Ishq Vishk Rebound
Ishq Vishk Rebound

Ishq Vishk Rebound Movie Review: An earnest Rohit Saraf mounts this fizzling take on modern love

The film is actually a spoof in disguise of a serious romantic drama
Ishq Vishk Rebound(1.5 / 5)

Ishq Vishk Rebound begins with a proclamation: This is not that kind of film. Raghav (Rohit Saraf) looks in the camera and recounts some dialogues from rom-coms of the 1990s that were part of popular culture and almost became gospel truths. ‘Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte (A boy and a girl can never be friends)’ from Salman Khan’s Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989) and ‘Pyaar sirf ek baar hota hai (Love happens only once)’ from Shah Rukh Khan’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) find a mention. After this, I thought I am in for a whole new take on love and relationships and a fresh perspective on Gen Z romance. The film is conscious of placing itself in a different league, yet its tragedy is that it is not aware of its own spoofy nature.

The writing is synonymous with a funny YouTube sketch video, while the filmmaking is stuck in taking itself too seriously. Rightly so, as it is not intended to be a satire. It is not aware of the sublime hilarity embedded in its scenes, which it mistakes for poetry. Rohit Saraf’s Raghav is a screenwriter on a deadline. His boss, played by Kusha Kapila, asks him to channelise his inner trauma to weave a romantic story for an upcoming film that the production house is planning to make, titled, ‘Ishq Vishk 2.0’. The meta-ness doesn’t stop here. He starts to write, and we get a glimpse of his life till the time he reached here. We meet his childhood friends, Sanya (Pashmina Roshan) and Sahir (Jibraan Khan), who become each other’s sweethearts when their hormones make them. Raghav falls in love with Riya (Naila Grrewal), a ‘woke’ student activist who invites him for a protest. Then there are breakups, and at one point, Raghav is told by Sahir to turn his dard into his writing and head to Mumbai. Khatana Bhai from Rockstar (2011) would be proud.

Directed by: Nipun Avinash Dharmadhikari

Starring: Rohit Saraf, Pashmina Roshan, Jibraan Khan, Naila Grrewal, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Akarsh Khurana, Shataf Figar and Kusha Kapila

At times, Ishq Vishk Rebound is too meta for its own good. It is almost absurd how it has references to other films and their tropes. It runs on the spirit of its elder sibling, Ishq Vishk (2003), whose memory is kept alive through the songs and a couple of cheeky allusions. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is mentioned in an off-screen conversation. The opening shot from The Godfather (1972) is presented as a description of a scene that Raghav has written in his script. And many times, in the second half, I was reminded of Sudhir Mishra’s long-forgotten film Khoya Khoya Chand (2007), which in turn told a story set in the golden age of Indian cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. The protagonist in that film was also a writer who came from a troubled family and recreated some of his lived experiences on the set. Raghav does the same; however, he is too naive to understand the complexities of a relationship that he sees between his parents. Sheeba Chadha suddenly makes an appearance here as an actor playing Raghav’s mother in the film he has written. Impressed with it, she says with deadpan honesty, “Maza aayega ye scene karne mein (It will be fun to do this scene)," and it is expected to register as a serious exchange without even a hint of sarcasm in it. As if the writing is having a great laugh at the poised treatment, and the characters are completely oblivious to its parodic nature.

The film is stuck between projecting Raghav’s innocence with profundity. Scenes that are meant to send you into introspection end up making you laugh due to the underlying awkwardness. Part of it is also due to the way the performances are timed. Rohit Saraf plays Raghav with an earnest appeal and a natural sweetness. It is easy to believe him as a teenager exploring his own haywire feelings but difficult to see him as a writer. The Rahul in him cannot take the burden of the Kabir from Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013), which the film wants him to be. Whereas Pashmina plays his cranky lover without much deflection. There is little to her performance than the constant whining that quickly becomes chaotic to witness. Jibraan and Naila bear the brunt of having little screen time, as they nearly remain absent from the rest of the first half after their brief introductions.

The music becomes a major highlight, and at times, it feels like the narrative is just an excuse to make way for the songs. Their coherence and resounding charm are never imbibed by the story. Making his Hindi film debut, acclaimed Marathi director Nipun Dharmadhikari seems to struggle to decide upon the right tone for the film. Is it a romantic comedy? Does it explore love in modern times? Is it a coming-of-age narrative? It tries to be all of this and none of this at the same time as the screenplay defies continuity, scenes lack logic, and its structure crumbles along the way. There is a mask of pretence in some early sequences, but even this falls away after a point, leading to unintentional and unhinged humour. All attempts to hide this under a layer of complexity fail.

Ishq Vishk Rebound is actually a closeted Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (the timeless Atif Aslam song from the film, ‘Tera Hone Laga Hun’ also plays in the background during a scene) as it tries to be everything from Tamasha (2015) to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016). Its problem lies in not realising its true calling. After all that happens, a character says, “Ye Ishq Vishk ke chakkar me dosti ki band baja di (Due to the façade of love, our friendship went for a toss)”. I say, not just friendship.

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