The starting point for debutant writer-director Anu Menon’s London Paris New York (LPNY, henceforth) was undoubtedly the allure of setting a story in the three glamorous title cities; the plot and characters surely came second. But when the movie isn’t being a glorified travel show, interesting characters add spark to this edgy love story.
There’s a lot demanded of leads Nikhil (Ali Zafar) and Lalitha (Aditi Rao Hydari), who, after a chance meeting in London, utter almost every line of the film’s dialog. The young adults have in common the fact that they are both on their own for the first time, their overprotective parents having reluctantly agreed to let them attend college abroad. When Lalitha misses her connecting flight to New York, the strangers decide to spend the day exploring London together.
They have the types of conversations only had by movie characters (have you ever asked someone you just met, “So what do you want to do with your life?”), but form a genuine connection. Nikhil promises to come visit Lalitha in New York. When Nikhil tracks Lalitha down in Paris two years later, we learn that he didn’t keep his promise.
Nikhil starts out pushy and entitled but is humbled as the story progresses. I didn’t care for Zafar’s smarmy delivery in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which he toned down for LPNY. He’s strong in the dramatic scenes but at his best in lighter moments when he can flash his killer smile.
The best surprise of LPNY is Lalitha’s character. Unlike many female leads, who are really just vehicles for the emotional growth of the male main character, Lalitha is an equal partner for Nikhil. That means she’s equally responsible for the bad choices that drive the two apart.
Hydari strikes the right balance with Lalitha, a young woman of strong ideals but lacking some emotional maturity. Hydari’s best moment is when Lalitha turns a devastating realization into an opportunity for revenge, her coldness underscored by a deep hurt.
Zafar, who made his name as a rock star, wrote and performed all of the music for LPNY. The soundtrack is appropriately poppy for a film about young urbanites. The music features prominently during the three montages of the highlights of each city. Though I suppose it’s hard to avoid showing iconic sites like the London Eye and Times Square, the montages feel stale.
Even when it comes to the music, Hydari again steals the show. She bravely chose to sing her own parts on two songs, giving the numbers a more natural feel than when actors lip sync to voices not their own.
In the United States, LPNY has an MPAA rating of PG-13 due to references to sex and scenes of the characters drinking and smoking. LPNY is a bit grittier than a typical Bollywood rom-com, so it’s not appropriate for the whole family. But those old enough to appreciate it will be rewarded.