VOD Review - Loev

From now on, any movie that's about two men spending time together romantically for a period that's between Friday and Monday, or any two or three, consecutive days, must be compared to Andrew Haigh's Weekend (2011).

Written and directed by Sudhanshu Saria, the screenplay is a lot more vague. There's a lot less dialogue, which would help fill out the characters and their situation. However, the story isn't confined to one space or even one city. The two men here go on a road trip and see locations that definitely open up this film visually. It gives us a better sense of environment and community than Weekend. That better sense though loses some of the intimacy of Haigh's film.

Dhruv Ganesh stars as Sahil, a musician living in Mumbai. He's a young, skinny guy who might also work as an agent or manager of other musicians. He's not financially in the best place. He's poor for sure. This is obvious due to the opening scene, which has Sahil lighting a candle because his roommate didn't pay the electric bill. His apartment is pretty crappy, so he's eager to get away for a few days.

Shiv Pandit co-stars as Jai, a businessman who arrives by plane in Mumbai to visit Sahil. Jai is from New York City. From a T-shirt he wears later, it's clear he's a graduate of NYU's Stern School. He's in Mumbai because he has to coordinate a real estate deal with people in India. He has an important meeting where he has to get them to sign some papers. While he's there, he wants to spend time with Sahil, most likely in a sexual and loving way.

This is where Saria's movie gets vague. Haigh's film has his characters start out as strangers who get to know each other. Saria has his characters as already acquainted, so they have a back-story. Unfortunately, Saria doesn't do enough to inform us on that back-story. We have no clue how they met, what brought them together or why they're still together.

Both Sahil and Jai have situations in their personal lives that are also pretty vague. Sahil has his roommate, Alex, played adorably by Siddhardh Menon. Alex is a cute ball of fun, slightly flamboyant and a jokester, but from their interactions and half-conversations, it could be that Sahil and Alex are boyfriends. It's not totally clear.

Meanwhile, Jai has a situation back in New York that is also unclear. Apparently, his mother is living in Manhattan with him or maybe she has her own place, but supposedly she has memory problems and needs his help. Things are so unclear that Jai could have a wife in New York and we wouldn't know. When the movie comes down to the two men either staying with each other or not, it helps to be aware of the details of their options. How else will we care about the choice either way?

The only thing we have is watching the two men in the here-and-now. We try to see the draw or attraction between them. We try to feel the chemistry that exists whenever they're close. Ganesh and Pandit are terrific actors and accomplish that feeling of chemistry, but Saria adds a wrinkle that doesn't make much sense.

Saria crafts a very romantic moment involving the song "Real Love" by Mary J. Blige and a guitar. It leads to the two men cuddling in a twin bed. Jai seemingly initiates sex, but Sahil turns him down. They have their squabbles, which makes things tense between them, but Sahil resists or antagonizes Jai in ways that makes me wonder what he expected or what he hoped to get out of this weekend.

For example, there's a contrived moment where Sahil outs Jai as being homosexual at his important, business meeting. Sahil later says he did it to prove that despite Jai's assertions, he's still very much closeted, but it's unclear what prompted Sahil to do that or what he thought it would gain him. At one moment, Sahil can easily walk away and the next he's clinging onto Jai, and there's no clear understanding of what's going on in his head or what he ultimately wanted.

Saria's script just has him going back-and-forth for no reason. He takes them on a road trip for the first third and makes great use of Mahabaleshwar and even Sandhan Valley. Both Ganesh and Pandit are young and gorgeous, so the movie doesn't run out of pretty things to look at, but I'm not sure what the takeaway is supposed to be.

However, I do appreciate this film's existence. Bollywood, even less than Hollywood, has not done a good job with putting out major releases with openly gay characters. Even independent, gay films from India have been practically non-existent. The existence of this film is inspirational and hopefully will be aspirational. A recent interview with Sudhanshu Saria, his producer and two actors expounds on that.

Not Rated but contains language and a scene of rape.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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