Bollywood Review: Lootera

Lootera-PosterStarring: Sonakshi Sinha, Ranveer Singh, Vikrant Massey, Barun Chanda, Divya Dutta, Arif Zakaria, Adil Hussain

Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane

The automatic comparison to make to Vikramaditya Motwane’s second film Lootera seems to be his first, the brilliant coming of age drama Udaan, but I’m not sure I agree that it’s fair. Apart from his obvious skill and talent for visual storytelling, the films aren’t similar enough to warrant the comparison. Lootera is as moving and beautifully made as Udaan was, but it’s part of a different genre, set in a different time, and made on a bigger scale.

Set in the 1950s West Bengal, Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) is the daughter of a zamindar (landlord), in a time when rajas and zamindars were losing their wealth and power to the Indian government, because of new laws being passed. One day, a young archaeologist arrives, Varun Shrivastava (Ranveer Singh), keen on digging on their lands, hoping to find remains of an ancient civilization. Pakhi and Varun spend time together, and soon fall in love, but all is not as it seems with Varun and his co-worker Dev (Vikrant Massey), and she is left heartbroken on the day of their engagement.

The characters of Pakhi and Varun are truly quite different from what we’ve seen Sinha and Singh in previously. After playing the obligatory, but small, female roles in masala comedies like Dabanngg, Sonakshi gets a chance to actually do something, and it turns out she can actually act. The film is actually the story of Pakhi most of all, and she manages to carry the film well. She does have a certain child-like quality to some of her expressions, but that’s something that will probably change with age. Ranveer Singh does the shy and quiet type better than you can imagine from the guy who was in Band Baaja Baraat and Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl. I don’t think a simple and sweet character will come as easily to him, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him try. None of the other actors get nearly enough screen time as these two, but Divya Dutta especially would have been nice to see more of.

The film is adapted from the short story, The Last Leaf, by O. Henry, and though I haven’t read it, what I understand is the film just uses the main idea from the story for the second half of the film. Reading the story would probably have ruined the effect the climax has, and so for once I was glad I hadn’t read the source material of a film. The relocating of the setting, and what is added to the plot seems to fit naturally. I appreciated that, though mainly it is a love story, it isn’t written and nor does it play out as if it thinks of itself as some romantic epic, to be remembered along with the greats. It has a sense of humility, that makes it endearing, and more accessible.

The music works for the film in a similar way – it has the simplicity of a bygone era, without forcefully trying to be ‘retro’. The soundtrack and score was composed by Amit Trivedi, and I don’t think I’ve ever liked the background music more than the songs itself in a Bollywood film before. And I really do love most of the songs from the album, though not all of them are used in their entirety in the film. ‘Manmarziyaan’ and ‘Sawaar Loon’ are my favourites, but the music and lyrics of ‘Zinda’ and ‘Shikayatein’ are just as good.

There’s been a bit of talk recently of Bollywood films returning to the times of proper romances. There have of course been many love stories coming out of the Hindi film industry, but there’s usually some other message too. To me, Lootera is a true romance though, and having not known the short story it was based on, I felt the full effect of this beautifully made film. It may not be perfect, but it’s one of the best things to come out this year.

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Lootera is out now.

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