I always thought there are two kind of filmmakers in Bollywood. One who make films that they believe in, for themselves, without worrying about big budget or stars, like say, a Anurag Kashyap or Dibakar Banerjee. And then there are filmmakers who make mindless mass ‘entertainers’ in order to boast about a 100 crore profit, like, a Sajid Khan or Rohit Shetty.
And then, I met the third kind.
Vikramaditya Motwane. He had made his directorial debut with ‘Udaan’ in 2010, a low budget masterpiece with no big stars to boast of. It not only worked with the critics, but also with the audience, it not only garnered profit, but also accolades and awards.
‘Lootera’ is the director’s second attempt, and he proves his mettle yet again. On the entire journey back home, I didn’t speak a word. There was an eerie silence inside the car. We were returning home after watching a late night show.
Last time a Bollywood movie that had made such an impact on me was ‘Rang De Basanti’. I remember returning home stone-faced, without a word spoken. But this silence was different than that silence. That had made my blood boil. This made my heart wrench. That had taken the patriot out of me. This squeezed out the lover, the poet.
Lootera is not your average Bollywood potboiler. It has been made with a lot of love. And, it shows. Each frame is like a picture perfect post card. Almost as if it is a painting made by the film’s protagonist Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha). The cinematography by Mahendra J Shetty deserves a standing ovation. Be it the beautiful rural landscape of Manikpur, to the grainy night shots inside the car, to the pristine white snow in Dalhousie, to the conversation between the lovers through a mosquito net, to the last leaf on Pakhi’s tree, to the shot where Varun falls from the tree while tying the leaf – every frame deserves two thumbs up. Without such a marvelous DoP, Lootera wouldn’t have been what it is.
Loosely based on a simple short story by O. Henry called ‘The Last Leaf’, the film is a period drama set in erstwhile Bengal and North East India. The opening scene with Durga Puja in the backdrop, where a Jatra (a form of folk theatre prevalent in Bengal) is being performed, we are introduced to the Roy Chaudhuri family in Manikpur. I won’t lie, but the bengali in me got excited like a child. I smiled, clapped and mouthed the bengali lyrics throughout the movie.
Soon, a conman posing as an archaeologist, Varun Shrivastav (Ranveer Singh), comes to the estate of this 1950s zamindar (played by veteran Bengali actor Barun Chanda), with the intention of stealing all his possession. Enter zamindar’s young and beautiful daughter Pakhi. They fall in love.
What can I say about Varun Shrivastav? I have always thought of Ranveer Singh as an actor who can only play the role of a typical Delhi brat; characters who speak in Haryanvi accents and are illiterate and brash. After all, that’s what his previous two movies ‘Band Baaja Baraat’ and ‘Ladies v/s Ricky Behl’ portray him as. I never thought I would see someone like him in such an avatar. But, I’m so glad he shattered my notions. He has never looked so desirable. My heart fluttered for him. Ached for him. I could feel Pakhi’s pain.
In Lootera, he has proved his potential and versatility as an actor, and how! The way he underplayed his character, the body language, the dialogue delivery – brilliant. I hope he wins the ‘Best Actor’ award this year. Even if he doesn’t, I hope his performance doesn’t get insulted, by nominating Shah Rukh Khan for ‘Chennai Express’ in the same category. Now, I can’t wait to see him in Bhansali’s upcoming ‘Ram Leela’.
Sonakshi Sinha is also the surprise package here. The actor who has the ‘100 crore film’ tag pasted on her, pulls off the character of the love struck and sweet Pakhi, with great aplomb. She lives in a sheltered world, but you can see her pining for independence as she secretly drives her father’s car. Who will say this is the same woman who starred in films like ‘Rowdy Rathore’, ‘Joker’ and ‘Son of Sardar’, films known for it’s mindless, masala content?
Motwane takes a risk with his two lead actors, and it pays off, beautifully. In fact, now that I have seen the movie, I cannot imagine anyone else as Varun and Pakhi, but them. The subtlety, the sweetness; for once didn’t appear too melodramatic or fake. So much is conveyed through eyes, and silence. The picnic scene in particular, where the couple is gently teased by their friends, or the scene where Pakhi jokingly drops hot tea on Varun’s hand. There were some jaw dropping moments for me. There were some teary-eyed moments too. There were moments I had butterflies in my stomach. And, there were moments where I smiled.
The supporting cast is extremely commendable too. Barun Chanda as a loving father and a zamindar who slowly loses their once prestigious estate, is excellent. Vikrant Massey, who plays Dev, Varun’s friend and partner in crime, also plays his part perfectly. And then there is Adil Hussain as the courageous police officer and Divya Dutt as the maid. Everyone does a top notch job.
Coming to the most beautiful part of the film. Amit Trivedi, I truly love you. You never fail to amaze me. May I say, he carried almost the entire film single handedly on his able shoulder? The haunting background score, the melodious songs, it all just adds to the riveting story line, and eventually the climax. ‘Monta Re’, ‘Manmarziyan’ and ‘Zinda hoon yaar’ strikes a chord, keeps lingering around, eventually stays with you, and refuses to leave, long after the movie ends.
I like the small details in the movie. Like the art direction, the lighting, the props, that compliments the period setting. The old radio playing Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum, the big black telephone, creates nostalgia.The flashback sequence in which the couple share a tender moment together which has now become an aching memory for Pakhi, gives goosebumps.
“Ladke ne ladki ko bataya ke woh kitni sundar hain. Ke usse sundar duniya mein koi nahi?,” he asks.
“Ladki ne ladke se bola ke woh duniya mein sabse zyada usse pyaar karti hain?”
“Toh woh kab bolegi? Kab bolegi?”
The dialogue hints at how their once shy-furtive-glances-relationship is now slowly transforming into deep, meaningful love. The scene acquires a dreamlike, almost spiritual state with the hazed frames, through the mosquito net, as if to imply that the two are indeed in another world when they’re with each other. It is so effortless and smooth to fall in love. That shows.
An ailing Pakhi tells herself she will die when the last leaf of the tree outside her window, falls. Varun tells her, it won’t. Ever. You live. With them. You die. With them.
You know, I generally don’t cry for heroes who die in a film. Last time I did that, was when Jack drowned in the cold Atlantic Ocean, while Rose survived floating on a plank. I was 10 then. I am 25 now, and I cried. Not the same kind of tears that you shed at the end of a ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, when Shah Rukh Khan dies. These are silent tears, that makes a heart bleed.
The chase sequence and the montage before pre-interval are pure class. Motwane has that unique ability to show a lot through one song, with the help of montages. He did the same in Udaan’s climax with the song ‘Azaadiyaan’ playing in the background.
Yes, the pace drops in some parts, but I’m ready to overlook the so-called-glitches, especially for the last half and hour of the film. You can argue with logic as well. How can a person survive a week with a bullet wound, climb a tree, and also nurse his beloved? How can a girl fall in love with the same man again, after knowing what he did to their family? But, I will just ask you one question, like Rishi Kapoor did in ‘Karz’. Have you ever been in love? You forgive in love. It is surreal, almost. Sometimes, logic, societal pressure, and the ‘right thing to do’ takes a backseat.
Lootera is a must watch for people who are not a staunch believer of booking Salman Khan movie tickets in advance. It is cinematic art. A visual treat. In the end it was Motwane who drew the masterpiece – beautiful, picturesque, earnest and poignant. Movies like this should be made more often. Movies like this make me feel like making a film someday.
When the car stopped in front of my house, he finally looked at me and said, “You have not spoken a word. I have never seen you so quiet. What happened?”
“You’re my last leaf,” I muttered.