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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

On Sonakshi Sinha’s birthday, revisiting her career-best performance in Lootera: Of quiet desperation and loveliness

Lootera must have been unfamiliar ground for Sonakshi Sinha -- quieter, subtle, realistic. No flashy dance breaks, no big rescue by the hero, just that camera and the chemistry. But you would have thought that Sonakshi always belonged here, to this world of cinema-making where lovers spoke in whispers and the audience was not spoon-fed the script like a child.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
June 2, 2021 8:15:13 am
sonakshi sinhaSonakshi Sinha in a still from Lootera. It released in 2013. (Photo: Express Archive)

Poetic, with frames like a painting and quietly filled with love and desperation — that is how I would like to describe the Vikramaditya Motwane directorial. Motwane is one of the most versatile filmmakers in the Hindi film industry today. Take a look at his filmography and you will realise that his every successive film is different from the last one, at least the ones that he has helmed. Lootera was a love story of a conman which featured an array of credible actors like Vikrant Massey, Adil Hussain, Divya Dutta and Arif Zakaria among more. But its lead pair consisted of two Bollywood actors, Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha, who had been associated with only commercial, masala movies until then. Lootera, of course, was not that.

Ranveer, in fact, was only three films old at that point. Meanwhile, Sonakshi had appeared in five out-and-out potboilers. Lootera must have been unfamiliar ground — quieter, subtle, realistic. No flashy dance breaks, no big rescue by the hero, just that camera and the chemistry. But draped from head to toe in gorgeous sarees, you would have thought that Sonakshi always belonged here, to this world of cinema-making where lovers spoke in whispers and the audience was not spoon-fed the script like a child.

To expect something new from Ranveer was still perhaps conceivable at this point, but perhaps one had already made up one’s mind regarding the direction in which Sonakshi’s career was heading. In fact, during an interview, the actor herself had shared that she loved doing those big escapist movies, so to think that she would in a way take a risk with a young and upcoming filmmaker like Motwane was doubtful. But she did, and it paid handsomely. If not through the box office, Sonakshi’s performance garnered rave reviews by film critics. And till date, it remains the best performance of her career.

You see, there was a wonderful dichotomy to Sonakshi’s character Pakhi Roy Choudhary. Pakhi was a considerably outspoken, learned Bengali daughter of a Zamindar in newly independent India who nursed the ambition of being a full-time writer. So she was a little ‘loud’ in that sense, in an otherwise wholly small film. She was not afraid to speak her mind, to her father or even to the man she loved. There were so many parts that could have been overdone — the scuffle Ranveer’s Varun and Sonakshi’s Pakhi get into after they meet years later in that cabin, Sonakshi’s wounded cries, and the hurt she felt when she first tried to confess her love to Varun but he did not reciprocate. Even in her brighter moments, Pakhi could have come of as a spoilt brat who was used to getting her way, but she never did. Pakhi could have been so much more melodramatic but Sonakshi Sinha held back and took all the pauses at the right moments to give her some gravitas.

This was, of course, in large part, thanks to the one-film old director Vikramaditya Motwane who guided both the characters and the actors playing them so ably, like a veteran almost. Here’s hoping we get to see more of Sonakshi Sinha the actor in coming projects.

You can watch Lootera on MX Player.

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