Bollywood actors Vikrant Massey and Sanya Malhotra play lovers on the run who take refuge in a state-run shelter in India in their latest star-crossed romance ‘Love Hostel’. In many states in India, governments have set up safe houses so that two consenting adults can take refuge if they fear retribution from their family or society.
“The film is reflective of the times we live in,” said Massey in an interview with Gulf News ahead of his hush-hush wedding to longtime girlfriend Sheetal Thakur on February 18.
Despite his wedding mere days away, the ever professional Massey didn’t shy away from promoting his film.
Directed by Shanker Raman and produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, the movie is a searing portrait of how couples are made to pay the price of falling in love outside their society and family’s construct. Malhotra and Massey belong to two different religions and classes, making them exponentially vulnerable to hate crimes and honour killings.
The movie also features actor Bobby Deol as the man on the hunt for these two lovers. Excerpts from our interview with Massey as we talk about his latest romance, his tendency to pick warped lover roles, and more:
Tell us about your film ‘Love Hostel’.
It’s a film about two star-crossed lovers who are on the run and there’s a ruthless mercenary out on the hunt for them. But there is much more to the film. It’s a movie that’s reflective of the world that we live in. It might remind you of a story you must have heard somewhere about two consenting adults who are ostracised in their society for just following their own free will.
So the movie explores the tricky subject of what constitutes consent?
Yes, in a lot of way. It’s much more than a love story. It’s a lot about class divides and the film is open to various interpretations. I can vouch that the two primary characters in the film are based in a world that you will definitely recognise … It’s a violent film and there’s a lot of bloodshed. It’s not for the fainthearted and definitely not for the ones who want to hold a memorial higher ground. ‘Love Hostel’ is far more real and far more relatable.
When I first heard the title ‘Love Hostel’, I assumed it was a teen romance about a bunch of young kids in a hostel. But I was terribly wrong …
It’s definitely not about kids in a hostel. The premise of the film is based on safe houses which are provided by the Government of India when two consenting adults end up marrying beyond their families or society’s purview. When they marry against everyone’s wishes, they are ostracised. It’s the Government of India who provides these adults with these safe-houses to take care of them and protect them, probably from any harm. This is the hostel we are talking about. I had the good fortune of working with Drishyam Films for ‘Ram Prasad Ki Tehvri’ and when their script came to me, I had the quickest turnaround for any film. In five or seven hours I called them back and said I loved the audacity of the writing and I always wanted to work with director Shanker Raman. I admire his work a lot and this was a great chance to work with him.
So, safe houses in India are like witness protection programmes that are afforded to those who help catch criminals by siding with law enforcement … But here, it’s the people in love who are being penalised and isn’t that a sad reflection of the times we live in.
‘Love Hostel’ is no social commentary, but it’s up to you to decide what you want to make of it. I won’t spoon-feed you and I want to give you the benefit of doubt that you are smart enough to gauge and understand. And by you, I mean the viewers. While it’s no social commentary, it’s reflective of the times we live in.
Do you believe in love?
It definitely exists. Love is a travesty of our times because there’s no better thing happening right now besides falling in love. Love, compassion, and empathy are the only truest emotions that are lingering around us now. A lot else has been contaminated. So, yes, I believe in love, and I am in love. It’s the purest form of feeling one can experience. And I believe in its power.
Recently, you have been gravitating towards morally ambiguous roles. In ‘Haseen Dillruba’, you went to some extreme lengths to prove your love for your wife … Is that a deliberate choice?
I would rather call it a co-incidence. And I don’t see any of my roles as morally ambiguous and I really don’t know how to answer this question.
But do you think Bollywood is finally adulting when it comes to their dramas and love stories?
There are all sorts of films being made now. With the advent of OTT (streaming) platforms, various genres including thrillers and love stories are being made. There’s so much space under the sun now to go out there and tell different stories. Compared to what was being made 10 years ago, there’s a lot less conventional stories being made and that’s a good sign.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has co-produced this film. Was that a big draw for you?
You always need someone reliable to back your vision and your instincts. And I am glad Shah Rukh Khan and Manish Mundra – who has done well to propel Indian films outside India – has supported us thick and thin. It is a fantastic collaboration.
How satisified are you sharing screen with an interesting cast?
It’s a great casting call and our casting director has done a fantastic job. Post ‘Ashram’, everyone became aware of what Bobby Deol can do with a role if given the right opportunity … He has a certain body of work in the last 25 years and it’s an out-of-the-box choice … And, I knew of Sanya professionally before this film, but I got to know her better once we started filming and I couldn’t have done this well without her.
Don’t miss it!
‘Love Hostel’ is out on Zee5 on February 25