Synopsis – Sushrut, a garba teacher, falls in love with NRI girl Michelle when she visits town during festival
My Take – While the whole of Hindi film industry continues the debate on nepotism, this past weekend’s release is severe example of why this discussion is very much necessary. Backed by Salman Khan, who for some reason remains adamant to launch any good looking face around him, this film marks the debut of his very own brother in law, Aayush Sharma, alongside model Warina Hussain. While from a cinematic point of view, the film has everything to make up for a well-rounded Bollywood film, from upbeat songs to picturesque locations to a strong marketing support, but like most Salman Khan films, this one too has a convoluted screenplay that never rises above the average.
While Aayush has the screen presence of a leading man (albeit he does need help in the acting department for future projects), it is hampered by director Abhiraj Minawala‘s film that takes an-old-as-time route of a poor boy falling in love with a rich girl, and fails to infuse any life into it. I get it probably the makers wanted to play it safe by sticking to a tried and tested formula, like focusing on romantic moments to create drama, and having the girl’s father play out as the tyrant, but with a run time of 140 minutes, everything gets pretty mundane and quite boring even before the second half kicks in.
It’s hard not to forget that the boldest flourish in the film plays out off-screen, in the sense, this film exists only to give Aayush Sharma his dream debut and Salman ‘Bhai’ Khan devotees might be persuaded to accept the latest offering from their screen god, but for the rest of us this one is without a doubt a slug fest.
The story follows Sushrut aka Susu (Aayush Sharma), probably the most ambition less guy in all of Vadodara, who seems content in teaching the dance form of garba to kids and waiting for the appearance of the 9-day Navratri Festival each year. While he constantly faces pressure from his family to find a job, he only dreams of opening his own garba academy someday. Life changes on the first night of the festival when he sets his sights on Michelle aka Manisha (Warina Hussain), a wealthier and academically brighter NRI girl based in London, and instantly falls in love.
Lacking in technique, Susu approaches his uncle Rasik (Ram Kapoor), a full-time garment salesman, a seasonal singer, and a known love guru, who comes up with a plan for Susu to win over Manisha in the remaining eight days. As the two hit off and begin falling hard for each other, Manisha’s ambitious father, Sameer aka Sam Patel (Ronit Roy), who runs a laundry chain named Lord of the Rinse in the U.K, seems discontent with the pair and successfully creates a misunderstanding between the two. While Manisha heads back to London to pursue her M.B.A, Susu is left heartbroken, that is until Rasik finds a way for both of them to head to London, so he can make up for his bad behavior and woo Manisha all over again.
This is a straightforward love story – nothing more, nothing less. The music, the setting, the humor, and the look of the film are just right, but sadly the script of the film lacks both imagination and logic. Boy chases girl, proves his worth to the unreasonable father, wins girl, and meets two sympathetic Gujarati policeman who become his unlikely saviors (Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan). Here, first time director, Abhiraj Minawala, tells the story which we have witnessed innumerable times on the silver screen. Even if the treatment of the subject would have been sober, it would have worked on some level, unfortunately, the hackneyed story-line and half-baked romance makes it a tedious watch. The makers clearly set out to create a sugary film, so they do that with enthusiasm and tons of nostalgic appeal. The problem is that there are too many sweet nothings in between, and that doesn’t help an unambitious screenplay.
The characters are likeable, but the story doesn’t make you feel for them because there is little conflict of note and whatever arises is doused with ease. And the less said about the film’s logic, the better. There is a character who does not think twice before framing someone for assault, but takes an inexplicable U-turn after being told, “Don’t play dirty games. Play Garba.” The writing also gets rather offensive at times, for example when Manish refers to a man as another man’s “girlfriend” and at a bar in London, Rasik essentially slut-shames a bunch of foreigners by telling them, “This place make-up, break-up, patch-up, hook-up, but as we are Indians, we fall in love which is equal to seven rebirth”.
The film also showcases how a major twist can be triggered by an argument over the amount of ketchup that must go on a pizza. It seems as though director Minawala was handed this weak plot that could have been written on a single foolscap page with strict instructions to fill the mandatory two hours with a lot of garba shots and close ups of the lead couple. He also adds to our woes by sticking to his duties with the least amount of imagination, thus giving us a dull, listless and pointless film. For example he actually gets poor Ronit Roy to sit on a giant wheel while explaining the class difference between his daughter and Susu, thus displaying the immaturity with which the film is handled.
Nevertheless, what I liked here is the vibrant canvas. The film has been shot beautiful in Baroda and London. The feel of Navratri nights comes alive on the screen. Also the music by Tanishk Bagchi, Lijo George, DJ Chetas and JAM8 is one of the main highlights of the film. Especially the ‘Chogada’ song which comes right at the end, which has enough foot-tapping energy to guarantee a place on every Navratri playlist. Vaibhavi Merchant‘s choreography will inspire plenty to shake a leg as well. The rest of the compositions are catchy enough not to become overbearing as they emerge at the drop of a hat.
As I mentioned above, Aayush Sharma has all the ingredients needed to make a star – screen presence, six pack abs and dancing skills. Here he is sincere and tries hard to do his job well, but sadly being stuck with a mediocre script hampers his overall impact. Warina Hussain is drop dead gorgeous, however here struggles to act and this comes through quite glaringly in the crucial emotional scenes. Experienced actors like Ronit Roy and Ram Kapoor try their best to go beyond the screenplay. However debutantes, Pratik Gandhi and Sajeel Parakh, playing the two best friends are highly effective. Arbaaz Khan and Sohail Khan‘s cameo is cringe worthy and adds nothing to the film. On the whole, ‘Loveyatri is a yawn fest which despite a few contemporary touches is built on clichés and lethargic storytelling.
Directed – Abhiraj Minawala
Rated – PG
Run Time – 140 minutes