O’ Henry’s The Last Leaf was a part of our school syllabus, so having heard that Lootera was loosely based on that, meant I knew a little of what to expect. When I saw the trailers, I wasn’t really impressed, the Bhansali-esque blue frames are really not my thing. One of the things that changed my mind somewhat was the music, especially the song Ankahee and I thought that maybe, just maybe I would watch it. But in the week running up to its release, there was a lot of positive buzz about the film and with so much being said about how it will be a great watch, I decided to give it a go. Certain 5/5 reviews also helped the case.
But the 5/5 reviews are probably more responsible than the actual film for my disappointment. Lootera is the kind of movie, by which film professors can demonstrate cinematic grammar to their students. The frames are well thought out, the colour tones change with the mood of the characters, the background score aids the narrative. The actors are well cast and they make an honest effort.
So if everything is right, why did I feel disappointed? In a way, Lootera was like that perfectly chiselled model, whose looks guarantee eyeballs and hence you decide to cast them in a film, only to realise acting is not just about looks. At no point in the movie, despite a brilliant performance by both the protagonists, did I end up empathising with any of them. I waited for that one moment when my heart would well up, when I would cheer the protagonist on, when I would be so invested in their story as to be eager to know what happens next to them. Instead, I was merely observing the proceedings. And this comes from a girl who can even shed a tear looking at how Deepika Padukone was bullied by her friends in Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwani for being ‘chashmish scholar’. So why didn’t I feel anything? Isn’t Lootera supposed to be a romantic drama and isn’t romance only worth it, if you feel for the characters? But the only character I actually felt something for was the Zamindar’s, a political representation of those times, rather than romantic. The pathos that reading an O’ Henry story evokes was missing.
I kept coming back to this question and it continues to baffle me. Why, when a movie is technically all that it should be, didn’t I feel anything for the protagonists. I imagine it was because I read reviews about how poetic and great it is, I read of how the camera lingers and caresses (which it does in pure cinematic grammar terms), of how it engrosses. And perhaps that was the biggest disappointment, that some of the descriptions in the reviews, were more lyrical and impactful than the movie itself.
Which brings to mind the fact that there is now this clamour amongst a certain group of critics to laud anything that is supposedly ‘different’ as fabulous. From an era of impromptu scripts, the transition to bound scripts that are strictly adhered to, must have been exhilarting for this group that has closely seen the decline of cinematic excellence in the ’80s and ’90s. But that doesn’t mean anything that follows cinematic grammar is a good movie. But, cinematic grammar has become the trademark of film makers, who want to portray themselves as different from the Dharma-Yashraj camp in Bollywood. To that extent, I guess Anurag Kashyap, Lootera’s producer, has succeeded in creating a niche for himself. However, the only trouble is that now if one wants to watch the same old cliched fluff, one watches a Dharma-Yashraj production and if one wants to watch the same old cliched ‘different’ then one chooses a Phantom production. And so despite all the brilliance, Lootera just didn’t move me. Its a good film but not one I’ll remember fondly for making me fall in or out of love.