*Minor spoilers ahead
How many chances would you ask for to save a life, and a prized relationship that has somehow soured over time? Savi is miraculously given 3.
Looop Lapeta adapts the theme of the 1998 time-loop thriller Run Lola Run. The film interweaves the legend of Savitri and Satyavan in an attempt to Indianise it and is quite successful. So much so that the names of the romantic leads, Savi and Satya, are a play on the names of the mythical duo. It is surely not a copy-paste remake and takes on a very different path in character development and style, when compared to the German classic. While both the movies are thrillers, Looop Lapeta takes a slightly different approach to thrill. Besides the conspicuous choice of setting in Goa, the film utilizes paced editing, psychedelic-inspired dim lighting, and a hip colour palette to lend quirkiness.
The story unfurls when Satya’s proclivity to skate on thin ice lands him on the wrong side of a local ganglord. He loses his money, a lot of money. They must return it before the turkey is cooked or pay with his life. At this precipice of tragedy, they must make choices and make them quick. Savi and Satya scramble for money and cross paths with people who influence how each iteration of the time loop plays out.
Unlike its inspiration, this film is not shrewd with time. The screenplay chaperones us to various secondary plots. Appu and Gappu are two gawky brothers trying to rob the same jewellery store Satya has his eye on. This detour serves little to the main story and sometimes tries too hard to conjure hilarity. On a quest to save Satya’s life Savi happens upon a forlorn Jacob, a cabbie madly in love with Julia who is to be someone else’s bride. A vacillating Julia delivers a monologue which helps articulate the trepidation Savi might have about her relationship with her feckless boyfriend.
The other dynamic that rounds Savi’s character is her relationship with her father. Atul Borkar runs a boxing gym. He had high ambitions for his daughter’s athletic career. Savi dreamed of becoming a star athlete as well. The despair of not having realized these dreams is palpable in their eyes. Savi resents her father for “thopo-ing” (shoving) his dreams on her and Atul thinks her daughter needs to get her life back together. The conflict remains unresolved for the significant part of the film when these two characters share screen. But despite this strife it is evident that they care much for each other and their relationship. Kudos to the actors for portraying this sentiment on screen with such tenderness.
It is clear at the outset that Savi maintains a distant relationship with her father. She only reaches out when she needs help with money.
On one such occasion Atul says: “Tumhare dreams ke liye meine apni reality chhupai” (I hid my reality for your dreams). He believes he had to hide his identity as a gay man to save his daughter from embarrassment. Savi holds the memory of her dead mother close to her heart. She shrouds her discomfort with her father’s sexuality as jealousy for her mother. Although her father’s boyfriend, Yash, extends a hand towards Savi, she brushes it aside curtly every time.
What sets Looop Lapeta apart from other Bollywood films in terms of giving space to queer characters is its treatment of the subject with relative nonchalance. Atul is confident in who he is but is aware of his daughter’s discomfort. He does not force her to accept him or his boyfriend right away and lets her make that journey herself. Even before this revelation, we see a rainbow mug on Atul’s desk which warms our hearts. There are no preachy monologues that reek of righteous bravado. This has largely been the approach with the new wave of films on the subject of queerness: to teach. This film shows, which is praiseworthy. Looop Lapeta does not sanitize its characters of their flaws. It manages to deeply humanize Savi and Atul Borkar with its laid-back style of storytelling.
It is long overdue that the film industry realizes that queer folks are not some paltry side characters who appear only for comic relief. Bollywood might have mostly moved away from the effeminate funny gay man in the name of representation, but it still has a long, long way to go. Gender is a spectrum and there are myriad sexualities. Popular cinema does help bring the discourse to a wider table and so it must push boundaries. We must explore stories other than those of gay men. At this point a cis-gay character in an ensemble does feel repetitive and tokenistic. The dearth of queer talent on screen also calls to sound an alarm. Maybe if we had ample queer actors playing all sorts of roles, watching a straight person play a gay role would not be an issue. But since that is not the case it becomes essential to cast queer actors in roles that represent them.
Representation matters on- and off-screen and we are happy to see Jay Anand lend his voice to the spunky title track of Looop Lapeta. It might be his debut song in Bollywood but the musician, singer and songwriter has been putting out music independently for a while now. His first album, Faces of Love, came out in 2017 followed by singles: Fool To Want You and Come Home.
Jay graduated from Musicians Institute, Hollywood with a performing arts degree (Guitar) in addition to minoring in songwriting. Jay, a trans man, has been playing music since the age of four and gradually developed his passion for music. He eventually went on to formally train in music. Jay has not only been creating music but also imparting musical knowledge for almost a decade through his music institute.
On his experience of working in Bollywood as a trans man, he says: ”I have been privileged that I have come across some amazing human beings who only cared about the talent. I came from a place of inhibition in the beginning because of the stereotypes. I am dressing a certain way; I’m talking a certain way.”
Jay remains active on Instagram and shares his experiences as a trans person in his reels. “LGBTQIA+ is a spectrum anyway. Being one element of this group doesn’t make me an expert to speak on everything. I can only speak from my experiences which are unique to me.”
“I don’t want my work to be heard because I’m a trans musician. I want to be heard because I’m a musician and because people relate to my story.” Jay is looking forward to writing new music and continues to perform. He is keen on working as a singer-songwriter in the industry as well as independently.
Looop Lapeta released on 4 Feb 2022 and is available on Netflix.