Cast: Aayush Sharma, Warina Hussain Director: Abhiraj Minwala Rating: 3 Moons Navratri is notorious for the number of one-night stands that commonly happen during the popular nine-day festival. But couples are also known to fall in love and find life partners as they feverishly dance the Garba and twirl their sticks to the Dandiya Raas beat. There’s no fear of the former happening in LoveYatri which is all about young people hanging out in Vadodara and having fun, unsupervised and alone, during Navratri.
This is a Salman Khan production. And the benevolent bhai, who uses this musical romcom to launch the career of his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma, doesn’t believe sex and skin sells in Bollywood. And so you have Sushrut (Aayush), teasingly named Susu by all, who is a delightful duffer in school but a dandiya devil once the festival begins and the music provided by his Mama (Ram Kapoor in a strong Navratri singer-sari salesman role) starts to play. Susu’s ambition is to start a Garba Academy. But his parents won’t have it. However, in his sympathetic and prophetic Mama, Susu has a strong supporter. He also has nukkad friends Nagendra aka Negative (Prateek Gandhi) and Rakesh aka Rocket (Sajeel Parekh) who play devil’s advocate and confidante in his love affair.
Enter Michelle aka Manisha (Warina Hussain), an Economics topper from London and a ballet dancer and social worker known to feed the poor, who yearns to return to Vadodara where her late mother’s dream to start an NGO for women remains unfulfilled. That’s because her father (Ronit Roy, ruthless) was busy chasing his own dream of owning a chain of laundries in London. Father and daughter get tricked to coming to Vadodara by his brother’s family and that’s when the Garba music begins to play.
Susu sees Michelle dancing the Garba dreamily and it’s love at first sight for him. Later on, it transpires, she too fell for him and played along with his cockeyed plan (inspired by Mama, fuelled by Negative and Rocket) to woo her by feigning injury from her twirling dandiya. Manisha’s father has more magnanimous plans for her and takes Susu on top of a giant-wheel at the Navratri Mela to explain to him the difference between being socially rich and academically brilliant. “She’s up here and you are there,” he says, pointing to the ground. He also tells Susu that Michelle has a boyfriend in London.
A year later, lovelorn and restless, Susu decides to follow Michelle to London. And taking him there is Mama who is invited to perform with his garba troupe at a Navratri Utsav in the Queen’s city. The rest is easy to guess. But it goes down well because while the first half of the film had the architectural splendour of the old city of Vadodara with its narrow twisting lanes and hole-in-the-wall shops and serene temples, and after interval you have London which is equally old world and charming but also the breathtakingly new global city known for its arts, finance, fashion and entertainment.
Niren Bhatt’s screenplay is not new (a desi boy, an NRI girl) and the plot is simple enough to predict. Debutant director Abhiraj Minawala has showcased the milieu of Vadodara and cultural nuances of Gujarat well in the setting of his film. But it is the characters who steal the show. Especially Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy who bring their television experience to the large screen easily. Aayush is young, fresh and earnest.
Like the friendly neighbourhood tapori with extraordinary dancing skills who endears with his wild ways and crazy dreams. Warina is beautiful. They come at a time when Bollywood is exhausting its permutations and combinations with new jodis at the box-office. But Aayush and Warina are nothing like the great fictional lovers immortalised by motion pictures. They are familiar faces. You know you’ve met them before. What works big for LoveYatri are its songs. All chartbusters likely to make the playlist of every garba party being planned for the coming Navratri. They urge you to get into your festive finery and twirl your dandiyas to garba music.