LoveYatri Review: Unduly long, cliche-ridden, below-par bore fest
The film pays less attention to nuance, choosing to rely on its unrealistic masala love story for success. It doesn’t work
LoveYatri is a film you have seen Bollywood (and just about every other mainstream film industry in India) attempt before, and it will, unfortunately, do so again. How else are production houses and filmmakers to bring in the big bucks, otherwise? The film is an unduly long, below-par, cliché-ridden, bore fest that does no favours to its two debutantes. No favours in terms of acting prowess, I mean. As far as exposure goes, that’s a whole other beast to tackle.
Director – Abhiraj Minawala
Cast – Aayush Sharma, Warina Hussain, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor
Set in Baroda, during the celebrations of Navaratri, the romantic comedy-drama musical covers all the regular tropes and ticks off all the likely boxes. Good looking boy (chiselled, and all, of course) from a modest background has big dreams (he wishes to open his own garba academy someday). Check. Over-achieving NRI girl (has to be beautiful, come on!) desperate to return to India, is treated like daddy’s little girl by over-protective, super-successful pitaji. Check. Boy’s father worries his son lacks direction in life; believes he needs to set realistic goals to secure his future. Check. Girl’s father lives vicariously through his only daughter, wants her to succeed in business and industry. Check. Stud-boy has two hangers-on he refers to as friends (he is clearly their leader). Check. An overly enthusiastic uncle succeeds in convincing said boy (who, up until this point, is focussed single-mindedly on the opening of his dance academy) of the unforgettable jolt of first love. Check. Boy spots girl on the first night of dandiya, falls head-over-heels right away. Check. When their eyes meet for the very first time, they are unable to break the magical spell. Check. Boy’s think tank (his uncle and two friends) deliberates on how to get said girl’s attention. Check. Borderline stalkerish behaviour from boy’s faction ensues. Check. The plan to pique said girl’s curiosity works. Check. That’s eleven ‘Checks’ so far, and, had I not been bound by the limitations of space, I was good for a dozen more.
And, so it goes. One unrelenting ‘seen it all before’ sequence after another unfolds in the film’s 139 minutes. No mercy. Yes, it is a fact that many of the stereotypes portrayed in LoveYatri exist in the Indian mindscape, but it is their dated, disingenuous, and predictable presentation that disappoints. The only passable moments of laughter, in my opinion, come by the way of Susu’s (Aayush Sharma) sidekick-friend, Negative (Pratik Gandhi). There is no doubt that Gandhi possesses a knack for great comic timing. While being given the moniker of ‘Negative’ (for his bleak views on everything), it can’t be denied that his advice to Susu, Susu’s uncle (Ram Kapoor), and their friend, Rocket (Sajeel Parakh), is the sole voice of reason in LoveYatri. Pratik played a similar sort of character in Mitron not so long ago, where his quick-witted humour (in a more-or-less average flick) stood out. Ram Kapoor’s role as Susu’s mamaji, Rasik, has the actor putting his heart and soul into it, trying to sell the brush of first love to the uninitiated. And even though it is quite overdone (courtesy the poor writing), the veteran TV star’s acting chops in several scenes are clearly discernible. The only word that comes to mind while describing countless examples of double entendre employed by the usage of ‘Susu’ (the character’s full name is Sushrut) in the narrative is — crass. Nothing even remotely ingenious or funny about it. The part in which Susu notices his future lady love for the very first time is quite ludicrous too. The laughable fantasy scene has our hero levitating in the middle of a crowded garba dance floor, sporting a pair of angelic wings, and a miniature spell of rain falling onto his person (just as his uncle promises him, earlier on: baarish barsega, and what-not). Cringeworthy dialogues, such as Susu asking Manisha/Michelle, “Tum pehle se hi itni gori thi, ki wahan bani?”, and the latter responding with a half-laugh, rear its ugly head intermittently. This god-awful exchange forms a part of the first conversation that the leads have face-to-face.
Now for the explanation of Manisha aka Michelle. Apparently, Indians who reside in the West (the UK, in this case), change their names to fit into the new, foren environment; so, her father Sameer automatically becomes Sam (okay, slightly understandable), but Manisha becoming Michelle just sounds pathetic. The whole conversation between Susu and Sam/Sameer (Ronit Roy) on the Ferris Wheel, with the latter inviting him up there to teach the young man his place, is so foreseeable, you know it’s coming from a mile away; you know that the father will foist his ‘daddy knows best’ gyaan onto the unsuspecting boy, you know he will resort to veiled threats to intimidate lesser suitors such as Susu, you know he will lie to protect his daughter (How absurd to think she might have a mind of her own!).
Apart from some fairly decent music, one or two instances of passable chuckles, and a sincere performance (under the given circumstances) from television mainstay, Ram Kapoor, LoveYatri is an extraordinarily bad film. 139 minutes too long, if you ask me.