Ishq Vishk Rebound Review: Rohit Saraf is Trapped in a Clunky, Unfunny Romcom

Saraf, Pashmina Roshan and Jibraan Khan attempt to form a love triangle in this film that is allegedly about young people finding themselves
Ishq Vishk Rebound Review: Rohit Saraf is Trapped in a Clunky, Unfunny Romcom
Ishq Vishk Rebound Review: Rohit Saraf is Trapped in a Clunky, Unfunny Romcom

Director: Nipun Dharmadhikari
Writer: Vaishali Naik, Vinay Chhawal, Ketan Padgaonkar
Cast: Rohit Saraf, Pashmina Roshan, Naila Grrewal, Jibraan Khan

Duration: 106 mins

Available in: Theatres

A young Bollywood screenwriter named Raghav (Rohit Saraf) breaks the fourth wall and says: “Writing, like love, is very hard”. It’s a deep thought. In one fell swoop, he manages to offend writers, film-makers, lovers and Fleabag fans at once. He then proceeds to write the worst love triangle in the history of love triangles, and naturally it’s based on his life. The film he pitches is called Ishq Vishk 2.0 and the superscript dot is replaced by an emoji heart. His producer is played by Kusha Kapila, so one is never sure if she’s serious or kidding. Raghav’s process is simple. He flashes back to a year ago – maybe it’s 3, maybe it’s 10, it doesn’t really matter – when his ‘story’ begins with best friends Sanya (Pashmina Roshan) and Sahir (Jibraan Khan) in his hometown, Dehradun. They’re a volatile couple in the sort of way that suggests Sanya’s sociopathic rage is cute and Sahir’s alpha masculinity is sweet. 

Based on their attire, the climate in Dehradun seems to be different for each of the three characters. For Sanya it’s always Goa, for Sahir it’s mostly London, and for Raghav it’s Yashraj weather. Raghav falls for the environment-conscious Riya (Naila Grrewal) – she is introduced in a scene where a fellow student is seen holding a drum with ‘Protest!’ explicitly written on it. The exposition is deep. Things get weird when Sahir dumps Sanya to join the Army (“Grow up, there is more to life than dating!”), and buddies Raghav and Sanya soon develop feelings for each other and start a secret relationship. Raghav thinks it’s a rebound, but golf champ Sanya aggressively misses a putt in a tennis dress (attention to detail: Her absent dad probably named her after Sania Mirza) to prove otherwise. This is seconds before Raghav encourages her to lighten up and “chuck it” by literally chucking her expensive golf clubs into the water. The metaphor is deep. As is the pond. I’ll stop here, lest I start sounding like a Reddit college gossip thread. 

Rohit Saraf and Jibraan Khan in Ishq Vishk Rebound
Rohit Saraf and Jibraan Khan in Ishq Vishk Rebound

‘Chill Trip’

To get a better idea of how dreadful Ishq Vishk Rebound is, imagine a 1990s MTV India parody of Challengers, The Archies and The Fabelmans – except nobody in it knows that it’s a parody. This Gen Z-themed romcom has the emotional intelligence of an owl. Why do Indian adults portray modern youth as a psychological condition? Why is every teenager a boomer’s version of hipsters? The cinematography is all over the place, the colour tone is off, the transitions are dizzying, and every frame with natural light is a bizarre combination of overexposed and underexposed. I don’t know how to describe the performances without sounding mean. But let’s just say one of them brings to mind the heavy-breathing of Aap Mujhe Acche Lagne Lage (2001) and the heavy-feeling of Love Aaj Kal (2020). It’s not Rohit Saraf, who’s not quite in Mismatched mode, but stays watchable despite playing a writer who scripts the kind of movie that would elicit embarrassed giggles in a press screening. 

There are more gems in IV Rebound. A single mother drinks Old Monk with her rebellious daughter (so we know she’s cool) and wisely remarks: Kids from broken families are always disturbed. Sanya spends her prize money on a camping trip called ‘Chill Trip’ of course, which culminates in a horror-themed party in a jungle where a DJ catches fire, Raghav wears a Guy Fawkes mask, everyone escapes in a bus and absolutely nobody is doing drugs. This set piece is supposed to make Sanya and Raghav realize that they love each other, but I’ve seen crocodiles sunbathe with more narrative coherence than this clunky sequence. Raghav has the gall to turn to the camera and say something just before a kiss, and you can tell that the world isn’t ‘paused’ while he does this. Sanya is literally standing still and holding her breath, waiting for him to finish his thought fart and dive into her mouth.

At another point, an actress (Sheeba Chaddha) playing Raghav’s mother in his film schools him about his parents’ loving marriage. It’s no surprise that Raghav is mediocre at what he does, because apparently his family is sane and he has no real issues. He’s so boring that he has to create his own conflicts. But Sahir, for instance, has a strict army father who beats him up for funsies – the happy ending here is that “dad has agreed to counseling”. Sahir should’ve become the writer (his name should’ve been a clue), but Rebound insists that a young man who comes up with lines like “Patching up is their love language” and “Clarity ka raasta confusion se guzarta hai (clarity cannot be attained without a journey through confusion)” is the wordsmith to end all wordsmiths. It’s a matter of time before he wins the Nobel Prize in Medicine because his literature has the subtlety of a doctor’s prescription. Apologies for mocking his writing skills. It’s a deep cut. Film criticism, like love, is very hard. 

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