In the nomenclature for Hindi flicks, titles don’t need to make sense (Baaz: A Bird in Danger), and resemble English only in passing (Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! anyone?). Steadfastly in the latter category—and no doubt aimed for the always-texting, always-abbreviating crowd, Malhotra’s debut I Hate LUV Storys (Yes, the “luv” is in caps) uses an ongoing tongue-in-cheek inside joke about the business of movie-making as a backdrop to romantics goings-on up front. In an otherwise lackluster summer season, it does nicely for itself.
Khan is roped in as both J and Jay (annoyingly used interchangeably) who passes time— that is what he does, since he daily aces the bored-with-work act—as a stagehand to a semi-successful Bollywood filmmaker (Soni). Also in the camp is the innocent fellow film assistant Simran (Kapoor) with come-hither looks. Simran is engaged to a guy names Raj. If Simran’s life appears a little too much of a self-deluding fairytale, (yes, Raj and Simran were indeed the names of the leads from the Bollywood classic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge), then you just know this girl is headed for an awakening. Jay hates romantic entanglements—for reasons later made poignantly clear—and Simran is on high gallop through la la land. He doing all the hating and she attempting to put Band Aid on all of life’s little problems becomes an enjoyable yarn.
Malholtra, with assistance from producer Karan Johar, no doubt, finely showcases the changing chemistry between two people. This is done gradually and with conviction. Simran agreeing to take one drink at a certain time of week is a simple departure—not only from her own highly-choreographed daily routine, but a telling sign of things to come for her fiance. In a somber late night call Jay makes to his mother (Mahendru) back home, the conversation is replete with unspoken longing for home, for stability and, ultimately, for reaffirming familial love. The editing of the phone conversation brilliantly captures the wrung-out emotion both actors correctly need to convey.
Where Malhotra and company could have use improvement is to pare down what seems like a long 140-minute movie. This is, after all, a Karan Johar production and Johar is not known for leaving much stock on the editing room floor. This limitation is more than sufficiently compensated by well-timed comic touches. Aseem Tiwari as Jay’s plus-sized best friend has the best one-line zingers over the last many moons and is also not beyond throwing eggs in the face of an ex-girlfriend who dumped him (understandable behavioral issues, without a doubt). Decently acted, with a catchy song or two, IHLS gets the job done.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.