Review: Layered Storyline & Outstanding Performances Make 'Love Hostel' a Winner

Review: Layered Storyline & Outstanding Performances Make 'Love Hostel' a Winner

Love Hostel stars Vikrant Massey and Sanya Malhotra in lead roles.

Movie Reviews
3 min read

Love Hostel

Review: Layered Storyline & Outstanding Performances Make 'Love Hostel' a Winner

Brave, bold and brilliant - cinematographer-turned-director Shankar Raman’s sophomore film Love Hostel is an unflinching look at a society that makes falling in love an offence. 'Love Hostel' refers to the district safe home granted to inter-faith couples by authorities, to provide them protection from disapproving family members. But for all practical purposes it could well have been called 'Gehraiyaan' because of its in-depth, insightful look at a society scarred with biases and prejudices, routine “othering” of communities and demonising love.

Jyoti (Sanya Malhotra) and Ahmed (Vikrant Massey) are seeking shelter at the safe-home as they try to resolve the ruckus in their respective homes.

Raman’s hold on the narrative rarely slips as details slowly bleed out. Betrayal, blackmail, violence - the young couple are up against not just a decaying mindset and a scheming matriarch, but must also dodge a hitman, Dagar (Bobby Deol), who has been sent to kill them.

His chilling demeanour comes from a conviction that he is doing that needs to be done to cleanse the society. He never registers remorse and never reflects on the crime he is committing as he firmly believes that his deranged actions will keep intact the social fabric .

Bobby Deol in a still from Love Hostel.


What doesn't let Love Hostel derail into an absurdist kill fest is Raman’s layered and profound screenplay. Seducing the audience with subtlety, he constructs even the most gruesome sequences in a way that make them poignant and perceptive.

After a shockingly violent scene, we get a glimpse of a child (presumably the youngest member of the family) oblivious to the bloodbath in the other room as he is engrossed in his video game. The horror of what we witness grows manifold. In another instance, a young girl stares unblinkingly as bullets ricochet off, unaware yet again of the enormity of the situation.

This is the innocence at stake that must be protected. The sense of urgency is built in by Nitin Baid and Shan Mohammed’s brilliant editing, where one scene flows into another seamlessly as Clinton Cerejo’s background score weaves magic. The most frightening face of this ugly hate is also a young teenager, who we see hitting his elder sisters with complete sanction from the family matriarch. The demonic rage in someone as young as the boy is the real horror.

A still from Love Hostel.

The bleak glimpse into how life would turn out for anyone trying to break free telegraphs gloom from the opening chilling sequence. Poignantly laying out the personal and social costs of this exclusionist ideology, Love Hostel gives us a couple of the kind we haven't seen on screen in a long time. Ahmed and Jyoti aren't just prototypes, but breathing, living characters who make their presence felt with the crackling chemistry they share. Most of it is not explicit but implied through small throwaway gestures. Vikrant Massy’s Ahmed stutters a little, always vigilant about how he is perceived. When asked about what his father does, he pauses before he can say “meat shop”, fully aware of the hostile looks he will receive.

Sanya Malhotra’s Jyoti is fierce and unafraid. A lot of this also has to do with their social realities. He is a man but is so used to being 'othered' and vilified that he has almost resigned to his fate. Falling in love is his most risky and defiant act. Jyoti comes from a feudal, patriarchal family but one that enjoys a certain degree of power. She bustles through her troubles with passionate determination. In her case love is an assertion of her individuality.

The plot is full of surprises, reversals, unfolding with breathtaking ease and self confidence. Vivek Shah’s tactile cinematography adds just the right texture.

Raj Arjun as an upright officer, Sidharth Bharadwaj as a slimy cop and Aditi Vasudeva playing the supportive friend are brilliant.

Vikrant and Sanya's outstanding performances are complimented admirably by Bobby Deol. What a triumph for Shankar Raman who keeps getting better.

Our rating: 4.5 Quints out of 5

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