I had some positive feelings about Lootera until the last 30-minutes or so of the film.
And then all my good vibes came crashing down because of the butchering the late American short-story writer O.Henry’s Last Leaf had to endure at the inept hands of director Vikramaditya Motwane.
Set in the early 1950s, Lootera is adapted in part from The Last Leaf by O.Henry, the nom de plume of William Sydney Porter who died in 1910.
Last Leaf is perhaps the writer’s best story, way better than his Gift of the Magi and After Twenty Years (my other O.Henry favorites). The touching story is about a sick woman’s belief that she’ll die when the last leaf falls off the tree outside her window and how her old neighbor’s sacrifice and “masterpiece” painting saves her life.
The first half of Lootera is about a thief/fake archeologist (Ranveer Singh) stealing the heart of the Zamindar’s daughter (Sonakshi Sinha), robbing a precious idol from the village temple, abandoning the girl and betraying the trust of the Zamindar and causing his death.
But the irony of Lootera is that the second half, adapted from The Last Leaf, is mauled badly negating all that comes before it.
There’s a certain subtlety, charm, tender grace, pathos and, above all, a huge surprise in the ending of The Last Leaf that’s completely missing in Lootera.
In typical Bollywood style, the grace and charm are replaced by a crude, crass, clumsy attempt that shows the injured hero climbing a ladder to the tree, almost slipping off, his blood dripping on the snow, attaching a painted leaf to a branch and finally slipping and falling on his back from a height.
A fall that would shatter any spine, except Ranveer Singh’s!
Despite the heavy fall the already-injured hero suffers in the process of attaching the leaf, we see him a couple of minutes later looking like he’s fresh out of the shower and about to head for a party.
Worse, the heroine’s reaction upon seeing the last leaf beggars belief.
With an asinine smile, the heroine goes down memory lane about her romantic interludes with the hero in the village.
All in all, a depressing affair.
It’s perfectly fine to take liberties while adapting an old story as long as you retain or better the charm of the original.
But in Lootera what the audience gets is a significant deficit of the charm in O.Henry’s moving story.
Besides the bad mauling of O.Henry, there are a few other issues with Lootera.
The biggest issue is that the love angle is introduced in a hurry.
Barely has archeologist/robber Varun Srivastav (one of several names of Ranveer Singh in the movie) entered the village, than love quickly rears its head in the heart of the Zamindar’s daughter Pakhi Ray Choudhry (Sonakshi Sinha).
Is it love or raging hormones and an overactive libido for the girl Pakhi, I wondered.
Considering her strong resemblance to a milch cow in size, gait and nose-stud, Sonakshi Sinha fits the role of a Zamindar’s daughter to a T. After all, the lives of Zamindars and their families were one of opulence and indolence, eating heartily off the labors of the less-fortunate.
Second, although the movie is set in the 1950s we get little external context of the era except the radio playing old songs from Dev Anand films or the hero/heroine driving around in an antique red Mercedes in the village.
And what’s with the half-kiss between Ranveer and Sonakshi.
Either you show a proper kiss, lip-lock and all, or stay away from it!
Sonakshi’s clumsy effort to avoid Ranveer’s desperate lips was extremely irritating.
Nothing to get the bile rising fast than people feigning morality in a hopelessly immoral nation.
Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha show signs of improvement on the acting front. But when you’re at the bottom, anything is an improvement!
Photography and indoor set-design were handled with a finesse not often glimpsed in Bollywood films.
Music melds well without any of the garish excesses of a typical Bollywood film.
If you haven’t read The Last Leaf, then Lootera might appeal to your sentiments and you will likely leave the theatre singing paeans to the movie.
But for discerning souls like yours truly, Lootera showed potential but failed to live up to it!