With Lootere, negatives outshine positives

Rajat Kapoor in Lootere. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Hansal Mehta’s track-record on the web (as Creator / Showrunner / Director) has been quite impeccable. Scam 1992 is probably among the Top Five Hindi web series of all time, and Scoop was also superlative. As overseer, even his Scam 2003 was commendable.

However, with Lootere, he mixes a web series with a TV soap, and the negatives too outweigh and outshine the positives.

The negatives first: The series, directed by his son, Jai Mehta, who also co-directed Scam 1992, plods on many an occasion, with repetitious content, especially on board the ship that occupies centerstage. While some suspense bits are gripping indeed (a few of themeven edge-of-the-seat) we soon become a shade restive when the same kind of (often) predictable sequences recur.

Next, the series is a dominant part of what I call ‘The Great Web Series Fraud” (see newsindiatimes.com, March 30) inflicted upon followers of web series (and very few shows have prompted viewers to binge-watch as the two mentioned above!). A new episode is being introduced every Thursday, just like any TV serial. Mehta should have put his foot down if the platform had given him this option, or alternatively, the channel (which is by now as infamous for slicing web shows as for showing interminable ads every few minutes!) should have shown a better sense of fair play for viewers.

The story is complex. We have a megalomaniac businessman, Vikrant (Vivek Gomber) in Somalia, where law-and-order is almost absent. He is the Port Authority Chairman and is standing for re-election, confident of a win even among the blacks. He is amoral, selfish to the extreme, and his Achilles Heels are his wife (Amruta Khanvilkar) and son (Varin Roopani).

Vikrant is smuggling in guns for militant terrorists for big money aboard a liner, in cahoots with the shipping company’s owner (Pankaj Raina)’s son Ajay (Chandan Roy Sanyal). The ship is Indian and has an Indian crew with three members from Pakistan and Bangladesh. When news of the contraband is in danger of leaking out, which can scuttle Vikrant’s chances of being re-elected, the man wants to ensure that the ship does not sail into town. What he cannot foretell is a gang of pirates capturing the boat. And the ship’s crew are ignorant of their dangerous cargo.

The rest of the shenanigans are all about the complex web of interactions between Vikrant, his rivals and enemies, his allies, the pirates, and above all the ship’s crew including two women, one of whom is in an advanced state of pregnancy. And the guns and politics involved about them.

I decided to watch the series only six episodes were screened, for I had read on TV that Season 1 was of 6 episodes. But at the end of those episodes, I realized that the next one will come on April 25 and now ‘Season 1: 7 episodes’ is what is shown!! Only Hansal and Hotstar know how many are to come, and what the term ‘Season 1’ means, for I do not see, as of now, scope for a Season 2!

Get the point? There is no difference between this web series and a weekly serial!

Next, the series becomes unnecessary and unpalatably vicious. Where was the real necessity of showing a man brutally attacking a watchman who was actually innocent and repeatedly hammering his head. In a fit of rage, Vikrant also slices off the arm of a traitor and shoves the end of a burning cigarette onto his severed arm! Yucks!—I mean, have we entered Anurag Kashyap-Ram Gopal Varma-Vishal Bhardwaj terrain now??

Three, the plot has its share of flaws that I will not reveal here in the interests of Hansal Mehta’s die-hard fans and thriller addicts.

Now for the positives. The plot is fresh, so is the backdrop (Somalia as well as the ship), and the first four episodes (which I am told were shot at one go) are very riveting and emotionally charged. The sequences between Vikrant and his self-willed and idealistic wife and son, and also the interplay between the ship’s crew members after the hijack and also those between the prates themselves all show material that is enthralling.

I liked most of the spoken words by the characters and Hansal Mehta and Jai Mehta are great at extracting exceptional performances. Over here, it is great to watch even the pirates (all played by blacks) also fit into the Indian sensibilities of acting at a shade higher level without going needlessly melodramatic.

Of course, the standout performances belong here to Amruta Khanvilkar as Vikrant’s wife, Chirag Vohra as his right hand, Gupta, and Rajat Kapoor as the intense ship captain, A.K. Singh. Vivek Gomber is okay as Vikrant, as is Chandan Roy Sanyal as Ajay, but most of the other Indians are better, notably Abhishekh Khan as Mudit Jain and Harry Parmar as the Pakistani Zafar.

Among the blacks, Chris Gxalaba as Taufiq and Martial Batchamen Tchana as Karim Barkhad stand out, and Athenkosi Mfamela is the only one made to ham as the crooked Koombe.

The standout technical feature is the solid background score and title music by Achint Thakkar, a terrific genius among musicians today. Big pats are also due for   cinematographer Jall Cowasji and the production designer, make-up and costumes and the VFX people.

But the overall effect is that these few positives really cannot divert us from the even stronger, predominant negatives.

Regardless of how the rest of the story and series pan out!

Disney+Hotstar present Karma Media & Entertainment’s Lootere  Created by: Created by   Hansal Mehta & Shailesh R. Singh  Showrunner: Hansal Mehta Produced by: Waris Thakur, Ruchira Janwalikar, Ganesh Mandapeli & Aditya Singh  Directed by: Jai Mehta  Written by: Anshuman Sinha, Vishal Kapoor & Suparn Verma  Music: Achint Thakkar  Starring: Vivek Gomber, Rajat Kapoor, Amruta Khanvilkar, Martial Batchamen Tchana, Athenkosi Mfamela, Gaurav Sharma, Chirag Vohra, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Chris Gxalaba, Abhishekh Khan, Harry Parmar, Preetika Chawla, Gaurav Paswala, Varin Roopani,  Aamir Ali, Ananth Mahadevan, Geetanjali Gill, Siyabonga Stobgais, Tafara Nyatsanza, Malibongwe Mdwaba, Mamello Makhetha, Deon Nebulane, Anele Matoti & others









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