Starring: Sonakshi Sinha, Ranveer Singh, Barun Chanda, Vikrant Massey, Adil Hussain, Divya Dutta
Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane
A stranger who comes from nowhere to steal your heart, a raging passion, betrayals and deceptions, regrets and disappointment, dejection spilling over to turn into near-hatred and the redemption and eventual understanding and acceptance of the impossibility of togetherness. The passage of lovers in Lootera took me back to a similar journey that Dev Anand and Geeta Bali went on in Guru Dutt’s Jaal. Rather, it made me long for it, and for its intensity, passion and fervour. The supposed aches, pains and melancholia of lovers remain contained and implied in Lootera, their relationship does not reach out and grab. It’s said that a lamp is at its brightest just when it’s about to go out. The love story of Lootera too comes alive towards the end. Did the terse beauty of O. Henry’s classic short story get too scattered due to the compulsion of spreading it over two halves with an interval thrown in between? Did the intimacy and interiority get lost in the sheer scale?
Right from the first cough you know where things are headed. Set in the ’50s, in the world seeing the arrival of electricity and a fading away of the zamindari system, Lootera is also reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar. And this, perhaps, is the more interesting part about the film. Not the protocol and etiquette of love so much as the gaze that the camera casts on a way of life going into oblivion and an individual’s poignant attempt to cling on to it. There’s the gentility, unspoken hierarchies, aristocratic bearing and a powerhouse of a performance from Barun Chanda as the zamindar father of Pakhi (Sonakshi). Into this world enters an archaeologist, Varun Srivastava (Ranveer), and turns everything upside down, both outside and inside Pakhi’s heart. The most affecting part is when the zamindar tells him: ‘Desh angrezon se azaad ho gaya aur hum azaadi se barbad’. Varun is the new order taking over from him once and for all, and the zamindar can do little to stop his march. Beside Barun Chanda, it’s Sonakshi who owns the film with her fetching presence and charming affectations. Ranveer’s whispers and mumbles get more jarring than profound and two good actors, Adil and Divya, get lost in pint-sized roles.
From Baba Nagarjuna’s poem Kayi dinon tak chulha roya to Baazi song Apne pe bharosa hai to ye daanv laga le, on the surface everything seems just right with Lootera—flawless, measured and impeccably precise in each and every frame. And yet something just doesn’t give, remains curiously remote, inert and unmoving. The film gives the impression of being substantial but doesn’t stay on in the mind, and heart, for long. Lootera has just the right construct of a classic but stops short of becoming one. And that’s such a loss—there, yet not quite.