Dharma Productions’ new release I Hate Luv Storys vexed me from the get-go because the title is misspelled. My shields went up, and I automatically assumed the film was going to be just cringe-inducing and cutesy as the title…which I quickly realized was kind of the point. I enjoy it when Bollywood does movies about Bollywood — Om Shanti Om, Luck By Chance, Rock On!!— because it really gives the industry a chance to poke fun at itself and provide commentary on its idiosyncracies. IHLS does this by taking a look at the titular love stories and showing how even the hardest cynic can be converted by the magic.
Jay is a laid back, womanizing, production assistant who clashes with beautiful, tightly wound art director Simran. He doesn’t believe in love, while her entire idea of love is that of the perfect cinematic romance. (That her and her boyfriend’s names are Simran and Raj, like the characters in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is a key aspect of the film.) Imran Khan, whom I’ve loved since his turn in Kidnap, really acquits himself well here, and I related to Jay’s total hard line against romance and loved watching him turn into the world’s biggest sap by the end of the film. Sonam Kapoor, as the object of his affection, is more inconsistent. She either shines or is a nonentity, so I found Simran really bland at some points, and wished Sonam had injected her with a little more verve. Her passiveness is what slows down the pace of the film and makes the whole last act a little excruciating.
I feel like this movie could’ve been about 45 minutes shorter. Cutting out a bunch of the wangsty, manufactured “I can’t be with you” bullshit would’ve made it snappier. I also found some of the underlying gender issues troubling: Jay’s mother calls him a girl when he gets all torn up over Simran, and urges him to be a man. While a completely Indian audience probably wouldn’t blink at that — and Jay himself didn’t either — I was left thinking, “No wonder you left home, Jay. Your mom’s a witch!”
Another problem with IHLS is one I have with a lot of Dharma Productions films: it gets derivative and relies on too many callbacks to past DP superhits. The very fact that it takes place on a film set pretty much means that 99% of what goes on in the story-within-a-story is ripped from DDLJ or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or Kal Ho Naa Ho or Kabhie Khushie Kabhie Gham. And the narrative of the film is rife with musical cues from those films as well. Did we really need to hear “Maahi Ve” every time the director, Veer Kapoor, spoke to Jay? No. I wanted to be like, “Dude, Karan Johar, we get it: your films are hits and you’re awesome. Can we move on?” The self-referencing gets really old. And if I’m busy trying to identify all the shout-outs then, guess what, I’m not paying attention to writer/director Punit Malhotra’s actual story.
I mean, I was charmed by I Hate Luv Storys. It was a good time pass, and there are some sharp moments in the script that definitely made me giggle. (Jay’s whole introduction to Simran at the movies was hilarious.) I think my favorite parts were the musical montages of Jay and Simran at work. The progression of their love story really came across in those moments, where we didn’t hear them, but simply saw them bantering and creating a bond. It was a great example of “show, don’t tell.” But I think the film overall would’ve been better served if it wasn’t quite so self-indulgent. There’s a difference between making a film about Bollywood, and making a two-and-a-half hour advertisement for every movie from the Dharma Productions banner, you know?
Still, I had a smile on my face when the credits rolled and did come away with a sense of being satisfied. I didn’t hate this love story, so I guess IHLS gets a mark in the “success” column for me.