Film: ‘Love Hostel’ (Streaming on ZEE5); Duration: 101 minutes
Director: Shanker Raman
Cast: Bobby Deol, Vikrant Massey, Sanya Malhotra, Raj Arjun, Akshay Oberoi, Yogesh Tiwari, Swaroopa Ghosh, Aditi Vasudev, Seema Raja
IANS Rating: ***’Love Hostel’ seems to be inspired by actual events. It is a bland story of star-crossed lovers caught in the tangle of honour killing. It is a nonspecific story oft-heard across the Indian sub-continent.
Ashu, a.k.a. Ahmed Shaukeen (Vikram Massey), is the son of a butcher, in love with the spunky, full of life and potential, Jyoti Dilawar (Sanya Malhotra), the granddaughter of a local politician Kamala Dilawar (Swaroopa Ghosh). Aware that their families will not approve of their union as they come from different religious backgrounds, the two of them decide to elope. They approach the local court, and the judge grants them protection in the District Safe House for a week.
Given the title, one would expect the narrative to unravel the happenings in this “District Safe House.” This place is also known as the “Love Hostel” as it houses numerous other couples who face a similar predicament. But alas, the writers churn out a blatantly generic and straightforward plot dispensing a dispassionate story of the protagonists on the run. The telling progresses in a detached manner with the ruthless mercenary Dagar (Bobby Deol), who driven by a personal agenda, is hell-bent on eliminating those who do not abide by societal rules.
Sans any layers to the narrative and steeped with cinematic liberties, the writing and the editing of the film are its weakest elements. While the nitty-gritty of each scene is effectively taken care of, how the duo escape from the clutches of Dagar each time seems contrived. Also, the tale of the young love against the odds is not particularly groundbreaking in itself, and the wrapping of the narrative is not effective either.
Vikram Massey and Sanya Malhotra are excellent performers. They are flawless as Ashu and Jyoti. They take their roles like a second skin and slowly unravel the complexities of their characters as they go through a complete emotional arc, experiencing love, confusion, disbelief, resignation, and acceptance. Their nuanced work makes them stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries.
Bobby Deol as, the stoic, scar-faced, and unsympathetic, trigger-happy killer, is mechanical in his demeanour. He is frightful and far from menacing because his is a poorly written, two-dimensional character. Similar is the case of Swaroopa Ghosh, who essays the role of Jyoti’s grandmother, Kamala Dilawar.
Of the others in supporting role, Raj Arjun is prominent as the Police officer Sushil Rathi, and Akshay Oberoi as Ashu’s untrustworthy friend Diler is wasted, in a small insignificant role.
Overall, the film fails to effectively blend both romance and social commentary.