There’s something irreversibly screwed up about a successful woman of the 21st century whose everyday bedtime read is Eric Segal’s Love Story and her bed companion, a furry, pink, oversized teddy bear. Other Barbie paraphernalia in her room: heart shaped little pillows, Cadbury chocolates and pink objects strewn here and there. She is the incurably romantic heroine, accessorized to suit the girl the designers at Archies had in mind 20 years ago. Her name is Simran (Sonam Kapoor), an art director working in Bollywood films and the heroine of Punit Malhotra’s debut film, I Hate Luv Storys. She is in love with a wispy, sentimental banker, Raj (Samir Dattani). Raj and Simran, get it?
They are childhood sweethearts who have grown up to be inseparable. He gives her a white flower every day, and she simpers and shimmies. It’s the kind of love she always dreamed of.
It’s a world far removed from today’s India, which is not necessarily a bad thing if I Hate Luv Storys (produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions) was a period film. But which 17-year-old today reads Eric Segal and moons, or whose idea of a romantic evening is being fed coffee by her fiance at a beachside restaurant in New Zealand? They don’t drink on weekdays, we’re told repeatedly.
Malhotra is sorely out of touch with 2010. It is clear he wanted a Yash Raj-style rom com—snow-capped mountains, chiffon sari swaying in the wind, they’re all here. But just those evergreen cliché’s can’t make a two-hour movie. The best of this genre, pioneered by the original Raj and Simran in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, have sizzling on-screen chemistry, well-written scenes and timeless wit. I Hate Luv Storys have none of these.
To begin with, the story is wafer thin. Lovesick Simran meets Jay (Imran Khan), an intern at a Bollywood studio. He sniggers at his work and at the director he works for—seasoned at making Hindi romances, he “feeeeels” as he writes his scenes. For Jay, he is too passe and unreal; Simran, of course, considers him a visionary. Jay dates girls who are sexy, but also dumb and interested in sex. Some of them pounce on him across bar tables—the polar opposite of squeaky clean Simran. Malhotra has either tried to play very safe by writing characters who exist in Bollywood romances of the 1990s or much earlier, or he did not have anything original for a contemporary romantic comedy.
Simran falls in love with the unlikely hero, gets rejected, then unlikely hero falls in love with her. Who will she finally choose? Boring and safe banker or the imperfect, impulsive dude?
Many great romantic comedies have the same stupid dilemma—the choice is always the same. Some of these movies, especially some Hollywood ones set in New York, are my comfort movies. You suspend disbelief and give in—the best rom com couples have that lovely, indescribable magic thing, which, by the way Simran keeps talking about in this movie.
There is some chemistry between Kapoor and Khan. Some scenes, in the first half when Simran becomes aware of her feelings for him and later when he is trying to win her over, are funny and sweet. But overall, there’s very little happening in the film. Simran is either simpering or moping—and always looking crushed. Khan mopes during pretty much the entire second half. There is no hint of physical attraction between them, only two big, sore hearts.
Dialogues are shockingly bereft of wit, humour and realism. For example, the hero of the film Jay and Simran are crew members of, tells Jay, “Girls are like buses. One goes and another arrives. But there’s one bus that takes you home. Never miss that one.” Jay downs several shots of a red coloured spirit after this shot of wisdom, and passes out.
The lead pair looked promising in the promotional trailers of the film. Imran Khan is already two flops old, following a successful debut with the hit Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa. When it comes to pushing his abilities for a better performance, this film has not done much for him. He looks the filmy dude—his body language is hip and urban. But when it comes to acting, especially one scene where he is on the phone with his divorced mother, his lack of control and inability to understand his character is sorely obvious. Kapoor has two or three expressions through the film—overjoyed, in tears, sulking. Her dialogue delivery is raw and unrehearsed and some of the words almost sound chewed. Manish Malhotra has dressed her up mostly in high street brands from New York and London. Sadly, Kapoor’s only achievement in the film is looking cute.
The performance of Samir Soni, who plays the hyperventilating Bollywood director, the boss who is a laughing stock, is the only really convincing performance in the film. In an attempt to laugh at the Bollywood genre it belongs to, the film makes fun of the director. But towards the end, the story of Raj and Simran begins to look similar to the one unfolding in the film they are working on.
It happens, the makers of I Hate Luv Storys seem to say. I couldn’t wait for it to end.
I Hate Luv Storys released in theatres on Friday.