Synopsis: Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) is the daughter of a zamindar, living a relatively quiet life writing in 1953 Bengal though she is ill. In waltzes archeologist Varun Srivastav (Ranveer Singh), with whom she inevitably falls in love. But Varun is not quite what he seems, and the love story quickly spirals into something else entirely.
“What does ‘lootera’ mean?”
That’s a question I heard several times.
My tongue-in-cheek answer? Two and a half hours of drawn-out, beautiful depression. (The real answer is that it roughly means a robber/looter, I believe. And that should tell you a lot about the film.)
|You know what they say about falling down...|
"Just sit there and stare at the pretty girl for 5 minutes."
To make it worse, the whole film is severely depressing. *Spoilers* True to the writers-are-depressed stereotype, Pakhi is gravely ill, given to frightening coughing fits every time we begin to forget that she is sick (“life-threatening tuberculosis” is the diagnosis far too late into the film to do our curiosity any good). Varun has a great many of his own issues to work through given that he is actually, well, a literal lootera who is robbing the zamindar blind while also trying to marry his daughter. After all of the heartbreak that they cause, the poor zamindar himself dies of depression and shame for having lost all of his family heirlooms and treasures.
|This movie is slower than a leisurely stroll.|
Pakhi then becomes a recluse, living in a remote house in snowy Dalhousie even though it’s bad for her tuberculosis. Angry at the world, she tells a doctor who advises she go somewhere warmer that everyone dies sometime. She has her life pinned on a tree that is losing its leaves as winter falls. Every day she waits for the last leaf to go so that she can die. So, yes, the film is really as slow as falling leaves.
Perhaps the slow pace is meant to drive home the depression and sorrow, to be as quietly pensive as the recluse herself.
The pace does pick up when the lootera himself is in action, thieving and outrunning police in Dalhousie — because he, inevitably, is there too. But rather than make things more exciting, the faster parts actually drove home how slow the rest of the film really was. And even some of Varun-Nandu-insert-name-here’s scenes were quite painfully slow — as when we have to watch him pull a bullet out of his hip region all on his own without anesthesia (the close-ups on Ranveer’s face make sure we know just how excruciating that is). And fall from the top of a tree not once but twice, somehow not getting killed or seriously injured either time but bursting open his bullet wound so he can limp dramatically on to the film’s climax.
Pain, then, seems to be the film’s main theme. And though we have a sense from the very beginning that someone will die in this film, it’s not quite whom we are led to believe from the start will die. *hint spoilery hint* In true filmi form, the good one lives and the bad one pays.
Pain is perhaps portrayed at the expense of story details. *Spoilers* What is Varun’s motivation? All we are told is vaguely that this thieving crime lord raised him. What has happened to Varun in the elapsed year? We are given a pretty good idea what has happened to Pakhi, but we have no clue what has happened to Varun. How really does Pakhi’s father die? I assume since he’s shown with a glass laid across a table that it’s suicide, but does anyone really know?
Do both Ranveer and Sonakshi do well portraying pain? Yes. They do. Especially Sonakshi (who also looks rather gorgeous throughout). Pakhi goes through every stage of pain and grief from sobbing to lashing-out anger to moroseness with equal weight and realness. Apart from that bullet scene that made me genuinely cringe, I was less impressed with Ranveer (playing his second con artist role?). Yeah, he sheds some tears, but one feels considerably less sympathy even though he’s arguably in an equally bad situation.
While both characters are separately achieving a certain poignancy and release in the film’s climax, one can’t help but compare them and find Ranveer’s performance lacking. It’s not just the difference in circumstances that make Varun’s release less beautiful, though that does contribute.
Overall, I would definitely call Lootera a beautiful film with a gorgeous setting. Would I call it a good watch? Not necessarily.
I’d say what you think of Lootera depends on both your tolerance for depression and pain and your patience.