Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, “Lost” follows journalist Vidhi (Yami Gautam Dhar) as she stumbles upon the story of Ishan (Tushar Pandey). Ishan happens to be the ex-boyfriend of TV anchor-turned-politician Ankita (Pia Bajpiee), who used to do street plays to highlight caste-based atrocities. But after a high-ranking politician named Varman (Rahul Khanna) took some interest in Ankita, the couple became estranged, and then he was possibly kidnapped. Since Vidhi wants Ishan’s mother (Sohag Sen) and sister, Namita (Honeyy Jaiin), to find some kind of closure regarding Ishan’s disappearance, she turns Kolkata upside down, looking for him. However, in that process, her security, her relationship with her family, and her relationship with her boyfriend are jeopardized. So let’s talk about the themes that Vidhi’s journey covers and what she unearths by the end of the film.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Journalism in a Male-Dominated Landscape
I know that it’s hard to describe how tense and riveting the field of journalism is. So, I can only imagine what it must be like to show the same on the big or small screen. But “Spotlight,” “Network,” “The Post,” “Nightcrawler,” “The French Dispatch,” “Zodiac,” “All the President’s Men,” “No One Killed Jessica,” “Peepli Live,” and even “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” paved the way for telling stories about reporting on small-time revelations as well as earth-shattering news pieces. So, it’s baffling to see Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, the person who made “Pink,” portray journalism in the blandest and most uninteresting way possible. And the reason it feels annoying is that the subject at hand is important. Like every other profession, journalism is dominated by men, even though they are not very good at it. You just have to look at the mainstream news media in India to see the proof. Therefore, it’s necessary for the world to see how women are navigating their way through this mess and making a name for themselves.
Now, there’s mention of inequality and sexism in “Lost,” but we see that Vidhi’s boss (a man) is supportive of her work. Most of Vidhi’s informants, who are men, help her in every way possible. Varman makes a passing remark about the faltering feminism of so-called progressive women. And that’s about it. So, are Roy Chowdhury, Sengupta, and Shah trying to say that journalism isn’t as hostile towards women as it used to be? In addition to that, Vidhi just comes off as the most incompetent journalist because she never asks anything specific despite doing the showy research for it. Her conversation with Varman proves that her most inflammatory accusations can be calmly denied because they aren’t specific enough to get under a seasoned politician’s skin. And if the movie had depicted Vidhi as an amateur journalist, most of it would’ve made sense. But the director and the writers go out of their way to show that she has years of experience, which is why her actions are so frustrating. She doesn’t even solve the case of the lost Ishan. It just solves itself, and she appears proud and happy about it for some reason.
Dalit Activism Versus Mainstream Politics
Much like bringing up the topic of women in journalism, Roy Chowdhury, Sengupta, and Shah deserve some credit for highlighting casteism and what people from underprivileged communities have to do to talk about the kind of discrimination they face on a daily basis. But much like the surface-level reading of women in journalism, the director and the writers are content with stating that “casteism exists.” After doing so, they go into this weird territory where they try to associate Dalit activism with the Naxalite-Maoist movement, painting the latter as the last refuge for those who are ostracized by society. They try to show that Maoists aren’t the real villains of this story while explicitly showcasing the militant and violent characteristics and keeping all the subtlety for mainstream politics. So, in a roundabout way, the film ends up putting Naxalism and Maoism in the same light that the mainstream media and politicians usually like to show them in. And, at the end of the day, since it doesn’t have any bearing on Ishan, Vidhi, or Varman’s fates, I don’t even understand the reason behind bringing Maoism and Naxalism into the story. It’s better to leave out a topic than present it in an under researched manner.
The critique of mainstream politics in “Lost” is much better, though, as it shows how insidious and widespread its reach is. Just because Varman is interested in Ankita, he sends his goons to discourage Ishan from being in a relationship with her and then has him kidnapped by those same goons! He allegedly gets Ishan’s friend, Kushal (Somnath Mandal), killed and forces the police to question a kid called Nayeem (Samiul Alam) for helping Vidhi with her investigation. The police comply with Varman’s orders and harass Ishan’s family so that they give up on their search and go away from Kolkata. Since Vidhi’s father works on a contractual basis with the government, Varman puts pressure on him so that he can emotionally manipulate her into shutting down the investigation into Ishan’s disappearance. The movie also shows how a politician maintains their image in front of the general public by doing philanthropic work and going to their ancestral home. But isn’t that something we’ve already seen before? So, what’s the point of watching this rehashed amalgamation of every fictional politician who has shown up on the screen? Well, at least you get to watch a once-in-a-blue-moon Rahul Khanna performance and wish he signed up for more projects.
‘Lost’ Ending Explained: What Did Rana Reveal About Ishan’s Kidnapping To Vidhi?
After spending the entirety of the movie on dead leads and flailing around for some kind of a clue, Vidhi finally gets a callback from Rana’s (Kaushik Sen) aide, telling her that the leader of the Maoist-Naxalite movement wants to chat with her. Vidhi questions Rana about Ishan’s alleged connections with him, and he says that he once witnessed Ishan doing street plays and was impressed by his courage. After his final meeting with Ankita, Ishan was abducted by Varman’s goons, and he was taken away to be killed off. That’s when Rana apparently intervened and took Ishan to one of their safe houses. Rana told Ishan that he was free to leave their camp. But if he went out, he’d either be killed by Varman’s men or the cops. That’s why his only option was to join the movement and work towards achieving justice. So, that’s exactly what he did. Based on this information, Namita says that her brother is as good as dead for her, thereby sending the message that associating with Maoism or Naxalism is bad. Meanwhile, Vidhi withdraws her piece on Ishan because it is full of conjecture.
In a final twist, Ishan appears in a video message to Ankita, warning her to postpone her and Varman’s return journey to Kolkata from his ancestral home because their convoy is going to be attacked. So, Varman sends his assistant and the rest of the convoy to their deaths while he stays back for a press conference and highlights how Maoists and Naxalites are the real villains of the state. Vidhi, in a state of panic, proclaims that Ishan has “predictably” joined the “dark side” and that it’s some kind of loss for her. But as soon as Ankita sends that video message to Vidhi, she lets go of the proverbial pearls she was clutching and sees Ishan’s warning to Ankita as a sign that he isn’t as bad as she was assuming. Vidhi doesn’t stop there, though. She turns this revelation about Ishan into some kind of personal moral victory, even though she has done little to nothing to influence Ishan or rectify the image of the outfit that he’s currently associated with. And I guess she conveys Ishan’s current status to his mother and sister, and they also walk back on their stance against Ishan.
Going by Vidhi’s conversation with Jeet (Neil Bhoopalam) about the statistics that eventually show up before the credits begin to roll, “Lost” wanted to be a movie about people who go missing in and around Kolkata. But then they brought politics, Maoism, Naxalism, and journalism into it. Why? Do the director and the writers think those are the biggest reasons for people going missing in West Bengal? Or do they think that those are some of the reasons, out of a multitude of other factors, for which people go missing? Or do they think that politicians, Maoists, Naxalites, journalists, and the police should come together to prevent people from going missing? To be honest, I don’t know, and I am sure that the people behind “Lost” do not know either. It clearly has a throughline, but there are so many unbaked elements littered all around it that the topic of the unending missing persons’ cases never feels palpable. On a slightly tangential note, Chowdhury’s “Pink” was heavily criticized for robbing his female characters of any agency and letting a man speak for women’s rights. “Lost” does feel like his attempt to correct that by making a woman speak for herself, and the results are, to be polite, not good. So, be careful what you wish for.