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Why I luv 'I Hate Luv Storys'

UTV Motion Pictures and Dharma Productions

A few years ago, I watched my first Bollywood film—Bride & Prejudice, a modern take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice—and immediately fell in love with the genre. Recently, I watched a Hindi language romantic-comedy that is both a fun send up as well as a tribute to Bollywood musicals. While I get why I Hate Luv Storys got mixed reviews from critics, I enjoyed it—and I was especially intrigued and delighted by the constant meta-like references to the power of story in our lives.

 I Hate Luv Storys  focuses on the growing relationship between Simran, a movie art director who loves Bollywood romances and whose own life resembles one (on the surface, at least), and Jay, a cynical assistant director who detests the genre because he believes there is no such thing as love. To the backdrop (both literally and figuratively) of the Bollywood romance on which they’re both crew, the way they see life starts to change as they spend time together and fall in love.

The film unabashedly leans on every romantic and Bollywood cliché in the book (some of which I know I missed because I am so new to the genre), both making fun of the genres but also gets at something about the power and value of those genres (and story in general) in our own lives. At the beginning of the film, the director tells Jay that one day he’ll understand why the public adores his romantic and over-the-top films—but not until he falls in love himself. And that points to a big reason many of us enjoy romances: they remind us of our own experiences with romantic love, and we like them because we know what it is to fall in love.

I also loved how the characters constantly referred their own lives as “filmy” or stories. They not only had a larger idea or “story” of how the world worked, but gradually came to realize that their own lives or “stories” unfold within an even larger story. In particular, their ideas about love shaped the larger story in which they believed they lived their lives. For Simran, it was the idea of Bollywood romances (even her fiancé had a name common to the genre); for Jay (whose parents’ marriage ended in divorce) relationships were without commitment and doomed to fail. Neither had room in their personal stories for the other. But while they both resisted it in their own ways, Simran and Jay both became aware that their relationship was unfolding according to an even larger story: a messy version of classic Bollywood romance genre complete with all the conventions and devices—heh, humorously emphasized at one point with a white board on which Jay’s friend checks off the classic tropes to get him to realize just how in love he is with Simran.

I loved this device because there are aspects to those tropes that many of us experience or recognize in our own lives—and those tropes help us make sense of our own lives. We may never have run after someone we love in an airport or sang a Bollywood ballad against a backdrop of mountains and meadows, but we can resonate with the desperation and joy of discovering and trying to makes sense of the love we feel for another. Yes, the romance genre has its problems and may often be over the top or downright fantasy when it comes to real love, but there are often aspects within the genre and the stories within it that reflect, express and even help us understand our own experience.

But I especially appreciated how the film reveals that we each have our own story, how the larger stories in our culture reflect those, and how we can gain guidance from them. In the end, all that echoes and points to the reality of our larger Story, the one in which we all live and breathe. And it is from that Story that we get both see our own individual stories reflected as well as gain wisdom in how to walk within our own stories within that Story.

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