Film Review: I Hate Luv Storys

Directed by: Punit Malhotra

Starring: Imran Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Sammir Dattani, Samir Soni and Aseem Tiwari

It is rare that I am so ambivalent towards the release of a mainstream film – I generally tend to err on the side of not judging a film before I have seen it and giving it a fair chance to impress me. Sometimes, this works well – cases in point include Fashion (which is one of my favourite films and for me, catapulted Priyanka Chopra from irritating to irresistible) or Wake Up Sid where Ranbir Kapoor also marked himself as one to watch.

But with I Hate Luv Storys, I felt I had seen it all before and wasn’t too keen on seeing the film (especially with the spelling of the title – LOVE, not LUV, and STORIES surely??? Text speak be damned!) . But with the soundtrack creeping up my most played I-pod play list, and the fact that Dharma Productions’ Wake Up Sid had proved me wrong in the past, I went to a fairly full afternoon screening of the film (having missed my early bird show with a generally better behaved audience) and with amuse bouches in form of trailers of Peepli Live, Aisha and We Are Family, at least there were good films on the horizon if I Hate Luv Storys turned out to disappoint me…

IHLS revolves around J (Khan) and Simran (Kapoor) who have polar opposite views on love – whilst Simran cannot get enough of filmi style love, J cannot stand it and is a hardened cynic. Thrown together by chance, we see what happens when In Love meets Won’t Love with the inevitable happening…

To be fair, IHLS realises its strength lies in the treatment and characterisation in the film rather than the plot and certainly, the first half works well in holding our interest and moving on from romantic films that it references (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge which is now ingrained as a cultural reference forever, Dil Chata Hai and Hum Tum) as well as recycling scenes and dialogues from those films and giving them a knowing twist. However, I felt the second half dragged for me and fell back into the very trap it had worked so hard to enjoy. I know this is by design but I did feel the film could have really moved forward and made a contribution to the genre of modern romantic films rather than reflect upon and then become one of these films itself.

There were two key points that I would have loved to see the film elaborate on – the first was the parody of romantic films. The cynical analysis of grandiose sets and silly plots and dialogue was funny and I did like that Karan Johar has a sense of humour to parody himself and the whole canon of films based on a grand scale that he and Sanjay Leela Bhansali are known for. I thought the film poked fun rather than made any serious comment (which is to be expected) and I liked the way the silliness of some the scenes was juxtaposed with the how much effort goes into making the film as we see with the film within a film device. I would like to have seen the film go a bit further in its digs it makes as the film has the capacity to do this without being malicious and would have given the IHLS a bit of edge and would have allowed the darker undercurrent in the film to come out more.

The film does have a darker side – note the mystery of J’s relationship with his mother and how only at the end are we told J’s hating of love stories is connected to the break up of his parent’s marriage. I wish the second half had delved into this deeper as it would have made for a solid build up to the end. Also note when J gets frustrated and punches the Lost poster after Simran and Raj join him for dinner – it seems like J is going to have a breakdown which would have made for interesting viewing. I appreciate this is an out and out mainstream film but even within these parameters, there is a fair amount of leeway in exploring the greyer shades of the characters.

Technically, the film is the polished product with lots of clever camera work and editing (I thought when J closes his eyes and sees Simran was quite well done). The interiors are of course pure interior porn with J having an amazing bachelor pad but I found Simran’s room too sickly (and impractical – the girl had a double bed with one side filled with books, teddies and other product placement items – how does she sleep???) Wardrobe wise, Sonam Kapoor triumphs in an amazing red dress pre-interval and I also thought her hair was very well done throughout. I liked how the film pays a passing nod to trends but kept the wardrobe wearable and accessible. Simran accessorises tees and jeans with a simple Dior bag for a casual feel, with dresses and sequins for glamour (a Manish Malhotra trademark) a look many girls already sport. I also liked J’s printed tees and Raj’s coloured shirts all of which garner attention but don’t steal the show.

Coming to performances, we have a mixed bag. After Kidnap and Luck,  Imran Khan reboots and goes back to Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na mode and does a good job as J, though I felt some of the scenes were a little stiff and his dancing could certainly do with improvement. Still, when Imran does get it right, he shows potential, especially with comedy and with the right roles and directors, Imran could go from strength to strength in his career. His chemistry with Sonam wavers, sometimes being incredibly strong but other times, lacking in the tension needed between the leads. I thought Sonam was the better of the pair, finally getting a role that suits her range and comes across as natural and fresh. She does a good job in IHLS, doing well in the emotional scenes and the more subtle moments – Sonam seemed to gel with the role more closely than Imran and though she does have a few wobbly moments, like Imran, careful choices of future roles will help tap her potential talent and become a stronger actress.

The supporting cast are the real scene stealers, playing their roles with enthusiasm and relish – Sammir Dattani is a suitable airhead as Raj, playing the role straight and honestly, with an endearing edge. Samir Soni is brilliant as Veer Kapoor, the crazy director who knows all about love and at many times, he steals the show without trying. Aseem Tiwari is good as Nikhil, and provides adequate support in the comedy scenes.

So, IHLS may not have been as awful as I had thought it would be but it did not exceed expectation either. I thought it was the perfect summer film in that it is light, distracting and entertaining. Malhotra certainly holds promise as a director and IHLS is a good start for him as a director – it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Is it worth a watch? Yes, as I think it is a good example of the new breed of cinema that reflects audiences demanding more, even from their masala fare and will certainly capture the imagination of the younger audience, though the mature and more cynical amongst the audiences may find the film a bit too saccharine for their liking. All in all, I don’t hate I Hate Luv Stories (or I Hate Love Stories!!!)  and that is a good outcome for a film that I felt wary of, so the lesson learnt here? Always give a film a chance!

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