Newbie director Punit Malhotra talks about the making of I Hate Luv Storys, falling in love, and working with uncle Manish Malhotra

He may be best known as Manish Malhotra's nephew who is making his debut with a Karan Johar film, but Punit Malhotra has worked his way towards his maiden venture. Sure, he has had the luxury of getting Dharma Productions to back his first step, a dream lead pair in Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan, and a budget that most others can only pine for, but for Punit, 11 years of slogging behind the scenes as assistant director (sometimes even a rung lower) has culminated into I Hate Luv Storys (releasing on July 2).

The Mumbai boy, who has assisted Karan on Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Amol Palekar on Paheli and Tarun Mansukhani on Dostana as creative director, says that getting Karan to stand by his debut is as good as it gets. “He's a very generous producer and also a great creative head. His being a director helps, though he never interferes. He came to our sets sometimes, but would never sit at the monitor.”

At 28, Punit feels he is two years late for his debut film. “It really didn't take time once I wrote it. That took about four to five months, and when I bounced off the script among friends, they encouraged me to make it into a film. It took me about 10 days to write the screenplay and dialogues, but I was sure that Karan would make a lot of changes.” To Punit's utter shock and happiness, the top boss green-signalled the very first draft!

I Hate Luv Storys is the story of Jay and Simran, who are polar opposites when it comes to belief in romance. Jay is cynical about it, while Simran is all mushy over love and has a very Bollywood idea of the emotion. They both work for a famous director who specialises in romantic films.

The boy eventually falls in love, and how that happens forms the story. “It may sound very clichéd, but it's really a strange situation to be in — to fall in love when you actually don't believe in it,” says Punit. Quizzed on whether it's inspired by some part of his own life as an AD, the young director is quick to refute. “Just the bit about both protagonists being on one film set is borrowed from my life. Nothing else!” he laughs.

By now, he has an inkling of where the interview is headed. So, asked about his alleged link-up with Sonam Kapoor, he goes into denial mode. “I don't know where this came from.”

Possibly from the fact that his hero Imran is engaged to be married, and the director is as hot and dashing as they come. “I swear I haven't put anything out there about me and Sonam. But if you are asking me, the answer is NO!”

Imran and Sonam look good as a couple in the film's promos that have recently gone on air. Imran looks like he might be back on track after a dismal show in the movies post Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na, and Sonam plays a character close to her age and persona for the first time. “Both my lead actors were very easy to be with. In fact, my entire crew was, because we had a very liberal atmosphere on sets. No one was over 30; so, we could go across and talk out issues. The film, too, has retained that casual tone.”

Uncle Manish, who is also close to sealing his own film script, was of great help to the youngster, not just in the costume department. “He was the one who pushed me into this. He aided me throughout the making of the film. Of course, he's done the styling for all my characters,” he says.