Lootere: Is the Hotstar Show Based on a True Story?

Under the creative direction of Hansal Mehta and Shaailesh R Singh, ‘Lootere’ unfurls the riveting tale of an Indian trading vessel being attacked on international waters by Somali pirates. In the ensuing turmoil of a hostage crisis, the ship’s captain, the Somali commander, and a scheming businessman fight for control. Vikrant Gandhi (Vivek Gomber) is the president of the Mogadishu port authority in Somalia and struggles to run a business inherited from his father-in-law. He has a valuable consignment en route from Ukraine, which is being transported on a commercial vessel helmed by Captain AK Singh (Rajat Kapoor).

Heavily armed skiff-riding Somali pirates attack the ship and begin setting up hostage negotiations with the Indian government for a large ransom. The Hotstar action drama series is highlighted by stellar performances by its diverse cast, which includes African actors, and by the thrills and mysteries that revolve around the captured commercial ship. With the show exploring the issue of international piracy and a high-stakes hostage situation involving the Indian government, one may seek to investigate whether such a scenario has played out in the real world.

Lootere is Inspired by Real Events of Piracy Carried Out by Somali Pirates

‘Lootere’ terms itself as being inspired by real events, which likely refers to the multiple cases of Indian ship crews being targeted by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. In particular, there have been a few such events that involved sensitive negotiations and an outright projection of force by the Indian Navy, which may have inspired writer Anshuman Sinha to create the premise of the Hotstar show.

Somali piracy takes place off the coast of the West African nation and in the surrounding waters of the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Indian Ocean and the Western World through the Suez Canal. Therefore, a majority of the world’s maritime trade passes through the region, which becomes a target for pirates hailing from the politically unstable nation of Somalia. Somali pirates have become a huge trade and security risk in the region since 2005 and have attacked hundreds of ships, with many of their crews being Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi, as seen in the series. In 2023 and 2024 alone, about 20 Indian ships have been attacked, boarded, or hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.

Some of the more dramatic incidents that may have inspired the series are the MV Stolt Valor and MV Gibe in 2008, the MV Suez incident in 2010, and MV Al Kausar in 2017. In 2008, the MV Stolt Valor, a Hong Kong chemical tanker with a majority of Indian crew, was hijacked by Somali pirates after passing through the Suez Canal. The captors asked for a ransom of six million dollars, and after negotiations with Hong Kong authorities, a lower amount was paid, and the ship’s crew was released unharmed.

In the same year, MV Gibe, a merchant vessel sailing under an Ethiopian flag off the coast of Somalia, sent a distress signal to the Indian warship Mysore. The merchant ship was under small arms fire by the pirates, who were attacking in a similar manner to the one seen in the show. They were heavily armed with AK-47s, an RPG, and grenades. INS Mysore launched an attack helicopter and began closing in on pirates, who attempted to flee but were captured and forced to surrender.

Image Credit: Press Release/Indian Navy

The MV Suez was a Panama flag-bearing vessel with Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans sailing it. The vessel was captured by Somali pirates after suffering small arms fire. Negotiations for a ransom prolonged for nearly ten months, and the Indian Navy began planning a rescue operation with their Marine Commando (MARCOS). However, the negotiations were resolved when Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney raised enough funds to secure the hostage transfer. The MV Suez incident was perhaps the most grueling for the crew of the ship and may have inspired the prolonged pressure suffered by the hijacked crew in ‘Lootere.’

In March 2017, Somali pirates hijacked the MV Al Kausar, an Indian-registered oil tanker with an Indian crew, off the coast of Somalia. The ship was carrying fuel from Djibouti to Mogadishu. Following the hijacking, the Indian Navy swiftly responded, deploying a warship to the area, projecting power as inter-governmental negotiations took place with the pirates. After several days, the pirates released the vessel and its crew members unharmed. The Indian Navy’s prompt response and coordinated efforts contributed to the safe resolution of the hijacking.

Image Credit: Press Release/Indian Navy

Thus, we can observe that while ‘Lootere’ takes inspiration from the incidents of Somali piracy carried out against Indian crews, it builds on it with a highly dramatized plot involving intrigue, an incredibly high ransom demand, and a counter-naval operation. When asked about his stance on staying true to the real incidents portrayed in the film’s story, Hansal Mehta said, “I think your responsibility is that of a storyteller, your integrity is towards the story, the characters. Whether it’s fiction or whether it’s fact, ultimately my job is to tell the story in the most engaging manner possible.”

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