Movie Review: ‘Lootera’ - Separation, Solitude and Loneliness

Credits - Film collection

It is a beautiful amalgamation of separation, solitude and loneliness. Having an ensemble cast of beautiful and talented actors- Sonakshi Sinha essaying the role of Pakhi Roy, Ranveer Singh playing Varun Srivastava/ Atmanand Tripathi, Vikrant Massey, Adil Hussain and many others.

Plot - Spoiler Alert!

Somewhere in a small village called Manikpur in Zamindari-era Bengal, 1952 a Zamindar's daughter and a conman posing as an archaeologist run into each other. What follows is a story told in lies, love and silence. 

Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera (2013) categorizes itself as a historical romance and it is. However the way it treats the story it seeks to tell is slightly different from that of usual boy-meets- girl. Lootera treats  romance in a bygone era with loneliness, silence and solitude.

Back when Lootera came out in 2013, it seemed to me a fairly straight forward story of unfulfilled desire set against the backdrop of a Bengal that was still in the throes of its colonial hangover. 

It unfolded around its two protagonists, Pakhi and Varun and their relationship with each other. What stood out, however, was that these two characters loved and longed for each other in isolation. Much of their story is told in the other’s absence and it became a medium for both the unfulfilled reciprocation and the dissociation of their love. 

Character Analysis of Pakhi 

The characters themselves are defined by their removal from the world they inhabit. Pakhi’s introduction to the audience comes about a festive evening, albeit one that she cannot be a part of, owing to her ill-health. 

We see her moving through a long series of empty corridors, retreating further into her own small little world. In the ensuing scenes she lingers, around the periphery of events. 

Her solitude results both from her status in life as a Zamindar’s daughter, as well as her ill health due to tuberculosis. 

Similarly Varun and Pakhi meet each other on a narrow, empty road her car crashes into Varun’s motorcycle. Which is not exactly a run-of-the-mill meet-cute. The camera lingers between them as they examine each other from a distance. 

As Varun makes his way into her home as well as her father’s good books both of them regard each other as a novelty. Varun seems like a worldly mystery to Pakhi, having lived all her life sheltered from the outer world. 

For Varun Pakhi is a quaint charm from a forgotten era, free of deceit and struggle that he regularly engages in for a living. 

“Main usse badla nahin lena chahti, sirf usse bhool jana chahti hoon”

The Cinematography 

The second half of the film, dealing with Pakhi’s failing health , does so in tandem with her conflicting emotions of love, anger and betrayal. Varun’s return in her life  plays out between them in heavy silences, and in more separation still as they live under the same roof yet have precious little to say to each other. 

The camera scarcely shows them in the same frame only their glances at each other when the other is not looking. Ultimately, Pakhi's closure comes not from the same man who she has loved and hated all this time but from his solitary, dying gesture lost in the wind and the snow- a closure that comes not  from the union but from permanent separation. 

How the Theme of Love is addressed in a Different Way 

For a Historical Romance Lootera doesn't take itself too seriously which is a novelty in itself. It doesn't seem to portray the sentiment between its protagonists as the greatest of loves. dialogues are scattered a few and far in between the pair, and there are no moving declarations. 

Instead it focuses on the quiet moments, the spaces between the pair from across the room, the mundaneness of everyday affection and company. Even when alone Varun and Pakhi  love in silence and from a distance. 

The camera work positions them as such that there is negative space between them and more is said in each other's silence and absence than in their togetherness. 

Adaption and the Underlying Theme of how One is Selfless in Love 

The film is adapted from O.Henry’s short story,’The Last Leaf'. In the film this takes the form of a shedding tree outside Pakhi’s house in Dalhousie. she believes that when it has shed its last leaf, she will breath her last. 

Varun, meanwhile, speaks about wanting to paint a great masterpiece and ultimately his magnum opus is a painted leaf tied to a tree, unacknowledged and alone. it is a gesture of his acceptance of his sentiments as he comes back instead of fleeing to paint a single sickly leaf. 

It will remain unnoticed by all except the woman he loves. in the process it keeps her alive to see another day, even if it means his own death. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately Lootera is a bittersweet tail of having loved and lost. Pakhi and Varun are Not the kind of love  that goes down book  nor are they cinematic tragedies. The film Does not offer them sympathy either; it simply chooses to look at their fragility and all of their private suffering , regret, longing. 

Every scene Is a picture perfect scenery. Every glance is rife with a thousand sentiments down to the last scene- a dying man in the snow, his anonymity in death, a woman clinging to the threadbare isolation of life and a forgotten leaf swaying in the snow, tying them both to each other- in life, death and every other lonely thing in life.

My rating for the movie - 5/5

Written By - Manika Gupta

Edited By - Pavas Shrigyan 

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