Movie Review: Lootera (Hindi)

To be honest I'm not the one who watches romance sagas, and Lootera, despite being one, is more than your routine girl-meets-boy caper. Yes of course, the girl does meet the boy, and they do fall in love, only that their relationship is doomed from start to finish. Also embedded within this tale of romantic thievery, deceit, betrayal and redemption is an adaptation of O. Henry's short story The Last leaf.

It's the early fifties, just years after India's independence from British rule. In the (fictional) village of Manikpur in Bengal lives Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) with her doting zamindar father (Barun Chanda). And into her carefree life enters Varun (Ranveer Singh), an archaeologist who seeks her father's permission to excavate a certain portion of land for its historic value.

Varun's rakish charm casts its spell on Pakhi, who employs their painting lessons as a pretext to be with him. He falls for her too, and later asks her father for her hand in marriage. Just when everything seems to be picture-perfect, Varun disappears from Pakhi's life leaving her dreams shattered. A year later, she struggles in vain to forget the unpleasant memories and start afresh in Dalhousie. Waiting for death to arrive at her doorstep, she bides her time in isolation.

Fate however has some other plans in store. Varun crosses paths with her once again. But will she forgive him? Will her hate blossom into love again? You will have to watch the movie for the answers. Lootera brings back memories of Parineeta, another period romantic drama set in Calcutta. And for all good reasons. The setting is admirably done, and the attention to detailing is terrific. Certain scenes, like the exchanges between Varun and Pakhi early in the movie, almost have a poetic touch.

If the breathtaking cinematography by Mahendra J. Shetty gorgeously recreates the old world charm, Amit Trivedi's stupendous music (including the background score) adds an altogether new dimension to the subdued romance that's at play. The performances are equally fantastic. Ranveer Singh plays his part well with a restrained act and so do the rest of the cast. Sonakshi Sinha is a revelation. In a break from her usual masala films, she traces the central character's emotional graph and vulnerability in an exceedingly impactful manner.

Director Vikramaditya Motwane, of the critically acclaimed Udaan, delivers another great film that could have been undoubtedly a masterpiece if only he had taken adequate care to suit Henry's short story into his narrative. Its inclusion feels rushed and more like an afterthought, while some scenes towards the end rely too much on coincidences and contrivances. But the biggest disappointment for me personally was the lack of connect. I really couldn't invest in the characters, and Pakhi's heart-rending journey to attain her zest for life didn't touch me the way it did in the story (probably for the above said reasons). All said and done, Lootera is picturesque, subtle and worth a watch for its unique cinematic experience.