Shanker RamansGurgaon‘ (2017) was not just a physical brick-and-mortar space, but also a dark, dystopian state of mind where ruthless patriarchs don’t hide their iron fists in kid gloves, ancestral lands become a valuable medium of exchange, men rule, and women rule do what they are told. in the ‘love hostel’, The director picks up where he left off, turning his attention to the interiors of Haryana, where runaway couples not only earn the wrath of their families, but also the brutal attention of mercenaries on their heels. A garland of flowers around the neck is exchanged for a deadly rope, leaving a circle of faces around the dangling bodies, some stunned with grief, others in unholy joy: the word of the khaps is law, and those who transgress do it of their own accord fist malice.
Like Raman’s previous work, this is a deeply political film, and this time it’s much more open. “Vardi utaar ke sarkaar badalne ka intezaar karoon kya (should I take off my uniform and wait for the change of government?)” asks a figure whose job it is to uphold the rule of law. It’s a question he doesn’t expect an answer to, an astute comment on the state of the nation where minority diversity is rampant. The villains of this play are not only the old guard who refuse to let go, but also those who rule only to divide.
A hasty court ceremony puts Jyoti Dilawar (Sanya Malhotra) and Ashu Shokeen (Vikrant Massey) on a treadmill that no one can get off. The former has a formidable enemy in her water pipe-smoking “Daadi”, the latter has everything against him: his religious identity, his “job” as a “delivery boy” of “contraband” meat and being stuck between a rock and a very hard place. The safe house where the newlyweds are picked up feels more like a corral where helpless animals are left before they are sent to be slaughtered, and everywhere you go from there it becomes increasingly dangerous.
This is no country for lovers, and the man in charge is the menace Viraj Singh Dagar (Bobby Deol) reminding you of Javier Bardem’s bounty hunter in No Country For Old Men. Dagar has a deep scar running down his face and an unrelenting hatred for those who broke the rules. “Usne to Diwali ki jagah Eid chun li” (she chose Diwali instead of Eid) is not just a description of someone making a choice. It’s a death sentence. The lovebirds can walk. But can they hide?
Compared to “Gurgaon,” “Love Hostel” has more immediacy in its execution, making its non-stop violence more impactful, at least initially. But as the body count piles up and the blood spatter rises higher, you’ll also become deaf. The fact that Dagar also has a scar on his soul is revealed too late: maybe we should have known a little earlier what drives him to his bloody deeds. Even if Deol has worn his character closely, the gaps between his star persona, shown to us in several close-ups, and his Dagar are not fully closed.
What you can’t blame the other two stars for. Both Vikrant Massey and Sanya Malhotra are very good. Massey is no surprise as he has shown just how much he can resolve into his characters; but Malhotra, who was variable, is. Her jyoti is spot on: she jumps right into her role and sticks with it to the end.
The others in that cast feel like they’ve grown organically, and they’re making this film. Right next to Raj Arjun as Sushil Rathi, the weather-beaten cop who’s seen too much. Like the others in this tightly controlled world where the sharp religious polarization of recent years has seeped into the ground: they use Muslim butchers as bait and switches to trap people, with local police complicit when they Minorities are targeted and their detention without good reason. It’s not just rebellious straights who are the bad apples, homosexuals are over the top too – there’s a heartbreaking tender moment between two young men.
As always, Raman pulls out punches. And that is both the great strength and the small weakness of the film. One wishes he had ruled it somewhere: this is a brilliant, brutal excavation of the world that unstoppably and relentlessly draws closer to its characters and to us. I wanted to be able to breathe. After a point, “Love Hostel” becomes empty. I sat with my heart in my mouth, took a deep breath as the credits rolled, and emerged on the other side, battered and angry. Is there really no way out? No easy answers in the movie and in real life.
Cast of Love Hostel Movie: Vikrant Massey, Sanya Malhotra, Bobby Deol, and Raj Arjun
Love Hostel Film Director: Shanker Raman
Love Hostel Movie Rating: 3.5 stars