When I first saw the gory but compelling trailer for Love Hostel, it had me rooting for Sanya Malhotra and Vikrant Massey, playing the eloped pair, Jyoti Dilawar and Ahmed Shaukeen. The two actors, who had been absolutely brilliant in their past works, were, of course, the focal point of Shankar Raman’s crime thriller.
The recent film, set in Haryana, begins with an introduction to an assassin (Bobby Deol), who believes he is doing a service to society by eradicating the "gandagi," that is, inter-faith or inter-cast marriage.
The latest prey of his "social work" is Jyoti, the granddaughter of a Jat-Hindu powerful politician, and Ahmed, the son of a Jat-Muslim butcher. The former flees from her wedding and plans the next course of action with Ashu and her friend. Meanwhile, Viraj Singh Dagar, portrayed by Bobby Deol, is hired by Jyoti's family to hunt down the eloped couple.
Truth be told, I tuned into the film to watch the powerhouse actors, Sanya and Vikrant, but (surprisingly), Deol kept me hooked for almost the entire film. Sanya and Vikrant, as expected, do not let us down in the cat and mouse chase, but Deol owns the character this time.
Also, it made me think that this splendid actor was hidden in plain sight all these years. Or more like, behind the stereotypical, simplistic roles we often saw him playing.
For over two decades, Bobby Deol has appeared in some popular cinematic projects and a few miseries. Until he was re-discovered in Prakash Jha’s crime drama series Ashram two years ago. The actor got a second lease on life with this project, but we are definitely glad that Shankar Raman imagined him as Dagar, the cold-blooded gun-for-hire.
In the opening scene of the Zee5 film, Dagar, who is a hitman on the prowl, hangs a young couple who fled to get married. And while the character does so, he has clearly no remorse in his eyes.
As the film proceeds, you witness how the actor has gotten into the skin of a character to create an absolutely emotionless killer. Although the film doesn't win us over with its storytelling, as it did have some loose ends, Deol plays his role almost to perfection.
The script lacked the depth which could have moulded Dagar into a much stronger character than he already was. At a certain point, when you are waiting for the apathetic hitman to evolve beyond the bloody shootouts, you realise it is just going to be a robotic killing spree. The plot moves ahead, but on a single track with barely any character arc. And excessive violence, initially necessary to set the plot, takes over the storyline, which soon turns bland.
However, when you meet the eyes of his unpitying character for the first time, a chill runs down your spine. Simultaneously, you also see how Bollywood has underused the actor all this while.
But this comes as no surprise. Ever since OTT has taken over, several actors—prominent as well as underrated—have redeemed themselves by taking up more fitting roles. Filmmakers are shedding the archaic view of these actors and reimagining them as seldom-seen characters, namely Sushmita Sen in Aarya, Saif Ali Khan in Sacred Games, Raveen Tandon in Aryanak, and many more.
Lately, it might seem like a trend that has pushed creators to rope in almost forgotten actors from the '90s, but it has given exceptional outcomes so far.
In the last few years, Bobby Deol remained relevant in pop culture through the relished memes hailing him as 'Lord Bobby’. The actor's recent role, which was his most lethal character to date, could clearly be labelled as his best yet. Love Hostel may be regarded as a watershed project for the actor, who would probably be hailed for his acting prowess from now on.