Director: Aakash Bhatia
Writers: Aakash Bhatia, Puneet Chadha, Vinay Chhawal, Arnav Nanduri, Ketan Pedgaonkar
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Rajendra Chawla
Cinematography: Yash Khanna
Editor: Priyank Prem Kumar
One of the most seductive aspects of cinema is its ability to manipulate time. Unlike life, movies can flashback and flashforward and move in parallel, diagonal, and circular ways. And through this movement, reveal the whimsy, randomness, absurdity and tragicomedy of being alive. Or as Satya in Looop Lapeta puts it – ‘Life badal jaati hai Savi, all it takes is a day.’
Looop Lapeta is the story of that one life-altering day for Satya and his partner Savi. But like the three o’s in Looop, we see three versions of the story and how the choices the characters make have a butterfly effect and shape the outcome differently. The film is an adaptation of Tom Tykwer’s groundbreaking 1998 film Run Lola Run. But debutant director Aakash Bhatia adds enough new twists and characters to stretch the one hour, twenty-one minutes of Run Lola Run to two hours, eleven minutes in Looop Lapeta. And therein lies the rub.
Aakash is a master stylist. His distinctive visual language has been established in ad films for brands like Puma and Budweiser. Aakash plays with colours, angles and lenses like a child with playdoh, creating singular frames that pulsate with energy and eccentricity. Which makes him a perfect fit for this material. Run Lola Run is a riotous blend of live-action, animation, instant replay, black and white, split screens, slow motion and flash-frames held together by dazzling editing, techno music and a charismatic leading lady with flaming red hair – Aakash tips his hat to Lola by having a woman in the same outfit and hair bump into Savi in a casino in the latter half of Looop Lapeta.
The story is transplanted to Goa. The basic framework is the same – like Manni in Run Lola Run, Satya is a good-natured, amateur criminal who botches up a job. Manni had to find 100,000 Deutschmarks in 20 minutes. Satya needs to come up with 50 lakh rupees in 50 minutes. Like Lola, Savi must do whatever it takes to save her boyfriend, which includes sprinting to far flung places, begging her father for cash and aiding Satya in armed robbery. Every choice she makes impacts the outcome of their story and not all endings are happy.
Run Lola Run is a shot of movie-adrenalin. Like Lola, the film is in perpetual motion. It throbs with ferocious style, dazzles us with its audacity and is over before we know it. Looop Lapeta struggles to achieve the same buoyancy. Mostly because Aakash and co-writers Vinay Chhawal, Ketan Pedgaonkar and Arnav Vepa Nanduri add too much to it, starting with a backstory for Savi. In an animated sequence, we are told why Savi runs as fast as she does. It’s clever and efficient, but it also feels like an outtake from Rashmi Rocket, which also starred Taapsee as a runner. In other words, it’s unnecessary.
Aakash, DOP Yash Khanna and production designers Pradeep Paul Francis and Diya Mukerjea create an eye-popping world. We get saturated colors, which instantly took me back to the opening sequence of Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe, off-kilter lensing choices and Ram Gopal Varma-esque camera angles, including one from inside a turkey that is being readied for roasting. In an interview, Taapsee had said that because of the lighting, her and co-star Tahir Raj Bhasin perpetually felt like they were at a dance bar. This is a film that revels in its lurid glory.
But the writing doesn’t match the wit or inventiveness of the visuals. There are flashes of fun – like Satya’s boss Victor, played by Dibyendu Bhattacharya and an oily jewellery store owner memorably named Mamlesh Charan Chaddha played by Rajendra Chawla. Victor’s introduction is one of the best scenes in the film – he’s preparing the turkey as he talks to Satya about the job at hand and what will happen if he messes up. Victor is massaging masala into the dead bird, aggressively and almost sexually. It’s menacing and hilarious.
Tahir nicely plays up his scruffy charm as Satya. Taapsee leans into the comic desperation of Savi with conviction but there isn’t enough idiosyncrasy baked into her character. In Run Lola Run, Lola’s fractured relationship with her father was encapsulated in a few lines – at one point, he reveals to her that he isn’t her biological dad, saying, ‘I’d never have fathered a girl like you. You are a cuckoo’s egg.’ Looop Lapeta doesn’t have this economy of expression. The plot is busy but not consistently gripping. Some of the running gags – such as Mamlesh’s bumbling sons Appu and Gappu who wear matching pink beanies – just don’t land. Though Shreya Dhanwanthary does a terrific job monologuing as a confused bride who must choose between one suitor who loves her and another who will give her a cushy life.
By the way, if you enjoy time loop thrillers, check out the Tamil film Maanaadu, which combines action and circularity with big laughs – at one point, one character says to another: Why are you confusing me like Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet?
With Looop Lapeta, what stayed with me was the raucous title track by Sidhant Mago and Mayank Mehra and an artfully constructed montage of Satya and Savi lying together in various places, at various times. The lopsided frame reaffirms their unified, distinctive position against a world that insists that they play by the rules. It’s gorgeously defiant and romantic. I wish the film had more of that.
You can watch the film on Netflix India.