This is a birthday-full week, so I considered Bobby for Dimple, Main Khiladi Tu Anari for Shilpa, Vivah for Amrita, and Delhi 6 for Sonam. And then I thought “Eh, I’m going on a mini-break, I don’t want to think deep thoughts, I Hate Luv Storys it is!”
This is not a great movie. Just putting that out there from the start. The title is stupid, the hero is kind of horrible (of course, until he is redeemed halfway through), and sometimes it gets more caught up in the meta-jokes about filmmaking than in actually making a good film. But Sonam is great, it is exactly in her sweet spot, an intelligent organized cheerful emotionally intelligent woman. And that’s what carries the film, for me, that for once it is a heroine who makes no stupid mistakes. Or at least a heroine who recognizes her mistakes and moves past them in a mature self-aware way.
Also, lots and lots and lots of jokes at the expense of Karan Johar. Which, since Karan produced this film, I assume are all in good fun. In fact, they must be in good fun. A lot of people say a lot of mean things about Karan Johar, but in this movie, he says them all before they can. Yes, his love stories are ridiculous and unoriginal and over the top. And Dharma productions is a ridiculous dream factory filled with equally delusional people. But he knows all of that, you just have to watch this movie to see him pointing it out.
And he also knows that it is a dream factory that is remarkably tolerant towards those who don’t believe in the dreams, but are talented. Imraan in this film is cynical and sarcastic and, as the title says, “hates luv storys”. But the not-Karan Johar Samir Soni (you know him as “terrible son” from Baghban) stand in tolerates him and patiently mentors him and waits for him to realize that he is really learning things and will be a better filmmaker for having taken this job.
(Oh Sonam! Don’t get caught up in that guy just because he makes you laugh at work.)
It makes me kind of wonder if the director Punit Malhotra (yes, Manish’s nephew, nepotism is alive and well) was kind of like that when he was apprenticing, being a wiseacre and above it all and all of that. And now Karan is rewarding him by letting him direct his movie his way without forcing anything on him.
Punit isn’t the greatest director writer. I don’t say that based on this film, this film is clever and light and fun, a good first effort. I say that based on Gori Tere Pyar Main which was TERRIBLE. Some clever dialogue, but a plot that kind of zigged and zagged and didn’t make sense. And most of all, the just-barely-redeemable Imraan Khan hero in this film, was turned into a never-possibly-redeemable hero in Gori Tere Pyar Main. He’s working on Student of the Year 2 now, let’s see how it turns out. Hopefully it has the wit and heart of this film, and really really hopefully it has the strong settled heroine of this, without the kind of horrible hero.
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This film starts out on a pretty familiar track. Imraan is a hipster type. He wants to be a serious filmmaker and is constantly making fun of his not-Karan Johar boss Samir Soni. He lives with his single Mom and goes out to nightclubs and picks up random girls at night. Meanwhile, Sonam is an organized ambitious set designer with notebooks and classes and a deep and abiding love for romantic movies. As punishment for yet another misdeed, Imraan is assigned to do grunt work assisting Sonam.
(Imraan’s not a great guy. Also, why does this nightclub have sand on the floor? Or, alternatively, why does this beach have a bar?)
If nothing else, this film is fascinating for a look at how the production world works. Imraan and a handful of other bright young people are the permanent staff, apprenticing with Samir Soni and doing whatever he asks from reading lines with the actors to holding the hose as it sprays water on the set. Sonam is an independent contractor, building up a resume and excited to be called in to work with Samir Soni on a big movie. Sonam is already on her career track, ambitious and growing. Imraan is still waiting for his chance. And yet, they are sort of equals, since Imraan’s ultimate destination will be director/producer on the path he is on (or movie star, if he takes a Sidharth/Varun/Ranbir/Sonam/Imraan himself direction). Sonam has already hit her dead end, a shorter path. Imraan is assigned to assist her, which is a step down from working directly with Samir and observing him, but they both know it is only a temporary setback, they are still sort of equals.
Part of what makes Sonam’s character start to like Imraan is that he handles the demotion gracefully. He complains a little about working for her, but ultimately comes around, there is no ego. Especially when she covers for him in front of Samir Soni.
And what makes this romance really delightful is that it happens without Imraan even realizing it is happening. He starts assisting Sonam, and then he starts going the extra mile and doing little things to make her happy. He even bumps into her on a night out and immediately realizes she is upset because she is wearing her glasses and has her hair up and so on and so forth. Clearly he is observing her closely even if he doesn’t realize he is doing it.
So far, not THAT original. Sonam and Imraan are thrown together, she is a good girl with her life planned, he is a naughty boy who lives for the moment, etc. etc. She is all-but-engaged to a really nice serious good boy. He picks up a model and sleeps with her and then tricks her into leaving the next morning (like I said, a barely redeemable character). And then they fall in love, awwwwww.
But this is where it takes a twist! Sonam asks to meet him, all excited, clearly about to tell him she loves him. And she does, and he looks surprised and confused. And Sonam is cool about it! That’s what’s awesome. That Sonam acts like a real person would act, instead of being all “I will kill myself!” or “I have destroyed my honor!” or “You have to love me back because that is the social contract!”, she just takes a moment to laugh at herself and acknowledge that it was ridiculous for her to think they were in love just because he was nice to her, and then she moves on like a mature person.
What makes the movie intricately clever, is that of course Sonam WAS right. She was reading all the signs clearly, Imraan was in love with her. Only, Imraan didn’t see it until after she did. Imraan had divided his life up into parts, his wonderful new friendship with the super cool girl at work wasn’t related to the woman he slept with at night, he wouldn’t ever think of her that way. So it took Imraan a little longer to see through to his own feelings.
And that’s when we get the second cool reversal. After seeing Sonam with her perfect boyfriend, after searching his own heart and getting drunk, Imraan sets up the perfect romantic proposal, complete with roses and violins. And Sonam turns him down. Because, of course she does. She is a reasonable mature person, she processed her feelings and went back to her boyfriend, and now it is too late. Some big gesture from Imraan isn’t going to be enough to fix things. He is expecting the world to move at his schedule, and that’s not how things work.
And then the movie doesn’t really know where to go. Imraan has turned down Sonam, Sonam has turned down Imraan, now what?
(Well, first Imraan gets miserable punishment for his sucky attitude towards woman/life)
Sonam’s bit isn’t bad, she realizes she has fallen out of love with her long time boyfriend and they mutually break up. Another nice mature moment, a lot more logical than the usual dramatic hiding of emotions and so on. Whether or not things worked out with Imraan, if Sonam was thinking about him that much, it meant there were problems with her other relationship.
But then the movie has to shove Imraan and Sonam back together and doesn’t have a great way to do it. So they run across the city looking for each other, and then embrace, and that’s kind of it. Not a very logical ending for the movie, feels kind of rushed and silly.
But I will allow it! Because Imraan is charming, Sonam is put together, the meta commentary on Dharma is fun, the love story is unpredictable, and, most important, the songs are GREAT.
(I love the idea that after making fun of the movies all along, now that he is in love he is losing himself in the song sequence)