Revisiting his career, the actor has been the master of disguises, right from the rakishly evil Alauddin Khalji in Padmaavat to an almost clone of Kapil Dev in 83.
A simmering of his more relatable characters, like the lanky Bittu from Band Baaja Baaraat and the rich brat Kabir from Dil Dhadakne Do added more gravitas to his filmography, but one role that he was unanimously loved for was a complete antithesis to his real life – the broodingVarun in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera opposite Sonakshi Sinha (2013).
Completely devoid of mainstream, commercial trappings of Bollywood that Ranveer is synonymous with, Lootera’s Varun is quiet, understated and extremely restrained, all adjectives one would not associate with Ranveer by a mile. And this in itself, makes the character heartwarming and Ranveer, a perfect fit for the role.
This Vikramaditya Motwane masterpiece can be best described as a poetry in prose – soothing, cathartic and joyful, with songs that haunt us till date. Partially based on O Henry’s short story, The Last Leaf, the movie is based out of the picturesque town of Manikpur, West Bengal in 1953, where landlord Soumitra Roy Chaudhary lives in a haveli with his daughter Pakhi, a painter, who suffers from asthma. The two have created their own world, as Soumitra often narrates to her the story of the invincible king of the Bhil tribe whose soul resided inside a parrot, telling her that she is the parrot within whom his life resides.
Soon, a young, handsome man Varun, claiming to be an archaeologist, comes into their life and befriends Pakhi. The young, naive Pakhi falls almost immediately in love with him, as the two go around taking nature walks under the balmy sun, with Pakhi teaching Varun painting, as he expresses his wish to soon create that one elusive masterpiece painting in his life.
Varun gets drawn to her as well, but is conflicted, as in reality he is no archeologist, but a conman who eventually has to take the difficult decision of deserting her on the eve of their wedding, leaving Pakhi heartbroken. Soon, unable to take the shock, Soumitra Das passes away and Pakhi, sick and ailing, moves to Dalhousie, ignoring medical advice that higher altitude in turn, will exacerbate her condition.
The second half of the movie, in an irony of sorts, is both torrid and painstakingly comfortable, as it follows Pakhi and Varun, when they come face to face again – she is enraged and repulsive, he repentful and still hopelessly in love. Unlike the first half, replete with the colours of spring, flora and fauna, the second half is dark, cold, dry and arid, just like Pakhi and Varun’s state of mind. She still bitter, but too weak to fight, eventually gives up on her anger as Varun makes it his life’s mission to take care of her, eventually confessing that he has always loved her. Pakhi soon warms up to him, but is certain she is going to die, when the last leaf of the tree in front of her house falls, thus creating a metaphor equating herself with that parrot, whose story her father told her.
Varun, on the other hand, desperate to not let her give up, then gets down to creating his masterpiece, before all hell breaks loose…
Lootera isn’t a movie one watches for fun, or even entertainment for that matter. It is akin to a painting one admires at leisure and one that beautifully captures the essence of life. The hauntingly soothing musical score by Amit Trivedi is one that transcends generations, whether it is the love ballad Sawaar Lo, or the Baul melody Monta re or the heartbreaking tracks Shikayatein and Zinda.
Pakhi and Varun’s love story might be tragic, but soul-stirring nevertheless. As Varun tells Pakhi, “Meri zindagi mein sab ne mera istamaal kiya … pyar sirf tumne kiya“, (In my life, everyone has used me, only you have loved me) and makes one last ditch attempt to save her (or rather help her save herself), the two find comfort in each other’s arms and serve as a reminder that under all the pretext and the promises, love is something that first and foremost, makes you hopeful.
The unlikely pairing of Sonakshi and Ranveer works for its freshness and an innate ability to emote through their eyes, as evident in the song Sawaar Loon, when Varun’s friend, seeing them exchange flirtatious glances quips, “Tum joh khayali pulav pakka rahe ho na … main bas us mein thoda sa dum bhar raha hoon“. (I am just adding a bit of seasoning to the imaginary recipe you are building in the air) The two turn in one of their finest performances of their career and despite its somewhat tragic ending, this love ballad will leave you with a renewed sense of hope (and moist eyes)…
You can watch Lootera on a leading OTT channel…
ETimes Decoded is our weekly column where we deconstruct movies, characters or plots to uncover a fresh, often undiscovered perspective.