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Jan 29th 2022
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Poster LooteraA rare Bollywood film, mounted on a lavish scale and yet dares not to play by the established norms of the marketplace.

'Kya tum mujhse pyaar karte ho Varun Babu? Kam se kam mera dil rakhne ke liye to haan kah do.'
Just think about the last time you heard a heroine saying this to the hero in 100 crore club competing Bollywood offerings. Lines such as these portray the essence of Lootera - simple, pure, straight from the heart, yet struggling and ready to compromise with the least, life can offer.

The similarity with the Rowdy Rathores, Dabanggs, Son of Sardaars, and the likes, ends with the name. Lootera is in a different league altogether.

Story: Varun (Ranveer Singh) comes to the landlord of Manikpur (Barun Chanda) as part of some archeological job in the area. He meets the landlord's daughter Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) during his stay there. He quickly earns the ageing aristocrat’s confidence and at the same time sweeps Pakhi off her feet.

'I cannot draw leaves', the Shantiniketan educated Pakhi tells the charmer, and requests him to teach her. It turns out that he isn't much of a tutor, although he believes that he can produce one last masterpiece. Love blooms during painting classes on a vintage Chevrolet ride and gets a bit physical - wrapped in suffering and agony of parting. On the day of their engagement, the story takes a turn and Varun has to run, leaving behind a betrayed Landlord and Pakhi full of hatred.

After almost an year, Varun and Pakhi chanced upon each other - stranded in a cottage, amidst winter snowfall of Dalhousie. Pakhi has mixed emotions towards Varun, while he seeks redemption.

The story is based on O Henry's short story 'The Last Leaf'. In original story, the part of Varun is done by Behman, a 60 year old painter. (If you have not read the story, please do not google it, if you plan to watch the movie).

Direction: Vikramaditya Motwane has done a splendid job. He impressed everybody with his very first film 'Udaan'. In Lootera he takes his cinema skills to new heights.

Short stories normally are good enough for short films. But, Motwane knows how to extract a superb finished product out of minimum available raw material.

Period films usually mean big budget bonanzas which overwhelm you with expensive sets, elaborate costumes, big star cast, computer graphics and other paraphernalia, as seen in Jodha Akbar or Devdaas (though they had historical backgrounds too). Lootera is different, it charms you and slowly (pun intended) draws you into its lost world.

In one scene, the landlord takes his asthmatic daughter with utmost parental care to her room. Motwane does the same thing with his audience, he carefully takes you into a bygone era. A world of art and antiques, paintings and music, books, poems and babus. Motwane creates a wonderful setup to help audience understand the nature of his characters - the good and the bad. You feel the helplessness of the landlord's secretary to the impending doom about to destroy his employer. You feel the lanlord's loss when he looks at the empty shelves in his house, you can almost reach out and touch the old radio playing 'Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum'. You can sense Varun's dilemma, and experience Pakhi's pain, as the radio plays ‘Tadbeer se bigadi hui’.

Death and desire are two sides of the coin in Lootera, and Motwane builds up an atmosphere of love and longing through touches that leave much unsaid, adding to the allure of the film.

Dialogues by Anurag Kashyap suits the tone of the film. Every single line comes across as soft and real.

The couple in the movie are attracted to each other as they hum a poem of Baba Nagarjun 'Chakki Roi'. How very artistic!

Performance: Ranveer and Sonakshi impress with their acting skills. Ranveer is wonderfully restrained, effortless and delivers a gimmick-free performance. But the star of the film is undoubtedly Sonakshi Sinha. You will take home that pale, struggling, asthma girl, who peeps from the window, and watches the last hope of her life, the single leaf left on a tree outside. A mature and refined performance. She lives the character in body and soul.

All the other actors (though handful) are also good in their individual characters. Every actor in Lootera, irrespective of their screen time, leaves an impression. Be it Divya Dutta as Pakhi's maid, Vikrant Massey as Varun's (Dev Anand's fan) friend,  Adil Hussain as the Police Inspector, Arif Zakariya as Varun's Boss or the most impressive, landlord Barun Chanda. He impresses with every single dialogue.

Music: Lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya and music by Amit Trivedi is another unforgettable experience. The placement of songs and the background score fit perfectly and add up to the divine romance or the loathing betrayal. I particularly like the song 'Zinda hun' (sung by Amit Trivedi himself) played at the climax. It takes you to the peak of the eternal journey of love. It gave me goose bump and a smile with wet eyes.

Others: Photography by Mahendra J Shetty is another positive point of the movie. He recreates the era. The scenic beauty soothe your eyes.
The two parts of Lootera are two chapters: the gold, russet and green of the Bengal landscape turns into pale, snowy, hilly heights of north India. Each is filmed in muted hues by the cinematographer. His contribution to the overall impact of the work is enormous.

Verdict: Lootera is a Bollywood miracle. It's a rare Bollywood film, mounted on a lavish scale and yet dares not to play by the established norms of the marketplace.

Producers (Ekta Kapoor, Shobha kapoor, Vikas bahal, Anurag Kashyap) have been brave to support a film like this. They deserve a bow.
The film may not collect 100 crore at the box office but it will surely win millions of hearts.

Lootera stands apart from every Hindi film released during the last decade. You wouldn't want to miss such a unique cinematic experience
This Lootera has come to rob your hearts. Go, get robbed!


(Rating: ****)


---Sharad Vatss is a movie buff who works for Pepsi.


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