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Luck by Chance

Can I say I totally {heart} Zoya and Farhan and the whole Akhtar khandaan? I’m not usually in favor of family dynasties, though I’m not against them on principle either – but these guys simply rock. Zoya, it seems, has the same self-awareness and humor and ‘light touch’ that her brother has, combined with the potential for tapping into the zeitgeist that they share with their parents, but she’s also so much more down-to-earth and edgy than Farhan seems to be – to add to all of that, she’s a girlllll!! Awwww. Zoya, just don’t be an Obambi-fan, please?

Luck by Chance is another one in the whole new genre of ‘meta’ Hindi movies: movies about the Industry, replete with in jokes, references, actors playing themselves, snippets of gossip thrown in for a Bollywood-crazy audience and a guessing game of which real-life actor/producer/director each character is based on. These movies are smart about succeeding – the economics of the industry require that a big budget movie be seen by a vast number of people (since the margins are so thin most places). Which means both the multiplex/urban/young/educated/upper income class/white collar audience on the one side, as well as the single theatre/rural/less educated/lower income class/blue collar audience on the other side, have to both watch a big-budget movie. One way to do that is with big stars. Another way is to make sure the story has something for each group. The meta movies poke fun at the typical masala elements, and for doing so they need to depict typical masala elements – so they satisfy both their audiences [Much like rape scenes used to in the 70s and the 80s – those scenes helped titillate the pathetic losers who wanted to watch them, while also showing the villain doing the rape and then being punished eventually, hence satisfying the very same audience’s need for moral propriety and ‘order’ in the universe].

The difference is, unlike, say, Om Shanti Om, Luck by Chance has an actual story as well, and one that’s not too filmi or predictable or boring. Zoya manages to make the movie so chock-full of amazing moments that often you need to stop mid-reaction so you don’t miss watching the next moment. She assumes her audience is intelligent and can get subtle reactions without being spoon-fed (watch how Farhan’s character Vikram quietly adjusts his glares when Nikki walia (Isha Sharvani) is being chewed out by her mother (Dimple Kapadia) for her puffy eyes after a night-long surreptitious tryst in Vikram’s room). In a quirky twist, the character introduction of Sona (Konkana Sen Sharma) actually occurs in a monologue right at the end – not sure if this was forced by convenience/time, but this twist suddenly wenches the protagonist’s hat from Vikram and puts it firmly on Sona’s head. That’s when you realize that Zoya’s moved you and your emotions so far away from where they were three hours ago, and you’re rooting for Sona Misra, the naive, likable and ambitious small-town girl – not necessarily for the charming Vikram.

I wonder why, in a story that’s such an ode to the ‘outsider’ in an incestuous Bollywood that often ignores the millions of wannabes knocking on its doors, every character and every key actor Zoya chose, is ironically part of a ‘big Bollywood family’. The movie is written & directed by Zoya, the hero is Farhan, both children of Javed Akhtar, Konkana is Aparna Sen’s daughter, Rishi Kapoor is part of the Kapoor khandaan, Hrithik’s dad was an actor/director/producer and his uncle is a music director. The heartbreaking competition and the desperation she knows to be true, she shows in the song Sapnon se Bhare Naina – when hundreds of young men enthusiastically and desperately audition for a role they know nothing about, for work that hasn’t been negotiated, for a character they haven’t been told anything about, for pay they’re not even sure they’re going to receive. One man says he’s done one commercial in two years, his voice breaking. Another wants to do-over his audition so he can do better. A third haltingly asks Farhan to help him fill his forms in English, his voice low with embarrassment. It’s impressive that the film has such deep sensitivity and is so rooted to the ‘real world’ – it’s doubly impressive that every character has more depth than the usual single-note cartoons we usually get to see, but the best part is, the movie’s such a riot. As Ranjit Rolly (Sanjeev Kapoor) says, the movie moves from highlight to highlight – and makes it good.


Oh, and other things I noticed only on the third or so viewing:

  • It’s awesome that there’s a girl behind the camera in the picture-within-a-picture. Not for the actual movie, but for the second-round audition that Farhan does with Isha.
  • The songs are really, really terribly choreographed/picturized. Really. The romantic song, that I can’t stop listening to, is unbearably boring. And the other song, with Konkana waking up heroine-style, is not as bad as I thought it was when I’d first seen it.

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