Loo (2023): An honest and thoughtful social drama

Dipankar Sarkar provides a comprehensive review on the movie "Loo(2023)".

Jun 5, 2024 - 17:01
Jun 6, 2024 - 12:15
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Loo (2023): An honest and thoughtful social drama

When a tightrope walker manages to walk across comfortably, despite the rope being not so easy to deal with, the effort deserves to be applauded. Chanakya Vyas' short film Loo pulls off such an admirable feat of balancing. The filmmaker's good intentions are never in doubt, nor are the efforts of the filmmaking team in illuminating the bitter reality of social divisions in metropolitan cities of India. The film employs a subtle and realistic approach to the problems faced by domestic helpers working in apartment buildings. Clocked at nearly 14 minutes, the degree of realism on display draws us closer to the dilemma of the suffering woman and makes the film's mission credible.     

Nagarathnamma (Avani Vamshaja) is a domestic helper who arrives at the flat of her employer (Virginia Rodrigues), who is busy conducting an online class with her students. As Nagarathnamma carries out the household chores, she feels an urgent need to empty her bladder. She rushes downstairs to use the toilet that is meant for people belonging to her class. Unfortunately, it is occupied. As it becomes impossible for her to hold it, she goes on the lookout to find a suitable place to urinate in the open. Even that turns out to be a futile attempt. With a sense of helplessness, she returns to her employer's flat. Now she is left with no option but to use the common bathroom in the house.     

As Nagarathnamma is busy washing the utensils, we hear the employer teaching her students about how democracies accommodate various social divisions. It becomes an ironic situation as it highlights the reality of how often we fail to follow what we teach and preach to others. Further, it also offers a deep insight into the differences between the worlds of employer and employee and how they have comfortably accepted their position and place within society. They may live in the same city and nation, but their conditions vastly differ from each other. It is a fact that the director masterfully translates visually, as we observe the employer sitting authoritatively while the domestic helper is bending and sweeping the floor. The employer has a countenance, which is symbolic of an inherent calmness and understatedness. Nagarathnamma is cognizant of the fact that, while she may share the same space with those she attends to, she would never be counted among them. The two of them belong to the extreme ends of the social spectrum. The silent moments in the film let us tune in to the two principal characters's minds and hearts and vicariously experience their situation. Towards the climax, the conversation between both women transpires without having to rely too much on confrontational dialogue. Rather, it elevates the exchange to be interpreted in the way one deems suitable.     

The cinematography by Arvind Dev captures the troubled condition of Nagarathnamma with the fluidity of his camera operation. The editing by Bhuvanesh Manivannan seamlessly amplifies the tension to build up an engrossing dramatic structure. The sound design by Anandrag Veyattumal is restrained and balanced. It provides the film with a calmness that works in favour of its theme.     

Vyas scores with his two actors, each of whom turns out to be committed portrayals. Vamshaja slips into her Nagarathnamma with a complete immersion and internalizes her situation and state so immaculately that one can barely tell her apart. Rodrigues, in the role of employer, brings poise and sophistication to her character, who knows how to handle uncomfortable moments.     

Loo is a modest, socially significant, and spontaneous creative attempt. It brings perspective to a problem we are all aware of but easily turn away our eye. The issue it deals with tugs at the heartstrings and so it deserves a viewing.     

Loo was selected in the New York Indian Film Festival 2024 

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