If the Hindi film industry is ever put on trial for giving plum roles to sons, daughters and extended members of celebrity clans over outsiders with no family connections, Loveyatri will be Exhibit A. The movie features Aayush Sharma, the brother-in-law of Salman Khan, in his debut role. Sharma has 139 minutes to make good his threat that he has the stuff it takes to be a leading man. But on the strength of at least this movie, Sharma’s peers can sleep peacefully.
The screenplay by Niren Bhatt, whose credits include the Gujarati films Bey Yaar (2014) and Wrong Side Raju (2016), is hardly novel, but it might have actually worked with performers who could get their facial muscles to move in a halfway animated fashion. Director Abhiraj K Minawala must make do with Aayush Sharma and Warina Hussain, and he takes a smart call by surrounding these non-actors with professionals, including Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy.
The movie (previously titled Loveratri) has the Navratri festival in Vadodara as the backdrop. Sushrut (Aayush Sharma) is a classroom dud who shines on the dance floor (at least that is what he believes). Sushrut is nicknamed Susu and referred to as such throughout the film – hardly a confidence-building measure.
Sushrut’s ultimate dream is to set up a garba training academy, and it’s clear when he meets the wealthier and academically brighter Londoner Michelle (Warina Hussain) that she is out of his league. Yet, the two romance over dance and Vadorara’s culinary culture. The fatty snacks cause Michelle’s stomach to collapse – an early warning sign that she ignores. The second ignored warning sign is when Sushrut acts like a cad, accuses Michelle of being an over-educated snob, and clutches her arm so hard that she gets bruised.
But, but: love is like a SIM card, which works whether placed in an expensive phone or a cheap model, Sushrut’s supportive uncle Rasik (Ram Kapoor) reminds him. The second half moves to London, where Sushrut tries to make up for his behaviour, woo Michelle all over again, and get the locals to show off their garba moves with the London Bridge in the background.
Michelle’s father Sam (Ronit Roy) is this movie’s token villain, although some viewers might share his disquiet over his daughter’s choice. Sam runs a laundry chain named Lord of the Rinse – an apt metaphor for this movie’s endeavour to turn dross into box-office gold on the strength of the Salman Khan connection.
The leads are routinely unmoved by the momentous events in which they get entangled, and it is up to the other actors to show something resembling emotion. Pratik Gandhi and Sajeel Parakh, playing Sushrut’s friends, provide the padding to Sharma’s lack of an inner life, while Ronit Roy goes through the motions as an unyielding father for the nth time.
The boldest flourish in Loveyatri plays out off-screen: the movie exists only to give Aayush Sharma his dream debut. Salman Khan devotees might be persuaded to accept the latest boon from their screen god, but for the unfaithful – and the unforgiving – Loveyatri is a trudge from start to finish.