I got to watch the film on Tuesday. This was amidst too much hype, too much expectation, pressure to like/dislike instantly, and too eager to react. By that time reactions from the film fraternity had already started pouring in. And as a member of the crew told me during the screening, honestly, it’s impossible to make out anything from the pre-release screenings. Also, if one has read the script, one might be reacting differently from others.
In terms of reactions, Lootera has turned out to be strangely divisive films. The reaction of critics and audience going in extreme directions is quite obvious for most films these days. But here the critics rating varied from 2.5 to 5 stars. I can only think of Dev D which went further extreme and got ratings from 1 to 5 stars, and everything in between. But strangely, the audience reaction have also been extreme with Lootera. To give an example, as this twitter friend tweeted – “In our theater, about 15 ppl walked out. And about 15 broke into applause at the end. Strange. Didn’t think Lootera would be so polarizing.”
Anyway, after watching the film i told Motwane that i will mail my reaction, all in detail. Can’t react so quickly. And VM has responded to the criticism. Much thanks to him as most filmmakers in B-town run away as soon as their film releases. Also, thanks for agreeing to make the mail public.
Actually we wanted to do a post-release Q and A with him and his DoP Mahendra Shetty. But as the joke goes, Sonakshi is spreading her Lootera disease quite fast. So me and few others have been coughing like her since the film released, and hopefully these few answers are better than having absolutely nothing else.
What worked for me
– as i told you i loved the second half. I loved the way it’s shot, so dark ( i hope it’s visible in theatres with bad projection. i remember problems with Kaminey, Gangster), the mood it creates and almost meditative in its space and silence. it’s GORGEOUS!
– as expected from you, it’s very well directed. well mounted, well captured.
– acting across the board is good, from leads to small roles.
– the pace is slow or leisurely which goes well with the mood and setting. good you didn’t hurry anywhere – consistent through out.
– the romantic village portions with so much brightness was looking tacky to me in the trailers. Thankfully it doesn’t feel so in the film. Right rustic touch with a FabIndia colour palette , if i can say so :)
– BEST part – you didn’t hit the excess notes for melodrama, perfect balance, didn’t even try to cash in on deaths on screen. That’s GREAT!
i was actually waiting to see if you will go Bhansali way with the father and friend’s death ;) but you didn’t even go close there. Smart! and smartly handled.
what didnt work for me (and VM’s reply below each point)
– i think people will love the 1st half more but i didn’t feel that romance or passion in the first half. i am not sure why. or was it the heavy background that you were using to make the point which was distracting me.
VM : It’s the same issue I have with the script in it’s current form. Though when I tried to think back to my original intention when writing the screenplay, it was pretty intentional to make it a love story that wasn’t quite a love story. It’s wasn’t supposed to be the achy type of love story and wasn’t supposed to become that way at all, even towards the end. I always wanted a lightness to the film throughout. So can’t say whether this is better or that. It is a flawed screenplay. Willing to live with that.
– actually the sound design at two places in 1st half was very odd, i felt. when the father starts narrating the story to Sonakshi in the beginning, the music suddenly fades in and goes so high. It was very out of place. i know you might be trying to make the easy connect with the sound so that it can be used in 2nd half with Sonakshi and tree. But it was too loud and so suddenly.
VM : The intention wasn’t to connect the music with the second half. It was a background piece. Maybe it was too loud. Didn’t seem that way when mixing it.
– similarly the use of that old hindi song that goes through all the montage when they are at the site and many such odd things, as in not romantic stuff but the song goes on, and just stops with the news of zamindari over. again very out of place.
VM : It stops with the zamindari news because that’s where the plot changes a little bit. And it feels loud because it’s mono and it cuts through the rest of the dialogue. Something we discovered too late and only at the final mix stage. No matter how soft we had it, it cut through,
– why so much grainy footage in 2nd half?
VM : Aesthetic call that me and (Mahendra) Shetty took. We both like grain and purposely went for a high grain stock. Wanted to give an aged, period feel without making it glossy or sepia tinted. In fact, there is more grain in the injection scene in the first half, which is just an under-lit scene. Mistake on our end.
– And this might be nitpicking – when he climbs the tree, and the climax sequence – when he is walking, she is coming out of the house – at few places one can see the (VFX) jugaad – foreground and background not in sync especially when Ranveer is walking towards the police, the light, the things you have cheated – i mean it’s nice but not pitch perfect. similarly with snow and when he falls from the tree, you can make out it’s fluff. maybe if you are watching minutely then only.
VM : If you’ve seen the making video, you know what we had to go back to shoot snow sequences in summer with fake snow. Which means VFX work. Work that we have shot on grainy film, without green screen, with handheld camera. It’s the worst kind of situation for a VFX team and under the circumstances, they did an amazing job. The whole tree climbing and shoot out is VFX created. There are shots and mattes and snowflakes that make me cringe every time I see them but it’s just something we have to live with. Will do better next time.
– Basically, overall another good film. But you are so strong at filmmaking aspect, the craft, why tell a bollywood story. I hope you go beyond it now that you have done your conventional part. a more non-conventional/interesting/out of box idea/tale to match up to the talent of your craft.
VM : So the indie world thinks i’m telling a bollywood story. And the bollywood world thinks i’m too indie. You think this is conventional, they think this is too out of the box. So I can’t win…
Fact is, I went to tell a story that I believed in, warts and all. I can make all the excuses in the world about not having enough time to fix the script before shooting because we only had two months of pre-production blah blah but it’s pointless. This is the film I chose to make and I stand by it. Nobody knows and feels and understands the flaws of the film better than I do but that’s a discussion for another day.
I don’t want to get stuck making 4 crore films for the rest of my life because that’s what happens in this industry. It gets very easy for them to slot you into a ‘type’ of filmmaker. For better or for worse, this film was my attempt to break out of that.
– Posted by @CilemaSnob
(Pic courtesy – Lootera FB page)