Lootere has a promising premise: to explore piracy on the Somalian seas through Indian characters. The web series has a bunch of African actors too, and gives a real sense of being in a foreign location.

Lootere is set in Mogadishu in 2016. Early on, we meet Vikrant (Vivek Gomber), a nicotine-addicted businessman who has considerable influence over the Mogadishu port. When one of his vessels captained by RK Singh (Rajat Kapoor) is hijacked, Vikrant reaches for his never-ending supply of cigarette packs and nearly bursts a blood vessel (if not a lung).

Vikrant’s business partner Ajay (Chandan Roy Sanyal) emerges out of his hedonistic stupor to take stock of a situation that gets knottier with every minute. Vikrant’s factotum Gupta (Chirag Vora) tries to calm tempers. Back on the ship, the head pirate Barkat (Martial Bachamen) watches over his borderline psychotic posse.

The stakes are high. The debt-ridden Vikrant’s consignment is out of the ordinary, and its loss will harm his family, including his wife Avika (Amruta Khanvilkar). Apart from being one of Vikrant’s motivations to solve the mess, Avika is involved in a needless sub-plot about her maid’s missing son.

Rajat Kapoor in Lootere (2024). Courtesy Disney+ Hotstar.

Lootere has been created by Shaailesh R Singh, written by Vishal Kapoor and Suparn S Varma from a story by Anshuman Singh, and directed by Jai Mehta. Hansal Mehta serves as showrunner.

Two out of eight episodes are available on Disney+ Hotstar. The remaining six will released at the rate of one every week.

The show’s biggest draw is quickly jettisoned. Rather than serving as a local knock-off of Hollywood productions, including the Tom Hanks-led Captain Phillips (2013), Lootere could have looked closer at Indian-origin businessmen who have lived in African countries for generations and become a part of the local economy and politics. Why else would the series be set in Somalia?

Vikrant’s Indian heritage barely matters in the larger scheme of things. We are frequently informed that we are in Somalia (the series was actually filmed in South Africa), but going by the turn of events, we could be among the Mumbai underworld or in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh. The Somalian cultural shading is limited to a militia that is threatening to overrun the local government.

There’s ultimately little to distinguish Lootere from the average over-cooked and deep-fried crime thriller. Compelling characters and moments – mostly supplied by the shifting dynamics among the crew members on the beleaguered vessel – are buried under an avalanche of exaggerated plotting.

It barely helps that Lootere has far too much invested in Vikrant. Shady, amoral and ruthlessly ambitious, Vikrant’s hand-wringing fools nobody, except the show’s makers. Vikrant’s hysterics do Vivek Gomber no favours either – his over-the-top performance grates even more when compared to finely-judged turns by Rajat Kapoor and Chandan Roy Sanyal.

Fewer shouty scenes, less melodrama and an even shorter episode count might just have done the trick. Having set sail into the treacherous waters of piracy, Lootere struggles to be in charge both on the high seas and on the ground.

Lootere (2024).