I’m tempted to cut Love Express some slack since it begins with the disclaimer: “A film by debutant artists and technicians.” But lack of experience can’t excuse an inferior product, and Love Express stinks.
While it didn’t cost me any money to watch (the full movie is legally available for free on YouTube), I can’t understand why the studio, Mukta Arts, thought it was ready for commercial distribution.
The saddest thing about Love Express is that its premise is great:
A pair of young strangers — traveling by train with their families, en route to their arranged marriage — confess to each other that they don’t want to get married. They conspire to derail the wedding plans but aren’t prepared for the consequences when their scheme works.
The premise practically pitches itself. There’s a built-in deadline — matters have to be resolved before the train gets to its destination — and the characters are forced to deal with the problem because they’re trapped on a moving train. Couple the deadline and the confined spaces with familial pressure, and you should have box office gold.
But, in the hands of an inexperienced crew, the film doesn’t come together. Some of the train interiors look cheaply constructed. The sounds and sway of the camera that are supposed to mimic a moving train are inconsistently applied. The song that accompanies the lone choreographed dance number is annoying.
Apart from the great premise, the writing is pretty bad. Dialogue is clunky and characters woefully underdeveloped. The main couple — Kanav (Sahil Mehta) and Asneet (Mannat Ravi) — have such an abrupt change of heart that even they can’t come up with good reasons why they’re suddenly in love. Kanav gets misty eyed remembering when Asneet called him “dog brain,” and Asneet proudly bears a stain on her saree from that time Kanav spilled hot tea on her.
Not only are the characters poorly written, but they are poorly acted as well. Ravi is fine as Asneet, but Mehta’s Kanav is an irritating boor. There’s little help from the supporting cast, with the exception of Roobie as Asneet’s mother.
Om Puri, the only recognizable actor in the movie, is limited in what he can bring to the table. His character, Asneet’s grandfather, is confined to his berth on the train. His actions are supposed to change the course of the film, but they feel less impactful since he never interacts directly with the main characters.
I respect the fact that Mukta Arts and producer Subhash Ghai want to open doors for artists and technicians new to the industry, but the gesture is meaningless without guidance. Having their names attached to such a dud of a film may actually do the debutants’ careers more harm than good.