Is the title misspelled or is it simply an “alternative” way of exploring the meaning of the same word?
That’s the open question writer-director Sudhanshu Saria poses — and his film almost answers.
For while it’s a love story, “Loev” is also a gay one. In other words it doesn’t travel down the “Route One” of the Heterosexual Narrative Highway, but makes any number of detours, clearly marked on the Gay Road Map. And on top of this the film is set in India — a country that only recently decriminalized gay sex but has miles to travel on LGBT issues.
“Loev” centers (as much as a tale so discursive can be said to “center”) on a triangle of sorts. Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh), a music producer, is living with Alex (Sidharth Menon), a fiscally irresponsible hottie who would appear to have a job of some import (it’s never really specified), yet the action begins in darkness as he’s failed to pay the electricity bill. The relationship is apparently an “open” one as Salial is taking off to meet Jai (Shiv Pandit), a Wall Streetlevel dealmaker of considerable clout with whom he’d had a past dalliance. Jai is clearly out to revive it — but on his own very specific terms as we learn across the course of the trip he’s taking with Salail.
It’s a trip in two parts. The first finds them at a rural forest getaway that they appear to be staying in all to themselves. The second finds them at a swank hotel in downtown Mumbai where Jai is meeting with a consortium of bigwigs.
And it’s here that the film’s subtext comes through most strongly. For Jai doesn’t want to spend the night with Salail at the hotel and is quite upset when Salail delivers a message to him during the bigwig meeting.
Simply stated, Jai is in the closet (like most Indian men of his class). He wants a relationship with Salail, but he also wants to keep it “on the down low.” For his part, Salail doesn’t appear to be at all that clear as to what he wants to do. He makes no complaint about Jai’s closeted-ness. More striking still, he shows little reaction when, at the swank hotel, Jai is suddenly quite sexually violent with him. Has he been= seduced by the fact that Jai has bought him an expensive guitar and encourages him to have a musical career, or is Salail keeping his options open, as Alex has shown up at the hotel with a boytoy named Junior (Rishabth Chaddha) in tow?
Obviously there’s a lot to unpack here in some ways reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” (1997) — a modern classic about a troubled gay relationship. Like “Happy Together,” “Loev” is dramatically unresolved. Salail goes
home with Alex and Junior but it’s clear he still has feelings for Jai.
It would take a sequel to sort this all out.
But alas there won’t be one as Dhruv Ganesh, the actor who plays Salail with such sensitivity and insight, died of tuberculosis during the film’s postproduction. Had he lived there’s no doubt he would have had a great career.
But there’s also no doubt that Sudhanshu Saria will have a great career if he can continue to make films as tender, insightful and surprising as this one.