Time-loop, or as we call it in cinema ‘the-groundhog-day-effect’ is now as old as time itself. The two decades since Groundhog Day was first unleashed into the theaters, the live-die-repeat phenomenon has taken a stronghold in the cinematic medium. So much so that filmmakers have both used it to the best and worst of its abilities. With Looop Lapeta, director Aakash Bhatia takes another wild swing into the time-loop subgenre. And while his filmmaking clearly relies on razor-cut editing and wild camera movements, his slapstick approach to this comedy of errors and rectifications fails to engage.
Based on Tom Tykwer’s German film ‘Run Lola Run,’ a breathtaking and electrifying thriller that deservedly won the Audience Award at the 1999 Sundance film festival, Looop Lapeta starts twisting the original formula from the get-go. Firstly, Bhatia’s approach is more comedic in nature than Tykwer’s film. He makes sure that he populates his narrative with numerous characters who act and feel like a heightened version of reality – something that people might have noticed in an Edgar Wright film.
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In fact, everything from the visuals to the edgy movements of the camera invokes Wright’s approach to visual comedy. However, unlike both the original film and any of the Cornetto Trilogy hijinks, Looop Lapeta tries really hard to stand on its own. For starters, it opens with Savi (Taapse Pannu) who has just realized that she is pregnant, before proceeding to fill up her nose with drugs and receiving a frantic phone call from her boyfriend Surya (Tahir Raj Bhasin).
The phone call clues her into a more pressing issue than her unplanned pregnancy. Her boyfriend has gotten himself in a sticky situation with his boss Victor (a sweaty Dibyendu Bhattacharya with a special obsession for his uncooked turkey). Savi’s ‘useless boyfriend’ has somehow misplaced the 50 lakh rupees he was supposed to bring back to Victor. Hearing about this triggers something in Savi who then runs out to save the love of her life from the clutches of eventual doom.
Now, if you have seen ‘Run Lola Run’ you know how the film pans out. If you haven’t, you might as well check out now because the rest of this review might spoil things for you. Anyhow, like the original, the film spirals out in 3 subsequent loops where she runs to do various things that might help save her lover. The first loop ends when a death happens and the entire thing takes place again with a few detours and changes. Decisions are what channels this supposedly energetic film into motion, and decisions are what bring it to an end.
Now, talking about the positives, this is the kind of adaption that tries to stay true to the original. In a few sleek tricks which include a red-haired cameo and an animated character, it both pays homage to Tykwer’s film and manages to stand apart for trying to do something more with what’s at hand. Additionally, the team behind the film are people who are cinema lovers for sure. This can be understood from the fact that the film is released in the same week as Groundhog Day. But, unlike Run Lola Run, which twists the butterfly effect, to tell us about human will and what it takes to do something, Looop Lapeta has nothing to say. This can also be attributed to the fact that the filmmakers chose to turn this into a comedy, rather than maintaining the thriller-drama approach in the original.
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Not that it is important for a film to say something grander, but removing out ‘the narrator’ or ‘the blind woman’ and stuffing the film with half a dozen side-character doesn’t do it any good. While the aforementioned characters in the original gave it a more philosophical edge, Looop Lapeta is a film that just casually shoe-horns its theme of acceptance into the narrative without giving it any ground to stand on.
While Franka Potente as Lola had 20 minutes to do the deed, Savi gets 80. This doesn’t just increase the run-time, it also overstretches its closely cut sequences into a film that is at least a half-hour longer. Omitting the two characters mentioned above from the film also completely zeros down its central loop phenomenon as redundant. So, instead of giving us something concrete, director Bhatia retorts to drawing parallels to Indian mythology that somehow falls flat.
After a point in the runtime, I started feeling anxious as to why took forever to get to the finale. So much so that I started reminiscing on the numerous product placements (One plus, Manforce, Goa’s infamous casino Deltin Royale) and the shooting locations that mostly includes the area around the entertainment society of Goa, (a wee nostalgic having spent a good chunk of the last month in 2021 there) instead of the movie and its many detours.
It also doesn’t help that both Tapasee Pannu and Tahir Raj Bhasin’s characters are just bland. They have zero entertaining value and whenever they are both on the screen, the film seems dull and uninteresting. Not that they are bad actors per se, but that their characters feel like they were written for someone else entirely. The saving grace here comes in the form of Manik Papneja and Raghav Raj Kakker who play two dumbfounded brothers Appu and Pappu. The duo is trying to rob their father’s (played by Rajendra Chawla) jewelry shop, and are hilarious in each iteration of the loop. They are endearing and genuinely funny and have some of the best character moments in the entire runtime. Shreya Dhanwanthary also shines in a brief monolog that she delivers in her usual shrill, perfection of a voice.
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Props also go out to cinematographer Yash Khanna who swaps the original’s red and yellow with Green and Orange hues and moves his camera with the speed of light, and editor Priyank Prem Kumar who in spite of the usual inspirations and downfalls of the direction, cleverly cuts through to make the film more engaging then it actually is.
Looop Lapeta doesn’t have a dull moment, but it is a lowbrow time-loop comedy that has no method to its chaos. This is why, when the turkey finally comes out of the oven, the journey doesn’t feel like a good AA meeting that reaffirms your sobriety.