‘Lootere’ Review: Jai Mehta’s Disney+ Hotstar Series Is A Tragic But Dull Tale About Needless Violence


Hansal Mehta began his journey into the world of entertainment with TV shows that ranged from fiction to non-fiction. Then he switched gears to feature films, and his collaboration with Rajkummar Rao gave Indian cinema some of the best movies of all time. While the rest of his filmography was spotty, especially due to his involvement in some propaganda films, when he went back to serialized storytelling, along with his son Jai Mehta, and made Sony LIV’s Scam 1992, he saw immense success. The show went on to win endless awards, and I think you can hear numerous people say its dialogues and use its title track (it was nominated at the SXSW 2021 awards) as their ringtone. He developed Scoop for Netflix, which was pretty well-applauded, too. Now, the father-son duo has landed on Disney+ Hotstar with Lootere. Have they continued their flawless run with this story about politics and pirates? Let’s find out.

Hansal Mehta’s Lootere, which has been written by Vishal Kapoor, Anshuman Sinha, Suparn Varma, Shaailesh R. Singh (serving as the creator), and Gibran Noorani (dialogues), with Jai Mehta directing all the episodes, tells the story of Vikrant Gandhi, an Indian living in Somalia. He is married to Avi, and they’ve got a son, Arya. His right-hand man is Gupta, and before being Gandhi’s right-hand man, he used to work for his father-in-law. Gandhi’s marriage to Avi has pushed him into a business of crime that’s centered around the ports of Somalia. He has been the president of the port authority of the country for a long time. He is sure that he is going to win again, and he will get to do all the illegal stuff that he has been doing for several years. But the changing political tides put that dream at risk, and Gandhi learns that a massive consignment (filled with illegal objects) coming to Mogadishu via the UK KYIVAL is going to be used against him. So, he orchestrates a pirate attack to take care of the consignment. However, since pirates are chaotic, the whole mission goes sideways and puts the lives of Captain Singh and his crew in jeopardy, thereby leading to an endless negotiation between all parties concerned.

Note: This review of Lootere is based on all 8 episodes of the show that were provided to the press by Disney+ Hotstar.

I have tried very hard to understand what Lootere and its writers are trying to say through its central plot and its twisted subplots, but to be honest; I keep drawing blanks. The simplest deduction is that it’s about survival, but given how tragic everything is, that theory doesn’t stick. Maybe it’s about tragedy. But then, none of the characters are interesting enough to care for. Hence, regardless of the glorious or pathetic nature of their arcs, it doesn’t make an impact. Maybe it’s about greed. However, everyone knows that greed is bad, and if it takes around 8 hours to say that, maybe that’s just bad storytelling. Maybe the show is a hit piece on the country of Somalia, and the makers want to illustrate how horrifying, poor, dangerous, and disgusting the place is. Without getting too political and making things too risky, I just want to remind the writers that all of them are Indians. Shining a critical light on someone else at this juncture feels very hypocritical, if you know what I mean. So, what is this series all about? Well, my best guess is that it’s a combination of half-baked ideas slapped together and peppered with loads of expletives and shallow twists to create this facade of a pulpy narrative.

Okay, given how much time Lootere spends on violence against men and women—with the depiction of the violence against underwritten female characters feeling particularly distasteful—maybe (and it’s a big “maybe”) the show is about how much needless violence there is in the world. But, as I said, the portrayal of this violence is so crude and seems like it wants to be shocking for the sake of being shocking that Jai Mehta misses his own point by a mile (assuming that that was the point he wanted to make in the first place). I think it’s a decently produced show. The use of the locations, the tone, the cinematography, the costumes, the editing, the production design, the sound design—it’s all well done. Is it memorable? No, I don’t think so. The score is good and elevates every scene. The title track by Achint is catchy, but it is a little too reminiscent of “Beggin’” by The Four Seasons. The action sequences and stunt work are alright. The VFX and CGI are patchy and really inconsistent in terms of quality. The pacing is very off. The first four episodes are incredibly boring. The fifth and sixth episodes are more cohesive. And then things kind of go in a predictable direction before ending with an excuse of a bang.

Lootere mainly rests on Vivek Gomber’s shoulders, and the man gives it his all. Despite the awful writing, he manages to put you in his shoes in every scene that he is in. Rajat Kapoor is there, although I don’t know why (don’t go to his Wikipedia page). Martial Batchamen is pretty good. In fact, I think he plays the most compelling character. If the show was all about him, instead of being this scattershot portrait of several people, I think it would’ve been interesting, as we would’ve gotten a more intimate look into the plight of the people of Somalia. Athenkosi Mfamela is very one-note, and it’s noticeable because he has so much screen time. It’s not his fault, though. That’s just how his character has been written. Chirag Vohra, as always, is great. Amruta Khanvilkar and Varin Roopani suffer a lot due to the writing. Chandan Roy Sanyal is there for a bit. Aamir Ali has a cameo, and it’s okay. Gaurav Sharma is fine. Naresh Mallik, Bonga Tshabalala, Chris Gxalaba, Harry Parmar, Preetika Chawla, Gaurav Paswala, and the rest of the supporting cast do a decent job of imbuing their characters with a sense of personality. However, and at the cost of sounding repetitive, it’s the writing that sucks everything out of their performances.

Indian TV shows like Maamla Legal Hai, Showtime, Poacher, Chamak, The Railway Men, Kaala, The Freelancer, Guns & Gulaabs, The Night Manager, School of Lies, The Trial, Adhura, Kerala Crime Files, Farzi, and now Lootere seem to have one common problem. These shows, or to be specific, these showrunners who are helming these shows, don’t have a lot to say, but they are taking this episodic approach to tell their story because that’s beneficial for the streaming platform. You know, if a viewer stays for longer periods of time on a particular streaming platform, then that generates more revenue, and these stretches of viewing are guaranteed by shows. The longest movies are 3 hours long, and after watching them, a viewer may choose to log off for the day, which dents revenue. However, if a storyteller is thinking about the streamer first instead of prioritizing the storytelling method that benefits their story, then they are a lost cause. The only recently-released shows that have justified the episodic approach so far are Kaala Paani, Bambai Meri Jaan, Dahaad, and maybe Saas, Bahu aur Flamingo. So, next time, before greenlighting a script, streamers and producers should really think about whether it needs to take the 8-hour route or the 3-hour route.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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