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Archive for August, 2014

 Review-of-Lootera-2013

“How sad and bad and mad it was/ But then, how it was sweet!”

Once in a while, I come across a love story that is so spellbinding that for days I feel consumed by it. My imagination is aroused, my emotions are engaged. I feel dreamy and uplifted and shattered. A strange sense of elation sweeps over me and takes me to a lofty, secret place. Lootera is that kind of story.

Much has been said about this film… but, I just wish to reflect on the aspects that etch themselves in my mind. I want to brood on the simplicity and heartbreaking loveliness of Lootera… on the way it portrays love and complexity in a bittersweet relationship. I wish to remember its earthiness, whimsicality, even its imperfections and dark overtones…….. the moments of transcendence, and its stark beauty. I want to think about some of the possible interpretations of the visual, verbal nuances and gestures in the story.

I have to admit that Lootera is not altogether perfect. Very few films are. And, one that attempts to recreate The Last Leaf by O’Henry is already treading a very difficult terrain. For it requires a great deal of genius to transform that short masterpiece of a story into an equally wonderful and heartwarming piece of cinema. But, Lootera comes pretty close.

The lyrical strains of Sawaar loon and the unfolding scenes of the song…. the poetic ambience of days long past, the quaint style, the sensuous pace… everything takes the viewer to a different, more romantic world. The woman gracefully braiding her hair and admiring herself in the mirror… she casting delicate yet speaking glances at the darkly dashing man… he answering her looks, sphinxlike yet yearning…. fascinating!

He is attractive and mysterious. She is beautiful and pampered. He has a gray past and she has lived a most sheltered life. He has a quietness about him… while her eyes are alight with mischief and life. He is like a powerful gust of wind that shakes her world. And, she is like a trickle of cool water that seeps into his soul, slowly and surely.

The scene where Pakhi meets Varun is such an arresting one. She hesitantly peeps out of the car window, after the accident, and sees him struggling with the fallen bike, before sitting with his back against a tree. She is immediately intrigued by the handsome stranger. Varun’s face is quite inscrutable when he sees the radiant Pakhi, but is obviously struck. That night, Pakhi stands before the light bulb and keeps switching it on and off…. her face a mirror of unadulterated joy. Every soft look, every unsaid word, every small gesture acquires a meaning. Even the poem that they recite together, when Varun visits Pakhi’s home…. underlines the fact that something rare and glorious has happened.

Sonakshi as Pakhi, is beautiful and luminous…. the spark in her eyes, the warmth in her smile, her spirit, her genuineness, even her frailty. At the picnic, when she half reclines on the ground, playing carelessly with her hair… when she just looks at Varun… she resembles an enchanting and enigmatic mermaid… who is waiting for her lover.

Ranveer as Varun, has never been so smart or interesting. The clean-shaven chin and back-brushed hair make him look like a man of the world. He carries with him a whiff of adventure, something unknown and exciting. He is also brooding and brings a certain edgy intensity to the proceedings. Varun is self-serving and yet, when he glances at Pakhi, it is not with indifference or even mild interest alone. The more he tries to disguise his feelings, the more he reveals… the slow burn in his eyes, the hesitation and shyness in his infrequent smiles, his lapses into complete silence… all tell a story.

Despite his better judgment, Varun agrees to become Pakhi’s drawing teacher. Armed with a book, he thinks of teaching… but mainly, he hopes to be near Pakhi. A hope that he conceals from himself too, perhaps. The scene where he tells her that drawing leaves is easy and then proceeds to paint, blithely heedless of his lack of skill… and she looks on amused… is a very endearing one. It shows his vulnerability, an innocence in him.

Varun admits to Pakhi that he does not know painting and becomes her student instead. The time they spend together only draws them closer still and seals the bond between them. They talk of their innermost wishes. She wants to write. He wishes to visit chandrataal and paint a masterpiece that will grant him immortality. He confides his feelings for Pakhi to his friend, Dev, who gently reprimands him and tells him that he does not have the privilege to be in love. Varun rages in silence but accepts the truth of Dev’s words.

Pakhi is, at first, angered and hurt by Varun’s rejection but when she learns about his imminent departure, she cannot help but go to him. The night scene stands out because it is so fraught with emotion and passion. There is also a simplicity or artlessness in the way Pakhi offers herself to her lover and asks him to stay. He is powerless in the presence of such devastating honesty. The soft click of the door closing is more staggering than a sharp gunshot.

The soulful lovemaking scene engenders much hope for the young couple. And yet, Varun is fated to betray Pakhi and everything she holds dear. For a while he is tempted to pursue his own happiness, his love… but soon realizes that his past would catch up with him and she may only be left with loss and loneliness. So, he leaves. Just like that.

They meet again, of course. However, this time the setting is very different. Manikpur was bright and sunny. Dalhousie is gray, with snow all over. This half of Lootera imparts a keen sense of desolation, hopelessness. The once cheerful Pakhi is now sullen and mournful. She dwells on her ill-health and Varun’s betrayal. Anger and hatred consume her, day and night, and she agrees to participate in a police plot to nab the lootera. This in turn leads to the shocking scene where Varun, in the haze and heat of the moment, pulls the trigger on his one and only friend, Dev.

The scene where Pakhi crouches behind a curtained door watching Varun, who is standing outside. He notices the open window and is strangely pulled to it. The way he just stands still and stares at the emptiness…….. as if a powerful force is holding him in a thrall… so compelling! Later, after Dev’s death, Varun storms into the house to confront Pakhi… as if he always knew that she was there.

By this time, Pakhi’s rage has dwindled but she cannot bring herself to forgive or hope. Her mood is as dismal as the weather and she keeps counting the falling leaves of the tree, outside her window, convinced that when the last leaf falls, she will die. She broods on the story that her father had once told her… about a Bhil warrior king whose life was preserved in a special bird. His foes send him a wife, who finds the bird and kills it and thus, slays the king too. Pakhi, in her lonely state, likens herself to the Bhil warrior, who is destroyed by the one he loves.

Anyone who is familiar with The Last Leaf would not be surprised by the ending of Lootera. Varun is consumed by guilt and even though he could escape Dalhousie to save himself, he chooses to stay. The last few scenes of the lovers together are fraught with much emotional violence and upheaval. Varun has to force Pakhi to even take the medicine that will save her life. She fights Varun with all the power of her bruised and beaten soul.

Pakhi is immersed in her dark world but she is concerned about Varun and refuses to give him up to the authorities. Perhaps, she understands his past, even forgives him a little… but, she cannot emerge out of her abyss of hopelessness. Only the falling leaves hold some sort of interest for her. At last, only one leaf remains, wavering in the cold winter landscape. When Varun realizes that the falling of that leaf would spell the end for the downhearted and wasted Pakhi, he acts at once. The leaf that Varun paints looks like it has been hand drawn by an artless child… but as it flutters triumphantly in the morning breeze, it becomes a symbol of his love for Pakhi, his penance for all past betrayals. It becomes his masterpiece.

At the end, Varun lies lifeless on the snow but, he has managed to waken the light of hope in Pakhi’s eyes. She smiles now. Perhaps, she will even write the books that she always wanted to write.

It is clear why Varun leaves. He cannot endanger Pakhi any more. But, why does he court death? Why does he not simply surrender? Is dying the final penance? Or, does he think that there can be no happiness, no future?

It may also be that Varun has finally found peace.

Love has been beautifully depicted in Lootera. It is childlike and strong, playful and enriching. It is flawed, quiet, poignant and passionate. Love is hatred and rage. Rest, understanding and forgiveness. But ultimately, it is the depiction of love as sacrifice that makes this film so magnificent and heartbreakingly sweet.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 [Violet Dolui]. All Rights Reserved.

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