Director: Abhiraj Minawala
Cast: Aayush Sharma, Warina Hussain
LoveYatri is a 1990s film being released in 2018. Twenty years ago, Hindi cinema specialized in NRIs, Hindu festivals, Indian values, large families and strict fathers who would invariably let go of their daughter’s hand and say, “Ja beta, jee le apni zindagi.” LoveYatri, which until recently was called Loveratri, is basically a rehash of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Hum Dil, which starred Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, was visually stunning. Sanjay Leela Bhansali set the standard for the portrayal of Gujarati culture onscreen – I don’t think there’s been a garba song to top ‘Dholi Taro Dhol Baaje’. In LoveYatri, Salman takes the same elements to create a showcase for his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma. Which takes the nepotism debate to a whole new level but let’s focus on the film.
Aayush plays Sushrut, Vadodara’s biggest wastrel. His grand ambition is to open a garba school. Warina Hussain is Manisha, a topper from a business school in London. His friends call him Susu. In London, she is known as Michelle. I can guarantee you that in life a girl like Michelle wouldn’t speak to a guy like Susu but this is Bollywood, so of course they meet and over the magical nine nights of Navratri, they fall in love. You can imagine how this plays out with dhols and dancing and more shiny, mirrored costumes than the human eye can process. But then Ronit Roy, Hindi cinema’s favorite nasty dad, arrives and messes up the blossoming romance. Whenever I see him play this part, I wonder, do they even give him lines anymore or does he just pull out dialogue from older versions of this character that he’s been playing since Udaan in 2010.
LoveYatri is all about Aayush. He gets the traditional Bollywood hero entry. And debutant director Abhiraj Minawala ensures that Aayush gets to do it all – dance, romance, shed a tear, face-off with the father and of course drop the shirt, so we can all appreciate his gym-toned body. Aayush does all of this with sincerity but he’s not particularly memorable or charismatic. But he dances well and he is still ahead of his leading lady Warina who seems largely uninterested in expressions. They are absolute lightweights so it’s up to Ronit and Ram Kapoor to give the formulaic story some punch. The most interesting characters are Susu’s friends Rocket and Negative, played by Pratik Gandhi and Sajeel Parakh. In one of the film’s better scenes, Negative reminds everyone that aukaad ki thodi problem hai.
I enjoyed composer Tanishk Bagchi’s interpretations of Chogada and Dholida. The numbers are so catchy that you will invariably want to do some garba yourself. But the music can’t compensate for the cheerful silliness of the film. In one scene, bad dad takes Susu up on a Ferris wheel to explain the difference between him and the educated Michelle, she is upar and he is neeche – like literally. In another, Ram Kapoor, playing Susu’s loving mama, gives a lecture on how Indians love not momentarily but for saat janam because we’ve been taught to love by Hindi cinema. We are students of Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman Khan so we can’t give up on love easily.
Writer Niren Bhatt forces random problems into the plot, which are then resolved with incredible ease. At one point, Susu ends up in a London police station but of course the cops interrogating him are Gujaratis played by the Khan brothers – Sohail and Arbaaz. This is in the promo so please don’t cry spoiler. I was hoping that the two would bring in some humor – remember how good they were as the Rathores of Ranjhore in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na? But no such luck.
The most mystifying part of LoveYatri is Aayush’s hair, which rises a good three to four inches above his head. At one point, I wondered – what does it take to keep that up? Yes, this is that sort of film.