Director: Vishal Pandya
Cast: Urvashi Rautela, Vivan Bhatena, Karan Wahi, Gulshan Grover
Note: Spoilers Ahead
Perhaps the most humbling moment of my existence occurs every year at the ticket counter on the morning of another Hate Story movie. The matinee-show queue is comprised entirely of randy college couples determined to elevate the desperation of the Mumbai space-crunch epidemic into a finely tuned art form. A young lady employee suppresses a grin while handing out printed tickets to the barely-legal kids, almost as if to say, “I get you, bro.” The smirk turns into an aghast, judgmental, unsympathetic, you-dirty-old-man shrug when I, a not-so-old adult Indian male, ask for “one ticket” in a row significantly distant from the cluster of loved-up teenagers. I could swear she refuses to make eye contact, and probably douses her hands with sanitizer after handling my debit card.
Her reaction – one that is designed to make me feel like a raging sex offender – effectively says a lot about the film franchise in question. She unknowingly bears the look of a suspicious receptionist whose sole job is to defend the smutty sanctity of a love motel. Because, that’s what Hate Story does – it converts theatres across the country into little more than shady rates-by-the-hour “Hotel Decent” rooms. It is by no means a cinematic venture.
Pandya’s idea of women empowerment is presenting to us heroines that are paraded around in every permutation and combination of nakedness and “sheet music” with two NRI brothers (Vivan Bhatena as Aryan, Karan Wahi as Rajveer) as part of a grand feminist plan to avenge a clichéd act of injustice.
And it is the collective failure of this nation as a culture that director Vishal Pandya’s “business” – founded, of course, by Vivek Agnihotri – has been allowed to flaunt its fourth chapter in all its guileless glory. Not one, or two, but four – and this time, the budget is large enough to shoot the entire damn thing in London, where clueless white extras seem to have been dubbed over in post-production by Versova extras on potent muscle relaxers. There is no point criticizing these films as semi-pornographic nonsense either, because the makers are then programmed like populist-bots that blame our hatred of their incompetent hate stories on supposedly elitist, “crude and hypocritical” attitudes. Never mind that my dog could tell a better hate story about postmen.
As for the plot – spoilers ahead, but I doubt you should care – Pandya’s idea of women empowerment is presenting to us heroines that are paraded around in every permutation and combination of nakedness and “sheet music” with two NRI brothers (Vivan Bhatena as Aryan, Karan Wahi as Rajveer) as part of a grand feminist plan to avenge a clichéd act of injustice. Urvashi Rautela, as stripper-turned-model Tasha, is the femme fatale in charge of seducing the Khurana (a dramatic jump down from the weighty retro-ness of “Singhania” in Hate Story 3) brothers. Their father, played by bad man Gulshan Grover, is a wealthy Indian on the brink of becoming the mayor of London. This makes sense, because only a 1990s Grover could have given birth to boys who spout words like: “Boardroom or bedroom, there isn’t one thing she wouldn’t do to satisfy me” or “you love water as much as I do, because my body is made of 65 percent water” or “Ghar aur dil ke darwaze band rakhne chahiye” or “Tasha has the X-factor but she isn’t like your ex!” or “Draupadi had five Pandavas, I only have two” or the finest of them all: an English reporter interviewing Tasha with, “The British once ruled India, and now you are the face of British tourism,” to which Tasha declares, “You just ruled our land. I will rule your hearts”.
If Hate Story 4 were a person, it would be the spoilt, rich kid of Baazigar who grows up, moves away from Delhi and relocates to a steroid-blasted Lokhandwala gym to pursue his dreams of becoming the starry right bicep of Vivan Bhatena. To his credit, Bhatena has managed to convince many directors over the years that he isn’t your regular tree trunk. This time he even has Wahi by his side to make him look a little less ancient.
There are also two other women that dare to exist in this film – Aryan’s wife, Rishma (who also spends an entire song grinding against him at their beach house), and a strangely pointless model (Rajveer’s ex, who dramatically declares “I am the twist in the plot, baby” to him after being told she has lost the plot) – who spend more time in racy lingerie than in character.
There are also two other women that dare to exist in this film – Aryan’s wife, Rishma (who also spends an entire song grinding against him at their beach house), and a strangely pointless model (Rajveer’s ex, who dramatically declares “I am the twist in the plot, baby” to him after being told she has lost the plot) – who spend more time in racy lingerie than in character. Another, a “cameo” by Vikram Bhatt horror-favourite, Tia Bajpai, manages to not kill herself when a drunken Rajveer threatens to harass her with this opening line: “I’m somebody that can get anybody but I want nobody other than your body.” In unrelated news, dialogue writer Milap Zaveri was the director of the notorious sex comedy, Mastizaade.
But it’s Rautela who spends the entire second half smirking at the screen harder than a gold-digging Luv Ranjan villain – as if she were selling tickets to her own film at the multiplex counter.
In fact, the only scene I was truly offended by in Hate Story 4 is one in which Rishma, after finding out that Aryan is cheating on her, smacks him across the face on a terrace bar. The technique she demonstrates – that of a palm barreling up from below as if she were chucking an overweight bowling ball – is very problematic. If aspiring actors today can’t slap properly – an action that requires them to emote through their hands – what else is left?