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‘Lootere’ Review: Manages to Consistently Find Its Footing in Choppy Waters

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

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‘Lootere’ Review: Jai Mehta-Hansal Mehta's Show Manages to Consistently Find Its Footing in Choppy Waters

Some shows are impressive purely because of how ambitious they seem; the audacity itself is enough to inspire awe. Jai Mehta (director) and Hansal Mehta’s (showrunner) Lootere is one such show. The last time I felt this way was for Kaala Paani. I believe a show like this can either be a miraculous success or a flaming disaster – perhaps it’s the risk you take with ambition. On that scale, Lootere is primarily leaning towards the former.

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

A still from Lootere.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The show has two central characters – a corrupt Indian businessman Vikrant (Vivek Gomber) who is trying to retain his position as the Mogadishu port president and ship captain AK Singh (Rajat Kapoor). The ship in question holds an important consignment for Vikrant but he soon realises that the ship’s fate is intertwined with his own.

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Deals are made and Somali pirates hijack the ship, putting the entire crew in danger. Lootere, above all, is about the greed and murky ambitions of its men. This makes most of the characters unreliable which makes for great content. Everything that feels predictable might not be.

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

A still from Lootere.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The makers don’t limit the tension to the ship – Vikrant’s wife Avika (a brilliant, domineering Amruta Khanvilkar) is on an, albeit perilous, mission to find her son’s friend Ismail. This premise allows the makers to explore the dynamics between Vikrant and Avika and the unraveling of their marriage. Creating a character that you don’t necessarily root for but whose motivations you can understand within the show’s setting is a tough line to walk and Lootere does it well. Perhaps it’s the Scam 1992 effect.

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For instance, the ship engineer Zafar is firstly presented as a shifty character; one we shouldn’t trust. But soon, we see layers to his character – he doesn’t act out because he’s inherently a bad person. Zafarm like almost everyone else on the ship, acts out of the need to survive. The pirates are led by Barkhad (Martial Batchamen). Batchamen’s performance is one of the show’s best – he is fighting the need to protect his brother while trying to police him, all the while attempting to keep his group in check.

At the same time, Singh attempts to keep his crew’s spirits high even as his own sink. The level-headed Barkhad is contrasted by the abrasive Koombe (Athenkosi Mfamela).

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

A still from Lootere.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Gomber plays Vikrant with an almost campy extravagance – he yells, smokes, schemes, and plots. Like a trapped animal, he lashes out in desperation, trying his best to protect what is important to him. Some of the other actors do, however, outshine him. In his scenes with Kapoor, you notice the effects restraint can have on a performance. This is not to say that one style of acting is better than the other – Rajat Kapoor’s performance is just more effective in this case. Chandan Roy Sanyal is also impressive in his moody nonchalance.

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The theme of gender is also intrinsic to Lootere. It is a man’s world but the show attempts to examine its women too. The two women on the ship (one part of the crew and the other a crewmember’s wife) are asked to hide when the hijack happens. This isn’t the show’s attempt at infantilising the women – deck hand Ayesha’s (Preetika Chawla) fight is one of restraint and barely suppressed rage. For context, Ismail is Avika’s domestic help Are there moments where the violence feels more gratuitous than functional? Yes. Does the show use some of the violence to provoke more than to engage? Yes (especially when it comes to the show’s women).

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

A still from Lootere.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Does the tension slowly lose its appeal in the middle? Also yes. The over-the-top theatrics tend to lose their charm as you continue to watch the show and you will sometimes need to be patient to get your money’s worth. The dialogues are written cleverly – each character gets their own quirks; the way they speak and the words they use reveal tons about the way they wish to present themselves.

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

A still from Lootere.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

I was particularly tickled by the way a father’s disdain for his wayward son is reminiscent of Pankaj Tripathi’s turn in Mirzapur. And yet, there are moments where the dialogues spell out what you’re seeing on screen and (my enemy number 1) exposition tends to rear its annoying head sometimes.

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Lootere is set in Somalia but filmed on the African continent (and the seas of course). Cinematographer Jall Cowasji uses the vast expanses on land and the tight corners of the ship to capture the tension that seeps into every frame.

'Lootere' is directed by Jai Mehta and written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh.

A still from Lootere.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Lootere, from the trailer, was instantly reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips. That would’ve taken away from the show, personally, if I had watched the film recently but it’s been long enough that I can view the homage for what it is. Eight episodes long, the show does test your patience in bits. When the action moves from the Singh-Barkhad-Vikrant hijinks (perhaps too light of a word for the murky waters the show treads), it’s easy to lose sight of the show’s vision. But like I said, sometimes the sheer audacity of a show is enough.

And Lootere is audacious – for better or for worse. Achint Thakkar’s catchy title theme is only the cherry on top.

Only the first two episodes of Lootere are available to stream on Disney+ Hotstar. New episodes are scheduled to release every Wednesday.

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Topics:  Hansal Mehta   Rajat Kapoor 

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