[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This review does reveal certain elements of the story which maybe considered spoilers. Spoilers spoil the film sometimes.[/box]
Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera is a beautiful period drama set in a newly independent India of the 1950s. An India where many like my own grandfather had to give up their estates with the enforcement of the Zamindari Abolition Act. A new India was born and as the Zamindar mentions in the film the new found freedom eroded their pride and honour along with their wealth. And that simple class distinction is just one of the many subtleties that makes Lootera so beautiful.
Unlike the other period movie I saw recently (yes I am talking about that awful Gatsby movie) Lootera is a simple minimalist piece of cinema. And it’s almost perfect. Some may complain about its pacing but then again this is a different world. It’s 1953 and the characters are still intrigued by something as simple as an electric bulb. And then there’s a bit where the protagonist’s friend Dev Das (Vikrant Massey) does a brilliant Dev Anand impersonation while referring to Guru Dutt’s 1951 film Baazi which starred the evergreen actor. There’s the iconic Ariel motorcycle than Ranveer rides and that 50’s Chevrolet car that Sonakshi sort of drives, adding to the feel.
The first half of the film is bathed in warm colours evoking the elegance and aristocracy that the characters live amongst. And the second half is equally resolute in hues of blue, sort of reflecting upon the mood of the same. Yes it is partially based on O. Henry’s The Last Leaf but numerous elements are created by Motwane. The character of Varun (Ranveer Singh) is not sourced from the story. He’s a con-man who wears Ray Ban Wayfarers and is suavely dressed while he rides around on his equally iconic Ariel motorcycle. He’s almost like an Indian James Dean. Sonakshi’s character Pakhi is based on that of O. Henry’s protagonist Johnsy but even then the character has been intricately adapted to what the daughter of a zamindar would be like in the 1950s. Also pneumonia becomes tuberculosis in the adaptation (Meghe Dhaka Tara tribute?). Apart from looking the part, Sonakshi and Ranveer manage to flawlessly step into the shoes of their character so facilely. Ranveer Singh is probably in his best role ever. He’s subtle, wears his trousers high up and emotes perfectly. Sonakshi too is at her best, the slow paced dialogue delivery and the latent vulnerability in her character is so artfully portrayed. The other actors in the film; Adil Hussain, Vikrant Massey, Shirin Guha, Divya Dutta and Arif Zakaria are spot on in their bits. Barun Chandra as the Zamindar is wonderful in the manner he talks or the way he moves on screen, he brings the aristocracy to life without effort. Having said that, Lootera is not about its characters as much as it is about the feeling they induce in you. That poignant bitter-sweet feeling of an unfulfilled love affair.
This is Motwane’s sophomore film and he excels, Udaan is a film very close to my heart and I thought it would be very hard to live up to that. But he does live up to the hype and all the tweets that Lootera’s pre-release screenings garnered. The script is wonderfully crafted and every-time you expect Motwane to fall through, he excels beyond expectation. The staging and blocking of scenes, the shot composition and the use of leitmotifs in the sound track are so immaculate that you sometimes forget that this is his second film. Cinematographer Mahendra J Shetty is brilliant at what he does, the cinematography goes a long way in establishing the mood and time period of the film. Just that the inconsistent amount of grain in successive frames in many scenes annoyed me a lot; it was distracting me from what was otherwise so beautiful visually. The music and background score too is good but I refuse to believe the fact that Amit Trivedi didn’t flick the theme song from One Day. Bad move Mr.Trivedi, especially since One Day was such a lame movie and Lootera is so good.
In all, I have no idea as to how an audience like ours will take to the film, but I do hope people watch it. For it gives hope to many as filmmakers, critics or members of the audience. This isn’t a masterpiece but it’s almost there.