India 1980
Directed by Dev Anand.

While it is typical for leading men to write, direct, produce, and star in their own movies, in which they behave like superheroes, get the girl, and symbolize the might of India against the world, LOOTMAR's opening takes this to a new extreme as even the stars praise our hero, ace Air Force pilot Bhagat (Dev Anand) as they chat with each other, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE-style, about the evils of man. Clarence is not required on Earth, though, not when you've got Dev Anand on the job!

Though Dev Anand is without a doubt one of the greats of Indian Cinema, that doesn't save him from his fair share of clunkers, as LOOTMAR undoubtedly is. It doesn't help that he tries to mold himself in the Amitabh Bachchan mode here, as a vengeful man whose wife is slain while he stands by helplessly. But he doesn't have the acting chops for that kind of emotional outpouring -- he's best as a restrained, thinking man, here, he mostly just comes off as unemotional and uninvolved.

He follows his wife's murderers to their hometown in the Himalayas. By one of those ridiculous coincedences that make Bollywood movies so much fun, his wife pleads to him in her dying words to take their son to be taught by a guru in the mountains, a guru whose image she always wears in a necklace, a necklace identical to the one that gets torn off of her murderer in the struggle. Yes, it turns out the killer, Vikram (Amjad Khan), is the son of school's headmaster. Naturally before he realizes it he's got his son cozied up to her and enrolled in the school. Luckily for him she is the usual Indian mother archetype (played by Narupa Roy, who has made a career out of this role); honest, true, emotional, and ready to disown her own son when she realizes his crimes.

The story clunks along rather painfully for the first hour, but picks up when the gang decides to kidnap the daughter of a rich man, a woman who happens to be a teacher at the school and falling for Bhagat and his cute son. Eventually, Vikram takes the entire school hostage, and while the kids sing the praises of Krishna, he shoots at pregnant women, and Bhagat tries to save the day.

If there is anything exceptional about LOOTMAR, it is the astonishing lineup of baddies in the cast. Almost everyone who has ever played the villain in a Bollywood film is part of the gang. It's like having the Joker, the Riddler, and Penguin all in one Batman movie. Leading the pack is Amjad Khan, who played the heavy most notably in the biggest Bollywood film of all time, Sholay. Here he plays a crook thrown out of the Air Force for attempted rape, and as if running out of quirkly character traits (as all villains must have one), tears a hole in his shoes so that his little toe can poke out the side. No, I'm not kidding. The handsome villain of hundreds of films, Prem Chopra, runs the local dance hall and plays the gang's other boss. Shakti Kapoor plays another of the crooks, who knows how to fly a plane and disco. And old timer Kader Khan rounds out the rogues gallery with a small role. Each one has played the main villain in countless other movies, having them all together is perhaps too much of a good thing.

Alas, the story simply does not reach the same heights as the casting. The music, too, is utterly disposable, with perhaps one decent song in the bunch. Most of the songs are sung to or by the child to cheer him up. The child has two facial expressions, both look uncomfortably contorted. His smile especially makes him look as if he is in pain. I might look the same way if someone forced me to smile through LOOTMAAR.

Rating: Not Recommended (Not Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on June 13, 2005.

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