Despites its bold promos, Hate Story offers very little skin show, writes Raja Sen.
First things first. The reason most of you have clicked on this review link isn't in quest of mild discourse on acting nuance, say, or the need for a significant subplot in a revenge saga. No, you want to know whether Vivek Agnihotri's Hate Story is indeed the bold, scorching hot piece of smut that the marketing team will have you believe.
Whether it pushes Hindi cinema's ridiculous boundaries of screen nakedness and whether it will do for those of you looking for a morning show.
No, no, no.
Publicised purely on the strength of its 'erotic' content and scandalously adult themes, Hate Story delivers very little actual heat.
Which, to be fair, is perfectly encouraged behaviour for a film so clearly wanting to belong to the exploitation genre.
Exploitation films are those which tease audiences into the theatres making softcore promises about nudity and risque behaviour, films that bank on the lure of the lewd even if the film's content turns out to be tamer than expected, and even, sometimes, almost entirely unrelated to what the film advertises on the posters. Like selling a car using a girl in a low-cut top.
In this aspect, Agnihotri does just fine, talking up an unashamedly sensual film and then handing us what is, in essence, just another Mahesh Bhatt production except it doesn't have either Emraan Hashmi or one of those irritatingly catchy Pritam soundtracks.
What it does have is a girl willing to take her clothes off. With this as his cue, Agnihotri takes the classically misogynist approach to the vengeance film by first sadistically piling on increasingly brutal injustices onto his heroine before she finally snaps and comes back for irrationally but invariably titillating revenge: revenge best served by dishes dressed hot.
With a film like this, there is only one requirement: grip.
The plot must be taut and, while everyone watching knows the girl will eventually have her comeuppance, her road to bloody satisfaction must be either swift or frenzied, cleverly plotted or occasionally surprising. She can only be said to have earned her revenge if we, the viewers, either care about her character and root for her, or if things unfold interestingly enough to keep us watching.
Hate Story doesn't do either of these, and instead moans a lot. Literally. There is so much audible huffing, grunting, puffing, sighing, groaning and wheezing in this film that it feels like watching Rafa Nadal play Maria Sharapova with Monica Seles occasionally swinging by to show them how to achieve proper volume from the baseline. All these sounds are punctuated by ludicrous dialogue delivered so poorly (and loudly) that it fails even to achieve so-bad-its-good status. Pity, that.
In such circumstances, it feels almost unjust to judge the performers. Clothing-averse leading lady Paoli Dam has a bright enough smile but, after going to a hooker for lessons in sluttiness, comes back having also learnt bad acting.
Nikhil Dwivedi has nothing to really do but is rewarded by Bollywood's equivalent of a Wilhelm Scream at the very end of the film.
The only actor to take things seriously is Saurabh Dubey, playing a stern father to a stammering son -- a son that goes from shrinking fool to modern day Prem Chopra out of his presence.
This chameleonic offspring, the villain of the piece, is played hilariously by Gulshan Devaiah, laying it on almost as thickly as the film's publicity machine. Devaiah's committed vulnerability, however, comes through even in this farcical character, unfortunately serving only to make us almost feel sorry for the bad guy while merely laughing at the caricaturishly exaggerated heroine. Oops.
No, I take that back. We just laughed. Those of us in the theatre still sitting there while furious skin-seeking students filed out, that is.