Movie review: Lootera may not be epic, but it's worth a watch
Lootera is a quiet love story, more passionate in its whispers and silences than when the cleverest dialogue is uttered.
I walked into the theatre to watch Lootera, ready to be wildly irritated by Sonakshi Sinha in a Son of Sardaar/Rowdy Rathore-esque reprise and a wretched mess of a story. The thing about being such a judgmental movie-watcher, however, is that you run the chance of being pleasantly surprised every once in a while.
It’s 1954. In a fictitious Bengali town of Manikpur, an evening of entertainment is interrupted when the local zamindar's (Barun Chanda) daughter, Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha), has a terrible coughing fit. She’s rushed to her room—which takes ages because their house is so big—given a shot of medicine and waited on by her doting father, who sits by her side fanning her till she wakes up again, recovered.
He then tells her a story of a king who was indestructible because he hid his life in a parrot. So long as nothing happened to that parrot, no one could touch him. But when the parrot was found and killed, (spoiler alert) the king died as well. Pakhi is his parrot, the zamindar tells his daughter. The quiet intensity of this story (much more enjoyable when you don’t have to read the abridged version in a movie review), sets the tone for the film.
Enter Varun (Ranveer Singh), an archaeologist who comes seeking the zamindar’s permission to excavate in Manikpur because he suspects there may be an ancient civilisation below. Not only is he given permission to excavate the hell out of their premises, but also welcomed to stay in the zamindar's house. So he moves in with a friend and colleague (Vikrant Massey).
Vintage Ranveer Singh is gorgeous. Pakhi thinks so too. Somewhere between stolen glances, whispers, art classes and asthma attacks, the pair fall in love. This bit is especially lovely. As they observe each other from afar, too shy at first to make any obvious moves, you in the audience get involved too: staring at a door too long, waiting for Varun to walk in, or him to look up at Pankhi when her eyes are boring into his face (be warned, she does this a lot).
There isn’t really anything substantial that happens to warrant an intense relationship, but you’re willing to let this pass because everything on screen looks so arty, old world and beautiful that you don’t want to ruin it for yourself.
But all this is the obvious calm before the storm. A little into the second half, those familiar with O Henry’s short story (one of my personal favourites) The Last Leaf, will work out how the film ends. Those who are not, get to enjoy Lootera on an extra level. But this is the also the bit where the film—which started slowly, languidly, with no apparent rush to get caught up in any drama—starts to falter, trip into loopholes, and give you enough reason to question the basis of this particular couple’s love for each other.
Lootera is a quiet love story, more passionate in its whispers and silences than when the cleverest dialogue is uttered. The silence and subtlety hang around through the film, whether we’re watching our lead pair falling in love, fighting, or seeing our hero smack in the middle of a chase sequence across town. Surprisingly restrained and effective performances by Sinha (finally, congratulations), Singh (yay!) and the supporting cast, great sets, beautiful cinematography and near-perfect sound design (hello again, Amit Trivedi) all work to make a strong case for your continued patience to stay with the film till the end, even if it does take its own sweet time to come around (and even if it may have slightly tainted one of your favourite O. Henry stories).
Is it more lasting and evolved than Motwane’s Udaan? This I have yet to decide. In the mean while, make a trip to the theatre; it may not be epic, but it's definitely worth a watch.
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