connections with the people and places around him.
Jai becomes a traveler with no clear destination and no appreciation for the journey. Growing older with each leap through his life, Jai realizes he will soon run out of time. Just when he is set on a course for his last day of life, he leaps back to a previous day lived once before. Only this time, he can live that day differently.
This tale is somewhat predictable - boy has girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again. What intrigues is the time travel adventure which introduces many unanswered questions for both hero and audience. With an incomplete timeline, Jai is left to reflect on what could have, should have or might have been. As he becomes more disconnected with the events in his life, he seeks deeper connections with his family, friends and colleagues.
Several prominent themes in Baar Baar Dekho were less useful to the time travel story. Jai's expertise in vedic mathematics was inconsequential, perhaps because it was underutilized. The key concepts of this idea - mental calculation techniques based on the Vedas - could have been expanded upon in the time-travelling tale. Instead, time travel is introduced through Rajit Kapur who not only serves as the priest for Jai and Diya's wedding, but appears several times in Jai's future as a confidant. Rajit Kapur steps into a role similar to that of the angel Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life, giving Jai a taste of one possible future. Only this time, the future is of Jai's making.
Baar Baar Dekho is less of a film about time travel and more of a film about end-of-life regrets, with a twist. In real life, there are no "do-overs". But in Baar Baar Dekho, our time travelling hero gets to return to the past and redress his mistakes.
The film offers a unique and modern take on the Bollywood romance film. Pritam's music is entertaining and provides an fun soundtrack. Sidharth Malhotra is up to the task of portraying a confused Jai Varma of many ages, seeking to understand and identify how his past leads to his future.
While not a blockbuster movie, Baar Baar Dekho is worth a watch if only for the resounding message that taking time to appreciate the people and the moments in your life is an important part of the hero's journey.
Watch the trailer for Baar Baar Dekho.