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July 08, 2010

I Hate Luv Storys

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Punit Malhotra - 2010
UTF Motion Pictures 35mm Film

Lately, new Bollywood movies have been appearing with greater frequency in Denver. For a while the films were showing up at a huge multiplex in the south metro area. For the past few weeks, the films have been booked at a smaller multiplex run by the Regency chain, given to primarily showing some of the lower profile art and independent movies. The screen isn't as big, and the seating is traditional, not stadium styled, but with more reasonable leg room. Prior to watching a film from India, I also made it a point to visit the nearby Indian restaurant, where I had more than my fill of the buffet lunch, Chicken Tandoori and Palak Paneer among my favorites.

Almost midway through I Hate Luv Storys, it stopped mattering to me whether the film was a satire, or humorous tribute, to Bollywood movies. I started wanting to see the kind of Bollywood film that totally embraced the cliches, or at least had one eye popping musical number. There are a few funny moments in I Hate Luv Storys, but what I really missed was the exhilaration of seeing a lead actress, dubbed by a high pitched singer whose voice causes me to think my ears might bleed, and a team of voluptuous dancing girls in saris, dancing in a palace, a field, or even a mountaintop. There's a comic musical to be made about the making of Bollywood movies, but I Hate Luv Storys is not that film.

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The basic plot about an Assistant Director who claims to not believe in love, and is cynical about the films he helps make for a very successful director, and his conflicts with the Production Designer, a young woman who believes she has met the man of her dreams. The two, Jay and Simran, "meet cute", sitting next to each other in a movie theater where he says disparaging things about the movie they are suppose to be watching. Jay discovers the next day that he is to work with Simran on director Veer's newest movie, which the filmmaker immodestly declares is "not a love story, but a saga". Of course the path of true love never runs smooth, Jay has his girlfriends, Simran has her fiance, but it should be a surprise to no one how the film ends.

What is of somewhat greater interest is reading the film as a text on how westernization has affected some of the tropes of the Bollywood musical. There is a sense of self-consciousness that seems to have gotten in the way, making I Hate Luv Storys less fun than it should be. There are some visual and verbal references to other films that I probably missed, but I'm not sure if it would have made much of a difference. The film takes place in a Mumbai where people go drink coffee at the Marriot Hotel, wear t-shirts from Abercrombie and Fitch, and dance to hip hop influenced music. I briefly saw a McDonald's in the background of a street scene, while the interior of a movie multiplex has posters for Avatar. In the attempt to be up to date, what is seen is the loss of those elements that made Bollywood movies charming and entertaining.

Judging from the number of previews, plans are in place to show more Bollywood movies at the Regency Theater. One of the previews was for a film titled Aisha starring Sonam Kapoor, who happens to be the female lead of I Hate Luv Storys. One of the film within film moments in I Hate Luv Storys takes place a bridge, probably reminding more than a few people of Kapoor's first starring film, Saawariya, Dostoevsky's "White Nights" transplanted with a Muslim twist. Like many people involved in Bollywood films, Sonam Kapoor comes from a family whose name is virtually synonymous with Bollywood. Hopefully, the next film I see starring Ms. Kapoor will be more lovable.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 8, 2010 12:38 AM