(Here are a few reasons why I love the movie 'Lootera' the way I do.)
1. An uncluttered, unhurried, calming, fragile, persistent, volatile and passionate love-the only way love should be.
2. There are people who can fall in love only after quiet (and careful) appraisal of becoming qualities, years of getting to know the intricacies of the life of the desired one and adequate consideration of practical matters. I am not one of them. I tend to fall in love with someone I barely know, attracted not merely by physicality or any obvious charms, but acting on an alarmingly vague, overwhelming and irrepressible instinct. It's neither love at first sight nor a fleeting attraction, but a faint inkling of a love that is sure to come. And I secretly indulge it.
In the movie, I could relate to it when she knows she is going to fall in love with him the moment she sets her eyes on him. It engulfs her in a delightful frenzy anticipating what is to come. At first she adopts covert glances and quiet contemplation, mortified that he might know; but soon fear is overpowered by desire and she continually tries to hold his gaze. On the wrong assumption that he paints, she pesters her father to convince him to teach her painting. His lack of artistic skills is soon revealed, and she offers to be his teacher, as later, she matter-of-factly reveals to her friend "because the class has to go on." Her shy, clumsy and painfully obvious (to him) attempts to connect with him, anyhow, because the restlessness that his absence brings about is unbearable, is endearing.
3. At a time when infinite possibilities enticed and love seemed so near, the dearest desire of her heart was to be snowbound in a cottage at the hills and write and write. "I want to write a lot of books", she confides in him, radiant in the surety of its realization. The next year sees her snowbound in a dimly lit room in a cottage in the hills, surrounded by piles of books, a sheaf of papers on her desk, a pen in her hand, a glimpse of the near naked branches of an autumnal tree through the parted curtains, the same songs on the radio, and a fresh haul of unresolved, unexplored emotions that is always the prelude to writing a story.
Yet she is incapable of venturing beyond the first few lines, her growing despair echoing in the nib noisily scratching out sentences and the pile of crumpled paper at her feet. Something had died and she is unable to fathom it. The picture of her dearest wish, the one that she had so enthusiastically shared with him, was complete...yet what was the missing variable that incapacitated her writing? Was it hope? Was it love? Or were they but different names of what she had lost? Dreams are always interlaced with the implicit understanding that the joy of their fulfilment will include sharing it with the ones we love. The angst of loss is well-depicted.
4. That era. And the details that brings it alive on screen. The ritual of stretched-out evenings of conversations. The amorous glow of antique oil lamps. Intricate china patterns. Women who dressed up with infinite precision. Well-groomed men with sleek hair. Car rides. Poetry. Theatres. Art. Chivalry and charm. The entire household humming along to the song on the radio. Long, unhurried walks. The allure of the unsaid. Slowness. Subtlety.
5. Pampered and protected by an indulgent father who stroked her hair and told her stories that began with "once upon a time...", her perceptions and understanding of the world were confined to that obtained from these stories and the books she read. She was undemanding and unspoilt, yet used to the complacency of easily fulfilled desires. Until he came along; unattainable, out of reach. His aloofness confused, disturbed and angered her. She simply failed to understand why he couldn't love her immediately and just as intensely. She couldn't bring herself to confess her love outright, and his continuous rebuffs to her every approach caused her uncontrolled agony and anger. He tells her, "Behtar hoga aap jaaiye" (You better leave), and she replies, "Behtar hoga aap mar jaaiyen" (You better die).
6. His control vs her impulsiveness. His realism vs her dreams. His prudence vs the transparency of her every feeling. His practicality vs her protected cocoon. Why then, why did they fall in love? But then...why not?
7. She sits in his room alone, trying on his hat and jacket, his unlit cigarette dangling from her lips. It reminded me of the passage from Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake where Ashima secretly slips her foot into the shoe of the man she would end up marrying. Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence is wholly centred around this theme of the quiet thrill of being close to mementoes of love.
8. The songs. Amit Trivedi brings in an effortless grace and old world charm to them. Sawaar Loon, Zinda and Manmarziyaan grows on you, sparking off nostalgia with delicate tunes and soulful lyrics.
badal rahi hai aaj zindagi ki chaal zara,
isi bahane kyon na main bhi dil ka haal zara... ...sawaar loon
9. Longing. He declines her love (and she is unaware of his reasons), but as the hour of his departure from her life approaches, the fear of never seeing him makes her knock on his door and voice her fear with an earnestness that breaks the heart. She wordlessly asks him to love her. And he does, with a tenderness that breaks the heart again.
When he leaves her cottage, she remains in bed torn between her irrepressible love and abject hatred for him. He walks on for a while but finally succumbs to the longing to be with her and returns. When he walks into her room again, just when she had thought she would never see him again, her stare is a mixture of disbelief, contempt, anger, concealed love and secret relief. It's so hard to say, 'don't go. stay' when self-esteem, ego, past anguish and fear of indifference creeps in and paralyses us. The core of so many unsaid wishes is the joy of an unexpected (yet constantly yearned for) return, of love knocking on your door.
10. There is this scene. He sits on a canopy bed, lost in a haze of overhanging net curtains. She sits on a chair, with her feet up on his bed, lost in writing a new story. In a gaze that creates a lump of joy in the chest, he observes her writing.
Are you writing a story?
Is there a boy in it?
Is there a girl in it?
Are they in love?
Are they about to fall in love?
And he continues to whisper questions that she delights in answering. It is such a serene and palpable moment of tenderness.
11. The subtle humour. The enactment of how Dev Anand fights 'aise jhoolte hue' and still manages to keep his perfectly coiffed hair intact, and the camaraderie the two friends share. The way she bullies the chauffeur to teach her how to drive. The upsurge and the quick downfall of the bravado of the caretaker at the cottage that involves an unloaded pistol. He finally reveals his name to her and they double over in laughter at the absurdity of it. She accuses him of harbouring lust and questions his intentions, and he takes one look at her dishevelled appearance, the dark shadows under her eyes, her sickly pallor, the unruly hair and replies with a straight face, "Haan, aajkal itni haseen jo lag rahi ho tum" (Obviously, you look so appealing these days).
12. The compelling performances. Sonakshi shines and looks ethereal, and redeems herself as an actor of calibre. Ranveer exudes brilliance and works the silences well to give a subdued performance. And there is the rest of the superb cast. The indulgent father whose world revolves around his daughter. The funny friend and (literally) partner-in-crime. The brief but noteworthy cameo of Arif Zakaria. Adil Hussain enthralls, and the cop-and-robber chase makes for a captivating (sic) visual.
13. The timelessness of love overwhelmed me anew. The past brims with infinite loves-fulfilled or unrequited, doomed or persistent, told or untold, nuanced or awkward-but love all the same. The love that exists now will someday be lost in the myriad of the untold and bygone. A melancholic realization.
14. The awe-inspiring cinematography has a poetic quality about it and effortlessly bewitches us with the charms of an bygone era. The minimalistic treatment, cutting off the excesses and curbing the tendency to overplay the drama, is a welcome relief. And the thing I loved the most is that it is a Hindi movie which is not afraid of long silences and doesn't feel the need to cram every scene with dialogues. It amplified and lingered the effect of the doomed love.
15. It's in his gaze, the intensity of which develops the unnerving feeling that he is quietly unmasking her innermost desires. It's in the way he loves her, flawed and hidden, yet true and persistent. It's in his shy smiles. It's in his effortless charm. It's in the subdued and visibly unrestrained tenderness when he seeks redemption for the hurt he caused her. And lastly, it is in the quiet gestures of love and nurturing. It is in 'the last leaf'.