Looop Lapeta – the new Netflix movie starring Taapsee Pannu and Tahir Raj Bhasin – is proof that Bollywood can’t make a lean, mean high-concept B-movie. Rather than diving straight into the thick of it (and staying in its lane), the Hindi remake of Tom Tykwer’s 1998 Sundance Film Festival-winning German thriller Run Lola Run packs all sorts of plot, subplots and backgrounds. into it. There’s even a song sequence that slows Looop Lapeta down even more. While Run Lola Run was 89 minutes long – not a single minute longer than necessary – Looop Lapeta is 130 minutes long.
Those extra 40 minutes are filled with distraction after distraction (involving a variety of supporting characters), seeping into the momentum of what’s meant to be a thriller. And inevitably, Looop Lapeta loses his tension each time he is distracted. That’s the key to any thriller – even more so one that literally revolves around a short amount of time. (The protagonist here has 50 minutes to procure Rs. 50 lakh.)
Tywker understood the importance of all of this on Run Lola Run, as the German film was powered by its pure kinetic energy. (Speed was among the titles they were considering, Tywker noted.) Looop Lapeta director Aakash Bhatia — making his debut here, with his only previous long-form experience being the second season of the over-the- Amazon Prime Video’s top soapy Inside Edge – is obviously a fan of this film, given that he’s remaking it to begin with. (There’s even an easter egg in your face, complete with the back of a red-haired Lola walking into a casino.) But Bhatia doesn’t really understand what made Run Lola Run such a hit and why that. worked so well. .
Perhaps this poor approach is the result of a lack of experience, too many cooks in the kitchen, or both. There are four writers credited on Looop Lapeta: Dr Vinay Chhawal, Ketan Pedgaonkar, Arnav Vepa Nanduri and Director Bhatia. Three of them have never written a film in their lives, except Chhawal whose only credit includes the poorly received comedy-drama Angrezi Medium. For what it’s worth, Looop Lapeta gets better as it goes, with the third cycle – those who’ve seen the original will know what I mean – being the most elaborate and interesting of the lot. But for too much of its runtime, it lacks the requisite focus and propulsive force that this kind of movie needs.
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Or maybe this bad approach is the result of producers’ demands. Looop Lapeta is the second Indian remake of a high-profile international thriller on Netflix in the past few months. The previous one was the Kartik Aaryan-directed Dhamaka, where writer-director Ram Madhvani fell into a similar trap early on (before encountering further problems). Except that his distractions were shorter though sweeter. Maybe it’s more of an industry issue then. Why can’t B movies in India just be B movies? Why can’t movies be as tight as they have to be? It’s generally accepted that Bollywood has a habit of stretching movies – and Looop Lapeta feels like the latest victim of this blatant philosophy.
The premise here is the same: after Satyajeet (Tahir Raj Bhasin, of Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein) loses a gangster’s money, his girlfriend Savina Borkar (Taapsee Pannu) comes to his rescue. She needs to get Rs. 50 lakh in 50 minutes otherwise Satya faces a brutal death. But Looop Lapeta tweaks how we get there. For starters, it’s her birthday and she just found out she’s pregnant. But unlike Lola in Run Lola Run where she failed to get her boyfriend back like she was supposed to, Savi has no involvement in Satya’s adventure. It is a curious movement. Even though her boyfriend was largely at fault, Lola felt bad about his role — or lack thereof. Savi has no reason to feel guilty, so her decision to help Satya comes purely from a place of love.
And that’s where Looop Lapeta’s backstory comes in. In Run Lola Run, Lola was rescuing her stupid, ungrateful boyfriend (whom we otherwise knew little about). Here, Savi kind of pays it back. With the help of a voice-over by Pannu and an animated opening title sequence, Looop Lapeta guides us through the story of Savi: a successful track athlete who suffered a career-ending injury. career, she nearly committed suicide, only for Satya to save her from certain doom. (Early on, Savi jokes that audiences don’t need to know how she got here—knocked up—but the movie tells us that story anyway. Self-awareness isn’t a strong point.) Pregnant and going nowhere in life, Savi is essentially in limbo. It’s normal then she finds herself in a (temporal) loop.
For those unfamiliar with Run Lola Run, it’s sci-fi concept in a nutshell. Each time Savi fails to save Satya, she is reset.
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There’s promise here in this extended version of Lola. Refashioned as a woman stuck in life and now getting a second chance, the events of Looop Lapeta serve as an otherworldly test. It’s as if the universe itself is talking to Savi, trying to snap out of her stupor and pushing her to fix her life. Run Lola Run never really bothered to flesh out Lola in this way – everything we learned about her came from the movie, not from her own words. It was either passed down in snatches and bobs during his many runs, or in the interludes that sewed the loops.
While completely ignoring the first, Bhatia and Co. retains the second – the aspect ratio changes from 16:9 to a more square format each time it happens – the conversation diving into a story pulled from the pages of Mahabharata. Mythology nerds would have already noticed that the lead couple is named after the witty and devoted Princess Savitri and her exiled love Prince Satyavan, whose death was foretold. But Savitri has found a way to save Satyavan, and Savi from Looop Lapeta ends up in a similar place. The mythology-laden interludes might tell us why Savi does what she does, but they don’t quite touch on Run Lola Run’s existential musings.
As for the expanded backstory, the problem is that Looop Lapeta spends too much time setting it all up. We had to find a way to tell us about Savi during her runs, like Run Lola Run did. The film does not “start” for 28 minutes. And what happens because of that 28 minutes is when Looop Lapeta starts doing things that Run Lola Run did – like giving us cutaway thumbnails of what’s happening in the future of random street -the lives of the secondary characters that Lola/Savi direct – it feels weird. It didn’t happen for 28 minutes, so why now? Looop Lapeta also retains other ideas without really establishing them, including Lola’s signature sonic scream that makes an appearance in left field late in the game here.
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Apart from all this, there is a series of tiny but still annoying hassles. At a crucial moment, Looop Lapeta uses a convenient coincidence to propel his narrative. The Netflix movie also speaks to audiences and offers a concise lesson at the end. And there are direct product placements for a pregnancy test kit maker and a smartphone brand. Oddly enough, even though it’s a Sony Pictures production, it’s not a Sony phone. I imagine the company’s exit from the Indian smartphone market has something to do with it.
And it seems trivial to complain, but doesn’t Pannu seem to run well? This is the second movie in a row where Pannu is supposed to run around a lot. But the editors of Rashmi Rocket and Looop Lapeta bypassed it. In addition, Looop Lapeta finds all the excuses to make Savi take off and get into a car or a bus.
What ultimately dooms Looop Lapeta is his refusal to embrace his roots. In some ways, Run Lola Run was a video game movie, highlighted by its save file-like structure, animated inserts, and heavy use of primary colors. Looop Lapeta, on the other hand, is a Bollywood drama.
It is also much less urgent. Time was of the essence in Run Lola Run – everything from the high-tempo soundtrack to the camerawork that frequently checked the clocks. You can also see it in her overall execution and the time pressures on Lola. While Savi has 50 minutes to collect the money, Lola only had 20 minutes. You know there’s padding when the writers at Looop Lapeta felt they needed to dramatically increase the cycle length.
If that’s what Indianizing something means, then maybe this subgenre is better off without an Indian take.
Looop Lapeta was released on Friday, February 4 at 1:30 p.m. IST / 12 p.m. PT on Netflix.