There are good movies, and there are bad. And, there are films like ‘Daawat-e-Ishq’ that slip into a position of much oblivion without leaving any impact.
Despite promises of a delectable cookout that could send our (visual) tastebuds into a tizzy, director-writer Habib Fazil’s recipe of love leaves us rather famished.
Set in two of India’s food noted havens – Lucknow and Hyderabad – the focus, when not on love, deceit, or the troubles of finding a worthy groom without coughing up a staggering dowry, shifts to the aromas and flavours of the cities. Habib insists on saying a lot, yet nothing at all.
The dishes are mere props, undercooked and served hurriedly through song-and-dances, without the story ever stepping into the hot, steamy kitchens.
The feisty Sania melts when biting into Taru’s signature kebab, and Gulrez bribes her docile father into a sinful plan by serving him his favourite Hyderabadi biriyani, hinting at what Habib intended to do, but didn’t. Those moments are rare and often lost among the predicaments over dowry, love and “black money” that Habib weaves into 120 minutes.
It’s unlike Hollywood’s ‘Julie & Julia’, or even Bollywood’s ‘Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana’.
And that’s a letdown, considering Habib’s crafted the endearing ‘Do Dhooni Chaar’ and even written a spectacular ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’.
‘Daawat-e-Ishq’ is the story of how the spunky Gullu takes on the world for not allowing her to live her American dream, by punishing “men” for it. Her idea of vengeance is rather incoherent, but Habib insists we give it a go.
So, after rejecting her cute boyfriend, who spoke English with a twang and promised to take her to America, for allowing his parents to seek millions in dowry, a broken Gullu decides she has to teach men a lesson.
Armed with a law that protects women from dowry, Gullu and her father choose another Indian city to find their target. They pick Lucknow, book into a 5-star hotel, and start their operation to find the perfect candidate to set right.
The men and their parents queue up outside, and wait their turn to be interviewed by the “wealthy” father-daughter, in exchange of a life of affluence and power. Such scenarios bear resemblance to the mockery that’s played out in reality, but Habib fails to flesh that out convincingly.
Gullu picks Taru, the animated cook and owner of a famous Lucknowi joint, not because he’s the greediest of them all, but because he has the cash to pay up. A decision, we couldn’t agree with.
After devouring many a kebab and phirni, Gullu falls in love with Taru, and realises the gentleman he is. But, instead of merely abandoning the plan and returning to her life, or finding another target, she sticks to the plan and lands him and his family in a mess.
She escapes to chalk out her American dream, only to have a change of heart later. Leaving her hopeless father, and us, drained.
Parineeti Chopra and Aditya Roy Kapur, despite sharing no real chemistry are earnest in exploring love, and take on the varied complexities that life throws them well. While Chopra is effortless, it’s Aditya who deserves applause for breaking away from his trademark broody image into a hopeless, but charming romantic. Anupam Kher is delightful as Gullu’s ever-supportive ‘Booji’, but his decision to join his daughter’s notorious plan even when he has lived a life of principle and ethics is a bit far-fetched.
‘Daawat-e-Ishq’ could’ve been savoured had Habib stuck to treating our tummies instead. Alas, it’s not as indulgent as the kebabs or biriyanis, or firnis that we were served occasionally.
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