Director: Rajesh Krishnan
Writers: Kapil Sawant, Rajesh Krishnan
Cast: Kunal Khemu, Vijay Raaz, Rasika Dugal, Ranvir Shorey,
Cinematographer: Sanu John Varghese
Editor: Anand Subaya
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
Lootcase is a long-drawn but fairly well-crafted comedy about ordinary people caught in an extraordinary situation. The premise is far from original: A lower-middle-class family man finds a red suitcase full of cash outside a public toilet. With corrupt politicians, murderous gangsters and ruthless cops at war in the hunt for this missing suitcase, it’s amusing to see that the man’s biggest problem is hiding and spending the loot without inviting suspicion. Which is why Lootcase, much like Delhi Belly, works better as a satire on urban India. It could have very well been titled “Mumbai Spirit” – a sly take on Mumbai’s space-crunch epidemic.
Much of the entertainment is derived from characters simply unable to be a slick heist movie. The cramped, chaotic metropolitan prevents them from operating like functional, productive people. For instance, the protagonist Nandan Kumar (Kunal Khemu), a worker at a newspaper printing press, lives in a chawl with his wife (a terrific Rasika Dugal, as Lata) and son. He spends most of the film trying to find a safe space to stash away the cash – the neighbour’s empty room, the terrace, the water tank, the spice jars, the cabinets, the bed. At one point, when he is asked to reproduce the contents of the bag (which he’s nicknamed Anand “Petekar”) by a dangerous man, he goes scavenging into the most unusual corners of his little house. Then there’s a ruthless encounter cop (Ranvir Shorey), hired by a sweet-talking and passive-aggressive MLA (a brilliant Gajraj Rao), on the suitcase’s trail – the cop’s “headquarters” is a locked-up bookstore that was once a crime scene. Jugaad is the name of the game.
There’s also an eccentric don, played by who else but Vijay Raaz, who is probably so fed up of Mumbai’s crippling density that he is obsessed with the National Geographic channel. He speaks only in chaste animal and nature metaphors, and believes that the only way his incompetent henchmen can get competent is by buying a Natgeo subscription. Raaz can turn the most outlandish villains into poker-faced everymen with his timing, and this one is no exception.
The film does suffer from the first-time-director syndrome, too. At 133 minutes, the pace of big-city desperation is often diluted, and a silly voiceover adds nothing to the tone. The final shootout is a derivative Indian-comedy-resolution template. At some points, Lootcase forgets to balance the overlapping narrative threads; we see Nandan Kumar for a full thirty minutes in the middle, with no cutaways to the villains on the hunt. But I like the chemistry between Nandan and his wife. There’s nothing slapstick about their body language. The little touches – like their “dirty talk” featuring roadside-Chinese dish names – allow the emotional Indian-middle-class monologues in the end to exist without interrupting the genre.
When he isn’t cast as a suave hero, Kunal Khemu’s inherent boyishness makes him a perfect headless-chicken character. He is fun to watch, even as the rest of the ensemble is headlined by some of Hindi cinema’s finest names. This is reflected in one hysterical moment where poor Nandan is assumed to be a henchman and ominously asked, “kiska aadmi hai? Abdul? Omar?” to which he very sincerely replies, “nahi, Lata ka”. In the heat of a shootout, when Raaz runs out of bullets and asks him for a “magazine,” Khemu’s face is priceless while hesitantly handing a Natgeo magazine to him.
On a side note, it’s also nice to see half the supporting cast of another Marathi-manoos comedy Ferrari Ki Sawaari – Deepak Shirke, Nilesh Diwekar and Vijay Nikam – add some nocturnal flavour to Lootcase. I’m not just tick-marking an acting list here; the background is often the most important part of a heist comedy. Without them, the joke wouldn’t have enough flesh to earn its punchline. Even something as mundane as a song finds space in the rhythm of this comedy because it’s impossible not to grin at the sardonic title: “Fakht pavitra party song”. If nothing else works, merely the sight of a suited-up Vijay Raaz explaining the essence of crocodilian nomenclature to his clueless men is worth the…subscription fee.