Adapting a short story into a period film is easier than working with a novel, says Vikramaditya Motwane

Long before Vikramaditya Motwane made his debut film Udaan, he and his co-writer Bhavani Iyer began working on the screenplay of Lootera. Turning a four-page short story (O. Henry’s The Last Leaf) into a feature-length film was challenging but not a test of wits, says Motwane. “Working on a short story is easier than having to work with a novel. A short story gives you enough freedom to work around an idea. The challenge is those who’ve read the story will know the end. So you have to work backwards and make the beginning engaging enough,” says the filmmaker, ecstatic with the varied responses to the film. “I’ve been hearing different view points. I’m happy Lootera has sparked off a discussion,” he tells us.

The glorious 50s

The art direction, costumes and cinematography have all been carefully planned to suit the period in which the film is set, the 1950s. All this is the result of painstaking pre-production work, he states. “I finalised the locales five years ago. In India, it’s tough to shoot a period film outdoors. You cannot find mud roads without wires, signage and billboards with ads of mobile phones even in rural areas,” says Motwane.

Motwane watched a number of Satyajit Ray films to observe his style of shooting. “While we observed, we did not want to have reference points. We wanted to shoot Lootera in our own way.” Comparisons with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whom Motwane assisted earlier, have also cropped up. “The look of the film is no way like that of Bhansali’s. But the treatment is. I am sure Bhansali would have shot the film differently,” argues Motwane.

At the heart of Lootera is a winning performance by Sonakshi Sinha. “A filmmaker has to have faith in talent,” Motwane says of his decision to cast an actress who was part of no-brainers like Dabangg and Rowdy Rathore. “Rarely do you see a newcomer show so much confidence and hold her own against a star like Salman Khan. Her choice of films may have been different, but I knew she had the potential,” says Motwane.

While Sonakshi, in her role as Pakhi, had the advantage of having the story centred on her, Motwane feels Ranveer had a tougher job. A few reviewers have hailed his performance while others have termed it off-key, but Motwane maintains, “Ranveer has delivered a nuanced performance. On second viewing, I am sure people will appreciate his work even better.”

The chinks in the armour, so to speak, have been the film’s pace and a few dialogues delivered in whispers that could become inaudible subject to the sound system in the cinema hall. “I don’t think Lootera is slow paced; it’s finely paced for its setting and story,” says Motwane, adding, “We followed high technical standards for the sound. There may be instances of a few dialogues becoming inaudible if the sound quality in the hall is not good enough or if the audience is talking in between. There is only so much you can control as a filmmaker.”

With most reviews being superlative, Motwane is a happy man. He refutes reports that he has signed on Imran Khan for his next and says with a smile, “Right now I need a break.”

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