Lost, now streaming on Zee5, is a full-length feature film that delves into the topic of missing persons across India, and how many of these cases might not be as easy to solve as they seem. The film, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (whose previous film Pink was a critical and commercial success in 2016), stars Yami Gautam as a crime reporter investigating the case of a missing 26-year-old Dalit theatre activist. Unfortunately, Lost doesn’t quite hold itself together beyond the halfway mark; read on for my spoiler-free review of this new film.
Set in modern-day Kolkata, Lost uses its setting to tie into topics that strongly affect the youth of contemporary India: caste-based discrimination, politics, political influence over the police, and the dangers of activism. While the film features a strong cast who put in decent individual performances, a lack of cohesion lets the story down, and overshadows its attempts to raise reasonable points. The film is largely in Hindi for wider appeal, but does occasionally switch to easy-to-understand Bengali phrases for a bit of locational character.
The film starts off with journalist Vidhi Sahani (Yami Gautam), who sees a woman crying in a police station after filing a missing-person report for her 26-year-old brother Ishan (Tushar Pandey). This draws her into the investigation, which eventually leads to an accusation of the missing man being a Naxalite who got indoctrinated and disappeared to pursue a specific agenda.
Others involved in the case are a charismatic state minister Ranjan Varman (Rahul Khanna), Ishan’s ambitious ex-girlfriend, Ankita Chauhan (Pia Bajpiee), and his sister (Honey Jain) who maintains that despite his beliefs and activism, he was firmly against violence and would never join a Naxalite or terror outfit. Vidhi also receives guidance from her grandfather (Pankaj Kapur) with whom she lives, and maintains a dicey long-distance relationship with her boyfriend Jeet (Neel Bhoopalam).
The film remains engaging for the first half, on the back of good casting choices and acting performances. Yami Gautam, Pankaj Kapur, and Rahul Khanna stand out, with Khanna portraying the role of a wily, charismatic, and power-hungry politician with particular skill. Pankaj Kapur, too, has a couple of important scenes in which he pulls off the impression of being unafraid and far too smart to be threatened, despite his obvious fears.
However, the motivations of the various characters seem sketchy, and the movie often feels like a fashion show for Yami Gautam to flaunt her collection of urban-chic outfits as she wanders around Kolkata looking to interview those involved. The movie also spends far too much time on unimportant matters such as Vidhi’s relationship with her wealthy, image-conscious parents, and the largely unexplained motivations and ambitions of Ankita Chauhan.
Lost does manage to produce some good scenes with meaningful exchanges when Vidhi offers support to Ishan’s sister Namita through her own marital struggles; in showing how her boyfriend Jeet, like her parents, thinks very little of the struggles of lower-caste people; and even in exploring her own motivations.
“Ek Dalit ladka ja ke Maoist ban gaya, it’s not Earth-shattering, it happens all the time,” says Jeet, with Neel Bhoopalam putting on his best posh South-Bombay accent for added effect. It’s this scene that best tells the real story of the film, strangely enough. People usually jump to the easiest-sounding conclusion, and are often unwilling to consider another point of view or dig deeper to find the truth.
Unfortunately for Lost, there is far too much going on, with far too much time spent on unnecessary matters and not enough done to explain the motivations of many of the characters. Ranjan Varman and Ankita Chauhan’s roles in the matter are largely brushed over as simply being somewhat connected and having motives to bump Ishan off, and their actions remain largely unexplained and illogically out of proportion till the end.
The movie starts to unravel soon after the halfway point, when it becomes hard to keep track of what is going on. Meaningless interviews of Varman and police officials by Vidhi take up too much screen time, and the clock seems to run out on Lost before it can really solve any of the various mysteries it created. The final 20 minutes of the movie are rushed, disconnected, and completely out of touch, and the end only left me confused.
All of this finally culminates in a message, which while good and entirely relatable, feels weirdly out of place in this film because of the lack of explanation as to where it really came from. It’s fair to say that Lost pretty much gives up on itself. Its acting performances, occasional positive messages, and technical quality are simply not able to hold up its awkwardly disjointed script. Let me know in the comments if you’re as confused as I was after watching this movie.