There are several reasons why you must see LoveYatri. Least being because it’s a Salman Khan production. The benevolent bhai made the film to launch his young brother-in-law Aayush Sharma in Bollywood. And wisely stayed out of the frame himself. Making not even a special appearance. But there’s reverential reference to Salman, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan as “romantic Bollywood heroes” in one inspiring scene at a pulsating London pub. It’s meant to establish Aayush as “being Indian” among the football rowdies there and to tell them we are as passionate and idealistic as our screen idols (whom the English identify with) when in love. This works like a charm. Other than that, LoveYatri is Aayush’s film from start to end. Also the gorgeous debutante Afghani model Warina Hussain. Karan Johar, who saw the film before anyone else, found Aayush and Warina “wonderful, confident and assured”. He also described LoveYatri as a breezy, delightful, full on pyaar wala story that makes you want to dance the garba in gay abandon. Coming from the prolific filmmaker who recently launched newbies Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor in his own love story Dhadak, this is high praise. But LoveYatri is that kind of film. And everybody in Bollywood’s got their fingers crossed for Aayush and Warina because all the world loves a lover and it makes audiences happy to see a couple in love...
Reason # 1: The Lead Pair
They are young, fresh and earnest. Also a treat to the eye. He is good-looking in a clean-cut, non-Bollywood conformist way. Like the friendly neighbourhood tapori with a zany sense of manners, garish dress code and extraordinary dancing skills who endears with his wild ways and crazy dreams much to the comic despair of his long-suffering parents weighed down by his passion and ambition. Only, Aayush is a Gujju bhai in Vadodara. And the girl is London-educated and London-returned, she is chic, unconventionally beautiful, and impeccably mannered. But Warina remains a sophisticated Gujju bhen whose heart remained in Vadodara even when London was reforming her for a bigger and brighter future. They come at a time when Bollywood is exhausting its permutations and combinations to introduce a new hit jodi at the box-office that is jaded with seeing the same old-new faces. But Aayush and Warina are nothing like the great fictional lovers immortalised by the motion pictures. This is a love story set in 21st century India still conscious of its rich-poor divide. They are familiar. You know you’ve met them before.
Reason # 2: The Festive Season
If Hollywood can release its romcoms and action-adventure Christmassy films during the ‘Happy Holidays’, why should not Bollywood have LoveYatri just when Navratri is knocking at our doors? Therefore the original title LoveRatri which worked handsomely till some spoilsport took the jaundiced view that it hurt sentiments and defiled Goddess Durga. Salman Khan, who has been down this rough and bumpy road before, wisely changed the title, knowing that it was not a film’s name that made it a box office success but the engaging story and inspiring performances. You will not see a more colourful and energetic Navratri than the one in Vadodara brought out with song and dance and festivity than in LoveYatri. The charged atmosphere grows on viewers and will suck them into the garba and dandiya celebrations. The film goes from Navratri in Vadodara to Navratri in London a year later with time being measured by the change in seasons and festivals like Makar Sankranti and Holi. And you will see, garba in London is as convivial and boisterous because the UK is full of Patels and Shahs and Mehtas from whom you cannot remove the excitable Gujarati.
Reason # 3: The Cities
The first half of the film is in Vadodara; the second in London. Both during the festival of Navratri. The romance begins in the old world architectural splendour of Vadodara, the couple’s love taking them on a zippy scooty ride through narrow, twisting lanes with shops and temples and havelis of another time zone, the serenity and slow pace of the city being kickstarted to life by the frenzied arrival of the festival, the old landscape being given a lively richness with ordinary, everyday scenes like when Aayush and Warina go eating out in the Khau Gully of Vadodara, and the maidans coming alive with the lights, sounds and scenes of a city in the throes of traditional celebrations with song and dance.
London is equally old world and charming, but it is also breathtakingly new, and the global city known for its arts, entertainment, finance and fashion it is explored not on bike but an open car that gives the Gujju bhai from Vadodara a look at the sights through a love song performed amidst the hustle and bustle of the Londoner’s daily routine and his evening pastime in the pubs and nightspots with bands.
Reason #4: The Supporting Cast
Led by TV superstars and heavyweights Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy who bring much value to the Gujju culture whether it is in Vadodara or London by adding their two bits philosophy on love, relationships and the future at right moments, and ably supported right at the end by Sohail and Arbaaz Khan in guest roles as London cops of Gujju origin who step in to let love prevail and provide a happy ending amidst a rocking Navratri scene on the banks of the River Thames. The Vadodara characters, Aayush’s friends Rocket and Negative, his delightful parents, and Warina’s extended family in the old historic city are in sync in every frame.
Reason #5: The Songs
They have got the audience excited because what is a romantic drama even with fresh chemistry without chartbusting music that has already made it to the playlist of every garba party being planned across India? Chogada is a chart topper, Akh Lad Jaaye has become a club anthem, Tera Hua has been spreading romantic charm since it was released, and Rangtaari and Dholida have set the tempo for the festive mood and made people anxious to get into their Navratri finery and twirl their dandiyas to garba music. That Bollywood’s very own top stars have been sharing videos dancing to these tracks is a tribute to Salman Khan’s appeal in the industry as much to the captivating beat of the songs that insist you get onto the dance floor immediately.