LOOTCASE (2020)

Kunal Khemu in a still from Lootcase
  • Release Date: 31/06/2020
  • Cast: Kunal Khemu, Vijay Raaz, Ranvir Shorey, Gajraj Rao, Rasika Duggal, Aryan Prajapati, Manuj Sharma
  • Director: Rajesh Krishnan

Lootcase is a hilarious and heartfelt attempt at situational comedy that is rooted in the real life issues of the privileged, poor and criminal

Nandan Kumar (Kunal Khemu), a down on his luck lower-middle-class electrician chances upon a suitcase full of cash. After a quick deliberation, he decides to take the cash but keeps it a secret from his wife and over smart son. The suitcase and the cash belonged to a certain minister, Patil (Gajraj Rao) who was slated to send it over to his supremo to be used for some political maneuvering. Distraught at the ineptitude of his couriers, Patil now sends a corrupt albeit efficient cop, Kolte (Ranvir Shorey), who owes Patil for some old favors, to find the suitcase. He doesn’t stop at that. Patil also sends Omar (Sumit Nijhawan), the gangster who was entrusted as the courier to carry out a search of his own for the suitcase.

Omar has been in loggerheads with another gangster Bala Rathore (Vijay Raaz) because of some territorial disputes and murder of one of Bala’s close aides. Bala, realizing the importance of the suitcase, seizes the opportunity and sends his two deputies to ghost Kolte who, he is certain, will locate the suitcase. The matter assumes even more importance when Patil realizes that the suitcase not only had the cash but also some incriminating documents that, in the wrong hands, could put him and his supremo in prison. Thus begins an exhilarating chase for the suitcase. With exciting twists and turns and violently oscillating fortunes for the bad guys, our sheepish protagonist Nandan lands smack in the midst of all the cacophony.

Lootcase is essentially a comedy but the nature of the comedy is very different from what we have come to expect from Bollywood comedies these days. It is not the kind where the jokes are loud and on your face or you are made to laugh through the physical comedy of the characters. The jokes and gags here are smart and subtle. Most of the laughs extracted are done by the situation that the characters are in and the kind of reactions that these situations extract from the characters. It is also the kind of things that the characters say under duress and various critical situations that will make you roll with laughter.

Aryan Prajapati and Rasika Duggal in a still from Lootcase

Kolte tracks down the auto driver who helped Nandan carry the suitcase from where he found it to his house. When Kolte realizes that the auto driver might have got a good look at the man, he says to himself “we need to get the sketch of the man-made immediately”. The auto driver uncomfortably looks at Kolte and then with all his reverence informs him, “Sir, my sketching is very poor”. The reaction on Kolte’s face at this bewildering answer is priceless. Bala Rathore is someone who is enamored by Discover, Nat Geo, History Channel, and Animal Planet. He often quotes scientific names and traits of animals to his cronies to draw parallels with real-life situations and people. This aspect of his behavior leaves his men dazed and confused. He gets what he has been dealing out to his cronies when he asks Nandan for a loaded magazine, during a gunfight and gets handed a Nat Geo Magazine. The entire film is peppered with numerous such quirky, intelligent, and efficiently placed comic moments that is bound to keep you giggling all the way through the film. Lootcase is a laugh riot but one has to give it time and attention to let all the comedy sink it.

Keeping aside the comedy, Lootcase will work for many as a straightforward thriller. We do not know if Nandan will be able to hold on to the cash. We do not know who among the baddies will get their hands on the suitcase and they all seem to be having their own agenda for it. As we dwell deeper and deeper into Nandan’s life, we understand how important the money is for him. If that was not enough, we get to see Nandan address the suitcase as a person and the things that he says makes it abundantly clear how clean his intentions are. We know the genesis of the cash and so we want it to be in the hands of someone like Nandan as it was looted from people like him and for once we want the right thing to happen. Our connection with the protagonist increases the tension and intrigue in the proceedings and makes the film a gripping affair. This adds an additional dimension to the narrative and makes it even more watchable.

For the second time in as many days, I was impressed by the performances of the ensemble cast of a film. The film is led from the front by a superb Kunal Khemu who is able to make the viewers care for his character. We are the kind of audiences who cheer for the perennial loser when he gets a chance to make big. Nandan’s character draws on this underlying fantasy of every Indian cinegoer. It would not have worked out so well had Khemu not been able to inject such lifelike tragedy and uproarious humor emanating out of real-life issues of a lower-middle-class man in the character effectively. For that and a whole lot more, the film derives most of its energy and heart from his essay. Gajraj Rao plays Patil with a kind of halo over his head that is very rare for the character of a politician in Bollywood. I just loved how he blackmailed various characters into doing his bidding without even accepting the fact that he was blackmailing them. The way he trolls people around him with a straight face is savage too.

Ranvir Shorey in a still from Lootcase

Vijay Raaz is one of the funniest character actors of Bollywood and he excels as a gangster yet again after his uproariously funny act in Delhi Belly. He is able to extract comedy by his mannerisms and his in-depth knowledge of scientific nomenclature of flora and fauna and how he uses that with his friends and foes. His cronies are more anxious about understanding his “Animal Planet” references than they are about failing at doing what they are assigned to do. Ranvir Shorey’s Kolte is a dead serious cop who is apparently rotten to the core. He is psychotic to the extent that he doesn’t mind gambling with a colleague’s life to prove the difference between luck and hard work. It is hilarious to see this genuine villain thrust between a bunch of comical baddies and a simpleton like Nandan. He is as frustrated at not being able to find the suitcase as he is at the sheer stupidity of the men he is forced to interact with to get to it. Shorey’s expression at various junctures speaks volumes about his frustrated state of mind and it makes for hilarious viewing. Even a minor actor like Aryan Prajapati, who plays Nandan’s son is extremely effective and contributes to the comedy and drama flawlessly.

I just have a few issues with the film. The editing could have been better and by that, I mean that the few songs that the film has shouldn’t have been there. It must also be noted that the comedic elements may feel too sparingly distributed for many and that can be an issue for the ones who are looking to laugh their guts out from start to finish. Some of the comical elements of the characters are repeated and after a while, the novelty of it runs out. The film does feel like losing its comedic steam towards the end and it is something that might be noticed by some. The ending could have been better.

Having said all that, Lootcase will still merit as one of the funniest and endlessly engaging comedies to have come out in recent times. It is clean, has quirky and intelligent dialogues, is well written, and has engaging drama and proficient performances. What more could we ask for?

Rating 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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