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Lootere Review: The series is both captivating and exhilarating

An image from the series. (courtesy: Youtube)

Debut director Jai Mehta's deep-sea thriller Looter is based on the defensive and/or despicable actions of men motivated by greed, ambition and coercion. Set in an African nation whose inhabitants are all at sea, and not just in the metaphorical sense, the eight-episode series is packed with action.

The initial two-episode release of the fast-paced Disney+Hotstar series will be followed by a weekly release every Thursday for the next month and a half.

The action takes place in a country on the brink of a civil war, a place where dangers are numerous. The thrilling rhythm of Looter is accentuated by Achint Thakkar's propulsive background music and a lively theme track.

With Hansal Mehta as showrunner, the series is expected to be more in the zone inspired by true events. The mark of the seasoned filmmaker Looter is palpable. He brings his proven talent for credible drama to the series produced by Shaailesh R. Singh.

Despite its crime drama moorings – Looter is uncharted territory for Mehta in terms of location and genre – the series is not a conventional swashbuckler. It delves into the darker side of shipping in a world infested with dangerous, selfish men out to kill.

Off the coast of Somalia, a band of pirates take control of a ship carrying contraband linked to the more volatile politics of this troubled country. In a universe where anything goes, the looters of the title are no worse than those who want to recover the captured ship and its precious cargo.

The company that owns the ship, the man who ordered the cargo, the company the cargo is destined for, the crew caught in the crossfire and facing constant threats of violence, and the pirates determined to extract their pound of flesh are waging an intensely bloody battle. In Looteran action drama that gets bloodier and bloodier as the stakes rise.

The men involved in the fight are deadly and deceitful. Betrayal and backstabbing come easily to them. The story by Anshuman Sinha and the screenplay by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S. Varma integrate the personal and emotional into the larger, wilder world in which the series takes place.

A woman at the end of her patience with a husband who has little time for his family, a mother grieving for her missing son, an amoral immigrant businessman confronted with hostility from the natives, boys and men forced by the privations to engage in piracy and the impious. alliances made with the aim of fishing in troubled waters.

The director makes the most of the mix of Indian and African actors he has at his disposal. Looter is the first Indian web show filmed on the African continent. The location gives it a distinct color and texture. South Africa replaces Mogadishu and some small Somali towns.

Capturing a range of spaces – the slums, the ocean, the ship's bridge, deck and cabins, the roads through towns and villages, the bungalows and hovels – cinematographer Jall Cowasji uses dramatic lighting and angles that heighten the tension and unease in the heart. of the darkness that envelops the landscape.

The mission to save the ship and its cargo and save the crew forms the crux of the series. A country's port authority, a cargo ship and an Indian family face serious turmoil as pirates (including two siblings, one the captain, the other a rookie) mobilize and demand a heavy ransom.

At the center of the plot is an amoral Indian businessman who struggles with a failing company and adversaries who seek to eliminate him. He wants to be re-elected president of the Mogadishu Port Authority. Well-established forces are determined to thwart him.

Vikrant Gandhi (Vivek Gomber, who directs the whole thing with aplomb), raised in Somalia and married to Avika (the formidable Amruta Khanvilkar), daughter of the man whose business he inherited, is in no mood to give in ground to its rivals. . But will the men he considers friends in need – Tawfik (Chris Gxalaba), Gupta (Chirag Vohra) and Bilal (Gaurav Sharma) – stay by his side amid the coming storm?

Vikrant lives with Avika and their son Aaryaman (Varin Roopani). His plans fail when Somali pirates attack a Ukrainian ship owned by a kyiv-based company. The company's managing director, the womanizing and shrewd Ajay Kotwal (Chandan Roy Sanyal), is a long-time associate of Vikrant.

Vikrant has reasons to prevent the ship from reaching Mogadishu. To save the cargo, he turns to Bilal for help. The latter unleashes the pirates. The crew of the ship, led by Captain AK Singh (Rajat Kapoor), is pushed against the wall. They struggle to keep their cool about themselves and keep the warring pirates at bay.

The pirates are commanded by Karim Barkhad (Martial Batchamen), whose pacifist ways annoy a hot-headed gang member, Koombe (Athenkosi Mfamela), who is prone to lashing out. When the Indian embassy in Kenya learns of the standoff, the ambassador (Anant Mahadevan) calls in undercover agent Ghulam Waris (Aamir Ali). The latter offers Vikrant immunity in exchange for helping rescue the ship's crew.

Women in a world that is only for men are perpetually at odds with what is happening. Among the 13 sailors is the tough Ayesha (Preetika Chawla), a woman who takes nothing while lying down. She fights shoulder to shoulder with her comrades.

Another woman, the pregnant wife of one of the crew members, Gulrez Singh (Nareshh Mallik), is also on the ship. The two women on board hide when the pirates strike.

Back in Mogadishu, Vikrant's wife Avika is fighting her own battle. Towed by a police officer, she goes to a region of Somalia considered dangerous for women. Avika asks the inspector where the safest place is for women when he tries to dissuade her from making the trip.

Avika's mission is to find the missing son of her servant Jamilah (Mamello Makhetha). Her self-obsessed husband doesn't lift a finger to help the distraught mother until his own marriage is in danger.

The marital drama component, bolstered by strong performances from Gomber and Khanvilkar, adds emotional depth to the plot. The rest of the series is about men shooting each other.

Rajat Kapoor is perfect as the captain who stands firm in the face of great adversity. Preetika Chawla, Harry Parmar and Gaurav Paswala, playing the crew members, deliver the goods. Among the Cape Town-based actors, three stand out: Martial Batchamen as the pirate commander, Athenkosi Mfamela as the rebellious gang member and Chris Gxalaba as Tawfik, the man Vikrant Gandhi turns to when his port presidency is threatened.

With its impeccable production values ​​and spectacularly high traction, Looter is a spectacle that is both captivating and exhilarating.

Cast:

Vivek Gomber, Amruta Khanvilkar, Rajat Kapoor, Martial Batchamen Tchana, Preetika Chawla

Director:

Jai Mehta

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