Lootera: May just manage to steal your heart

MUMBAI: The title, Lootera, is pure mass. That is how it has been used before. But the title is deceptive when used for a pure, period love story. In fact, our man, Ranveer Singh, is not even a lootera, he is simply a conman, an impersonator, whose strings are pulled by someone else, someone nondescript. There is nothing happening through the film‘s first half where Singh romances and seduces Sonakshi Sinha, or is it the other way round? The maker seems to think that the second half is the stroke of genius and the first half is merely wasted to arrive there; the second half is based on The Last Leaf, a story by O. Henry, the celebrated short story writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor.
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane.
Cast: Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha.

Sinha is the only daughter of a Zamindar in Bengal in the post-independence era of early 1950s. She is the Zamindar‘s life. The Zamindar‘s land is limitless and on the land stands a temple with an idol of pure gold, over 200 years old. This is besides a cache of century-old antiques along with British and East India Company era souvenirs stored in the Zamindar‘s private museum.

In walks a government appointed archaeologist, Singh, who thinks there is history buried around the Zamindar‘s temple in the form of ancient artefacts. He and his team need to dig up the area. But the purpose of digging around the temple is to gain access to the temple and steal the original idol and replace it with a fake, gold painted one. Singh‘s fellow gang members also bring a seizure order to take away the Zamindar‘s antique collection from his museum, claiming it belongs to the Indian state. The Zamindar is shown reading newspapers and listening to radio news but it must be Singh‘s charm that he is conned so easily to part with his collection, some of which is even given against fake currency.

Singh has truly fallen in love with Sinha and asks for her hand from the Zamindar, who has no problem with the match. But, on D-day, the groom vanishes and so do all the antiques and the gold idol from the temple.

Shattered, Sinha has moved to the family‘s holiday home at Dalhousie. The Zamindar has passed away due to the betrayal by Singh. Sinha, who gets periodic bouts of asthma, has added tuberculosis as another ailment and is dying a slow death each day. Her father had told her a story about a Bhil warrior who concealed his life in one of the parrots which no one could trace from millions of parrots and hence, how it was impossible to kill him. Her father said his life was Sinha and he would never want anything to happen to her. Peering out of her room in Dalhousie, Sinha has tied her life to a leaf on a tree outside; every fall the tree sheds leaves but one leaf always stays stubbornly on the tree; she would die the day that last leaf fell!

Singh‘s gang is much in news for stealing precious antiques from many Zamindars and kings. Now he is in Dalhousie to steal an over 500-year-old statue from an ex-ruler. He rents a room in Sinha‘s villa. An investigating officer is on the tracks of Singh and his partners and expecting him in Dalhousie. Sinha informs the officer of his arrival. Dalhousie is miles ahead, boasting of operator-free telephones in the 1950s! A chase follows in the by-lanes of the town. Singh is hit by a bullet.The exchange also causes the death of a constable as well as Singh‘s partner. The only place Singh can hide in is Sinha‘s chambers.

The love-hate-love relationship swings once more. Singh has to die for he is a criminal but not before he does something about that last leaf. It should never fall and that is the promise he has made Sinha.

Lootera seems like the maker‘s obsession with O. Henry‘s short story. The first half, which needed the writer-director‘s contribution, has nothing happening.These 65 minutes or so feel like 130.Besides, the film rests on the shoulders of only Singh and Sinha, and one pines for some relief, some variation in this 142-minute-long fare. Singh and Sinha both have given their best. For Sinha, the de-glam look in the second part does half the job. While the background score is very well thought out, Sawaar lun has an old world charm having been tuned in a mid 1950s fashion. Manmarziyan…. Is okay. Photography is pleasing.

Lootera has an old-fashioned love story as its ambience and the era it is based in and needs much patience to watch through. It caters to a discerning few at elite multiplexes.

Policegiri : Over the top action... little substance

Producers: T P Aggarwal, Rahul Aggarwal.
Director: K S Ravikumar.
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Prachi Desai, Prakash Raj, Om Puri, RajpalYadav, Manoj Joshi, Mukesh Tiwari.

Policegiri is a remake of the Tamil film Saamy (2003), made by the same director, K S Ravikumar. Well, remaking a South film is fine, but why is the Hindi version also shot in the South with a horde of local side actors, goons and junior artistes? If you hadn‘t seen Sanjay Dutt and a couple of other faces from the Hindi industry, it could easily have passed off as a dubbed fare. Policegiri follows the South formula in vogue: namely a lot of crowd scenes, a fleet of matching cars, vehicles being blown up sky high and unlimited action.

Dutt is the new DCP in a town ruled by the politician cum local mafia, Prakash Raj, who claims to control innumerable MLAs, MPs and so on. He is into everything illegal that is happening in the vicinity. The only thing that Dutt has earned for his honesty and sincerity is a number of transfers. A showdown between Dutt and Raj is inevitable. But Dutt decides to settle down in his new job first and strike only at the opportune moment.

He is free meanwhile to romance Prachi Desai whose parents are at loggerheads about finding a suitable boy for her. The father being a Muslim wants her to marry a Muslim boy while the mother, a Hindu, will settle only for a Hindu. It seems like Desai has chosen the perfect man for her in Dutt because, as it turns out, his is born of mixed parentage: a Hindu father and a Muslim mother. Talk of twist in the tale. Not that Dutt has much competition, for the other suitor trying to woo her is Rajpal Yadav.

A few fights and few cars blown up carries on in the mean time to keep the pace going as Dutt and Raj mouth claptrap dialogues in the process of playing a game of one-upmanship. What matters is action on some pretext or the other and both sides keep finding reasons for the next fight. If Raj has his gang of goons, Dutt prepares the local people to take on the goons.

In the step towards the final showdown, Dutt destroys all the business places of Raj, eliminates his cronies and proceeds to arrest Raj when the lawmakers as well as his higher-ups try to prevent him. He outwits all of them by spinning an instant fib and goes after the chief villain. But the evil man is nowhere to be found. That is when Dutt remembers Raj‘s status before his rise. He knows where to find him: on the steps of a temple disguised as a beggar from where he started.

If it can be called a story, the film is about the age-old theme of an honest cop vs mafia-politician combine, with a mandatory romance thrown in. With a couple of dances and numerous fight and action sequences, there is little left for the director to do which he does as routine. Action is typical South brand. Dutt looks tired and juxtaposed with Prachi, his age becomes more telling. The music is a mishmash of regional tunes.

Policegiri is an old-fashioned front bench mass fare, okay for smaller centres and Hindi hinterland but not enough to earn back the money spent.

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