Not A Love Story is the first film from the director, since Sarkar Raj (2008), which comes with a script. The setting is yet more or less wasted, realistically shot, relatively unexplored. Murder takes place in...
Varma does well to pick a fine subject. He does manage to hold your attention. Self-referential Rangeela (as in his own 1995 blockbuster, and its title track) forms the backdrop for the starlet's story. Two versions of AR Rahman's track plays out on the screen. The girl's cellphone wakes up every few minutes to the Rangeela ring-tone. The setting is yet more or less wasted, realistically shot, relatively unexplored. Murder takes place in the first half itself. Filmmakers seem confused over how to take things forward then. The awkwardness shows.
The movie could've been a striking ‘police procedural' (perhaps on the lines of Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday). In published extracts from India's top tabloid editor Meenal Baghel's forthcoming book on the Neeraj Grover case (Death In Mumbai), the writer recounts the unusual calm with which both Maria and Emile had publicly carried on with their lives after Neeraj's murder. These, being normal ‘people like us', not dreaded criminals otherwise.
A perceptive, mild-mannered cop breaks Maria down eventually. Zakir Hussain plays that smart chief inspector. Those few minutes with this character remains the best part of this film. This is before two lovers get suddenly dragged to law court. Parents of the deceased stand around like irrelevant side-notes. Plain gibberish is offered for the story's epilogue. And yeah. Rangeela ring-tone buzzes again. Low angle lunacy takes over. Look: Camera's now attached to a moving car's wheels….
We delve deeper into neither the young dream-chasers of a scary celeb industry nor chilling procedurals of an infamous police case, let alone the juicy tabloid drama that followed it. The narrative is predictably linear. Tsk. Waste. I'd rather read Baghel's book.