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INTERVIEW |'Lootere' is not just a thriller, it is about the world we live in: Hansal Mehta


HYDERABAD : For Hansal Mehta, working on the web series Lootere was special. This was the first time the acclaimed director took a backseat (specifically as a showrunner) for a series helmed entirely by his son Jai Mehta. However, this wasn’t their first collaboration. Jai has previously worked as an assistant director for his father’s films, including Aligarh (2015), Citylights (2014) and Shahid (2012). Further, Jai co-directed some episodes of Scam 1992 (2020) with Hansal. So, when Shaailesh Singh, the creator of Lootere, called Hansal to work on the show, he was quick to recommend Jai, since he was busy working on Scoop (2023) at the time.

“When I finally came on board, Lootere was already written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn Verma,” he says. “Shaailesh was working with Vasan Bala who was going to direct it earlier. But then, Vasan got committed to Monica, O My Darling (2022), Scam 1992 released and I was working on Scoop. So, Shaailesh called me and said I have to do this project. I told him that the only way possible for this to happen is if Jai directs it.”

Hansal was fascinated with all the different perspectives that were part of the show and how the hijacked ship at the centre of it became a representation of the world we inhabit. “There are the pirates, the crew and a shrewd businessman at one side,” the filmmaker adds. “You have the privileged, you have the middle class and there are these people who are impoverished and forced into piracy due to the conditions in their country. It’s like having the entire socio-economic strata trapped together in one place. Beyond being a thriller, if you look at it deeper, it is about the world that we live in.”

Vivek Gomber

Vivek Gomber plays businessman Vikrant Gandhi in the show. He is the president of the Port Authority in Somalia and is caught in the middle of several complexities involving pirates, ship crew and a terrorist outfit. Vivek had earlier starred in critically acclaimed films like Court (2014), where he played a soft-spoken lawyer working on a sensitive case, and Sir (2018), where his character, a privileged man, falls in love with a domestic worker. For him, working on this show was exciting as it was set in a thrilling world. “As a young boy, you want to play with guns, jump off things and do action.

But I never got to do any of that in my earlier films,” he says. “I am grateful for the work I have done but I wanted to explore more. Whatever I learnt from the series, I actually used it in the next project that I worked on.”

Jai wanted to have a strong arc for Vikrant in order to bring out the themes of greed and power effectively. Further, he wanted to balance this authenticity and seriousness in the writing by keeping his outlook fresh. “The approach was to make it as engaging as possible. It is easy to make something super serious. But to make something which is fun and entertaining but has gravitas at the same time, is difficult,” says Jai. He worked with cinematographer Jall Cowasji to make the visuals feel raw and moody.

They were inspired by the Italian crime drama series, ZeroZeroZero (2020) and photographs clicked by artists like Robert Doisneau to design the look of the show. “Jall recently passed out of New York University and many would find it surprising that it was his first show,” Jai says.

“A lot of our referencing came from photographs and paintings which is how we understood the lighting patterns. The images in the show are extremely saturated and high in contrast. We were consciously trying to go for something that hasn’t been done before.” Set in Somalia and shot in South Africa, what stands out in the series is how it doesn’t have the sepia tone, which is common for films set in developing countries. “We have stayed away from the ‘Africa filter’,” he adds.

All of this was possible as Hansal served as the showrunner and supported his son’s vision. “For Lootere, unfortunately, the mandate for the show doesn’t allow for the credit of a father. You cannot say ‘Father Hansal Mehta’. So, I became the showrunner,” he jokes. “While we both have worked together in the past, he is very much his own beast. He likes to keep his filmmaking larger-than-life and entertaining while also working on visual grammar. All of it comes from him. Here, my job was to help him stay focused on the story while he explored the child inside.”