An archeologist comes to a small town. His plan is to excavate in and around the village’s very old but still being used temple. He believes there are artifacts of an ancient civilization beneath the temple grounds.
This man and a woman will meet. She, Pakhi, is the daughter of the wealthiest man in town who is what you could call a land-baron, or in the term used in the film – a Zamindar. He, Varun, is the archeologist who travels via a motorcycle.
How do they meet? She is taking driving lessons in the family car, and is going this way. He’s coming into town from the opposite direction. Unsure of herself behind the wheel, she over-steers, so he must veer sharply off the road and crashes into a tree by the roadside.
They take him to the village doctor who will patch him up with a single band-aid on the forehead and pronounce him fit.
Soon this archeologist presents himself at the home of the Zamindar to present his documentation and request the rights to start the archeological dig. He is invited to dinner, and we discover he is erudite, well read, and very charming.
She is playful as well as spoiled. She is flirtatious as well as something of a liar. But the archeologist does not refute her story, that the chauffeur was driving. So the father is impressed and invites the young man to stay with them in their large house rather than in his current lodging at the Circuit House, a hostel for travelers.
And so begins Lootera, easily one of the best romance films I’ve ever seen. And easily, one of the best films of this year.
Now this is not one of those traveling salesman /farmer’s daughter type of deals. Nor is it a romantic comedy. Nor do the leads break into song and dance.
The film is set in 1953. In India. In Manikpur, West Bengal. The stars are Ranveer Singh as Varun, the archeologist, and Sonakshi Sinha, as Pakhi, the beautiful daughter. Both of the leads are actually playing against type. Also in the cast is Adil Hussain who also played in Life of Pi and English Vinglish. In 1953, India was just 5 years into its independence. Times were changing. Electricity is introduced into the area, and the large baronial estate is the first to have it.
On the political front, times were also changing. A law has been proposed. It is the Zamindar Abolishment Act. This law, if passed, would allow the government to reclaim lands and properties held by the Zamindars across the country for centuries. Of course, not all Zamindars were despots. Which was the case in this town.
Pakhi’s family supported the arts, and such events as dance recitals, music recitals, and even theatrical performances were regular events. In short, they were a benevolent and cultured family.
After the Zamindar Abolishment passes, is when Pakhi learns from her father that they will lose most of the family treasures and art, as well as the manor house and the surrounding lands,
Pakhi: Will the government take the orchards too?
Pakhi: What will happen?
Zamindar: The town will have free fruit…
It is a simple story of love, betrayal, and redemption. It is timeless. The film itself, from a visual standpoint, is simply superb – from the music, to the shot composition, to the editing. Absent almost any kind of commercialism, this is a film made to exemplify what can be done with care and consideration and appreciation for film goers who want a serious drama, that sweeps you into its arms, a film that carries you and your emotions along for two and half hours.
Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, this is as good as it gets – from India or anywhere else. While the film isn’t comparable in terms of story to Legends of the Fall, it does bring you to the same place which is a sense that you’ve just experienced some powerful emotions. Truly, you are sorry to see this film end.
I’m going to rate this film at four point seven five. Yes, it really was that good.
While you can buy a DVD of the film on eBay, you can also see it as rental from erosnow.com and that is with English subtitles.
Below is a trailer without English subtitles. But, in all honesty, you will see the excellence immediately, even without understanding the words.