It has been a long time that Bollywood has seen such a gentle, natural and heart-breaking love story like Lootera. Amidst the noises of Jawaanis, Deewanis and the like, director Vikramaditya Motwane’s second directorial venture stands out with its subtlety, sheer beauty and exemplary craft. The storyline is predictable, not even a bit complicated. Why, the title itself gives away the only twist in the story. But Motwane manages to keep viewers glued to their seats with the way he chooses to tell the story.
Lootera opens in Bengal of 1953, where we meet a zamindar (Barun Chanda) who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his empire is being taken over bit by bit by the government as the Zamindari system is being abolished. While he can’t convince himself that “duniya badal rahi hai”, his only daughter, the young, playful and lively Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) wonders what the government would do with their beautiful gardens. The father is doting and the daughter loving, and their relationship is portrayed beautifully onscreen. Enters the Lootera Varun Shrivastava, an archaeologist who wants to excavate on the zamindar’s land and impresses both father and daughter with his love for poetry and literature. He sweeps the wide-eyed girl off her feet with his broody, mysterious ways. But of course, he was there on a mission and he couldn’t stay. Although he tries, he has to leave and break a few hearts in the process. And, when he does return, life has changed quite a bit for both of them. Both Varun and Pakhi know that there would be no happily ever after, but they manage to hold on to all that they have.
Motwane takes immense care to ensure that Varun’s and Pakhi’s love story is understated, subtle and natural. There are no unnecessary dialogues as the long silences between them speak volumes and the looks in their eyes conveys a lot. Who would have thought that the same man who played the loud-mouthed street-smart Bittoo from Band Baaja Baraat could pull off the role of the serious, calm and secretive Varun? Or that the Dabangg beauty Sonakshi Sinha would be able to play the vulnerable and innocent Pakhi? Motwane’s vision and his confidence in his lead actors’ talent is what makes the film a success. Both Sinha and Singh have bagged roles of their lifetimes and have done justice to them giving career-best performances. The only put-off was Singh’s dialogue delivery, which was a bit too soft. Considering Lootera is a film that is sustained by its silences and whispers, I wish Singh hadn’t whispered so much.
The film excels in all major departments—art, music, costume—but of course it would not have been the same without Mahendra J. Shetty, the talent behind the camera. Every frame of the film is nothing short of a painting—be it the earthy glow of rural Bengal or the white, frozen emptiness of Dalhousie. The music flows from scene to scene as an important narrative device and Amit Trivedi deserves praise for some soulful songs like Monta Re (with its Bengali flavour), Sawar Loon, Manmarziya and Zinda. While the makers have skilfully avoided all music in some crucial scenes (to very good effect), there are a few in which the background music dominates the happenings onscreen and distracts the viewer. But that is just a small speck in the otherwise enchanting and in-a-very-different-way entertaining film.
Lootera is such a delight to watch, thanks to impeccable performances delivered by each and every actor. Apart from the protagonists, the film boasts an extremely talented lineup with Adil Hussain, newcomer Vikrant Massey and Barun Chanda. But my favourite was Divya Dutta, who put up such an intense performance in a part with, perhaps, the least number of dialogues in the film.
The film is slow-paced and it is meant to be that way. The only point Lootera falters a bit is when it tries to do justice to its original inspiration O. Henry’s short story The Last Leaf. Even without invoking this source, Lootera had managed to impress the viewer on its own strengths. Unfortunately, even a director as talented as Motwane, is unable to satisfactorily bring the symbolism in the words of the master storyteller on screen. Lootera ends on a bittersweet note leaving you with a smile that stays for long. Watch it if entertainment means more than loud music, senseless dancing and hysteric acting to you. Lootera is as real as it gets and Motwane gifts you an almost perfect cinematic experience.
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Barun Chanda, Vikrant Massey, Adil Hussain, Divya Dutta