‘Lost’: Nicely Atmospheric, but Ultimately Dissatisfying

By Shubhra Gupta

A young man who does ‘nukkad naatak’ on Kolkata’s teeming streets, goes missing one fine day. His sister and mother are bereft, because no one, least of all the police, seems interested in searching for him. A journalist with a fine nose for sniffing out trouble is on his trail, asking tough questions, making some powerful people uncomfortable: Aniruddha Roy’s Choudhary’s ‘Lost’ begins with a great deal of promise.

But as it goes along, it becomes more the story of Vidhi (Yami Gautam) an intrepid reporter, rebellious daughter, loving granddaughter, than about Ishan (Tushar Pandey), the theatre activist, in a rocky relationship with the ambitious Ankita (Pia Bajpiee), and his trajectory. The person who is ‘lost’, on whose story the film’s title is based, takes a back-seat, and it is the film that gets lost.

That shift detracts from the themes it is trying to underline, all important but forced to dovetail into each other — the underprivileged have no say, that caste and class determine fate, but that individuals can shift the needle. When a privileged young man states ‘what’s so surprising about a Dalit youth becoming a Maoist’, it’s not that the statement cannot be true, but it is not the only truth.

Statistics of people who go missing everyday in India flash as the end credits are rolling are alarming. But we never really get to know enough about the earnest Ishan, and his motivations. Exactly what happened to him? Why did he go missing? What causes was he espousing? This sketchiness afflicts almost every other character in the film – Ishan’s ambitious girl-friend (Bajpiee), the menacing politician (nice to see Rahul Khanna on screen, but he really can’t do menace), the senior ‘neta’ who doles out advice, the cops who are more obstructive than anything else.

Choudhary’s 2016 ‘Pink’ was a solid, consistently engaging film in which all the main characters are carefully fleshed out: we are interested in each of the three young women who are up against the might of powerful louts who harass them. In ‘Lost’, parts of which may remind you of ‘Kahaani’ and ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (Kolkata, missing person, fiercely independent journalists upholding the values of integrity and justice), the plot’s focus on Vidhi reduces the other characters into satellites who revolve around her. The only one who lifts off the screen is Pankaj Kapur, playing her twinkly-eyed, wise grandpa.

And that makes ‘Lost’ nicely atmospheric but ultimately dissatisfying.