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For most of this year, we’ve seen films – big and small – head straight to streaming.  And at least with a few, as I watched, I thought ‘accha hua, izzat bach gayi.’  If these films had been released in the theatre, they would have bombed.  Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex Lootcase isn’t one of them. I’m no box office guru but I think the comedy had real potential to be a sleeper hit.

Lootcase is the directorial debut of Rajesh Krishnan, who earlier made the successful TVF series – Tripling. Rajesh has co-written the film with Kapil Sawant. Lootcase is about a red suitcase, stuffed with 10 crores in 2000 rupees notes. The suitcase is supposed to be delivered to a politician but a rival gang attacks, police arrives and the criminals carting it hurriedly hide it in front of a public bathroom in Mumbai where it’s found by a working-class man Nandan, who lugs it home. But before doing that, he dutifully shouts at the empty road, “last time pooch raha hoon, kiska bag hai.”  This is because Nandan has, as he puts it, “sanskar jo beech main aa jaate hain.”

Nandan is a good man.  He works diligently at his job in a printing press. He is loving toward his wife and son. He even somehow regularly finds a way to send money from his meagre salary to his sister. Nandan is honest. But all that has gotten him is praise from his boss and the grind of a lower middle-class life. As Nandan says, ‘hum log ka khali duty badalta hai, kismet nahin badalti.’ Until that suitcase falls literally at his feet. But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for.

Lootcase has a stellar script. Rajesh and Kapil find the humour in ordinary lives – so Nandan and his wife Lata, who we are told is the daughter of a pujari, use Chinese dishes as a code for sex. In one scene, she opens the door for him in a red negligee and says, ‘Aaj maine ghar main hi Chinese banaya. Manchurian Lung-Fung rice.” It’s hilarious. As are the lines of the film’s stand-out character mafia don Bala played with supreme style by Vijay Raaz. Bala plans his dirty deeds while wearing impeccably tailored suits and watching National Geographic. He believes that there is much to be learned from animals since they also live in a jungle. And he refers to animals by their scientific classifications so he casually drops names like Crocodilus Noctilus, which is the crocodile, and Aepyceros Melampus which is the Impala. His goons stand around looking stumped. Bala is a man with taste and keen appreciation for language. Vijay revels in the paradox between his refined sensibility and his ruthless job.

The acting is bang-on across the board. Kunal Khemu and Rasika Dugal, both talented actors who’ve never gotten the space they deserve in mainstream cinema, are very good as Nandan and Lata. Ranvir Shorey is solid as Kolte, the trigger-happy crime-branch officer who is assigned by the MLA to find the suitcase. And Gajraj Rao, as the MLA gives a whole new meaning to manipulative. He’s effortlessly and hysterically oily. In one scene, he asks someone on the phone what he is doing but then cuts him short with, “courtesy ke liye pooch raha tha. Mujhe koi farak nahin padta.” I laughed out loud. I want to use that in life sometime.

Rajesh and Kapil create a theater of the absurd in which greedy, corrupt men try to outwit each other. And in the midst of this is Nandan, who represents all of us. His dreams are so modest that even when he has 10 crore, he keeps a strict account of where he is spending it and manages only to get through some 84,000. This reminded me of Anurag Kashyap’s film Choked, in which a bank clerk finds cash gushing through her kitchen pipe. Her big splurge is curtains and cushion covers.

Underneath the humour, the film locates the frustration and exhaustion of good people like Nandan. He lives in an area called Azad Nagar but his life is confined by his income. So when he first sits down with the suitcase of cash, he weeps and says, “kidhar tha re tu.” It’s very funny but there is a hint of sadness. Nandan hugs the cash like Sridevi’s character Kaajal was hugging money in the 1997 film Judaai after she sold her husband to a rich woman. Of course the bigger tragedy is that these people believe that their problems are over but they’ve only just begun.

Lootcase couches its life lesson in jokes that come furiously and almost always land. You can watch the film on Disney + Hotstar VIP.

For more recommendations check out Bingelist with Anupama Chopra in partnership with Tata Sky Binge

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