Tuesday, October 27, 2009

some scattered thoughts on Luck by Chance

Lesson learned: do not watch a movie, especially a complex and nuanced one like Luck by Chance, and then immediately go on vacation with no time to write it up for ten days. Sigh. What's left in my head is just a list of what this movie made me think about it - but that could be quite a list. Overall I thought this was very well done. I loved its strong women, both good and bad. I loved its celebration of and dose of harsh morning light for the film industry. I loved that it ends with a refreshing breeze of realism that's low on overt judgment of the characters: real happiness lies in knowing and being yourself, whether that's being true to your values

or true to your desires (which in some cases override any normal sense of "values" altogether, so much so that they become your values).*


There were only two things that bothered me about this film. First, it sometimes felt that the pins that flew at the Bollywood balloon were just too sharp and inexhaustible. Zoya Akhtar skewered the film world so gut-wrenchingly and left such bleak tatters behind that I felt like a chump for liking any of its products. Thank goodness it ends with such a confident, useful idea. The more lasting issue for me was what the story said about film world nepotism. I don't feel I got a tidy statement from the filmmakers about the incredible power of family connections, unlike its statement about sucking up, which I thought was clear as day. This issue is muddled further by the real-life connections of so many of the major players in this project. Maybe the writer/director was simply observing this tendency rather than stating a strong opinion on it. (The actual biographies of cast and crew also made some of the narrative about struggle and paying dues a bit hard to swallow, but I assume that was a purposeful juxtaposition designed to depict how film life really is rather than a choice to ignore their reality to create a rosier world for the film.)

To start, I want to jump up and down shouting praises for this fantastic, frustrating, fraudulent, fierce older generation of characters!

After this, Delhi-6, and Love Aaj Kal, I'm finally on the Rishi Kapoor train. I don't know what's taken me so long. He was wonderfully nervous, weaselly, and vulnerable. All of these people were so interesting! All of their performances were so knowledgeable! I just wish they got to do even more!

I loved Sona's ultimate diss of jackass Vikram.

Living well - your own definition of "well," at that! - is the best revenge. Along her path to freedom was this great bit with the fridge.

To me, the fridge was Vikram himself: resource-gobbling; too big for the space it has reasonably been allotted; deliberately tough, shiny exterior; very cool on the inside. Its whole point is to be cool. It isn't even absolutely necessary, but everybody wants one, is supposed to want one - so much so that it's endorsed by Vikram's predecessor Zaffar.


There was something really pleasing to me about some of the cameos. Of course I loved Akshaye getting to do as much as he did, especially because he actually doesn't seem to be terribly sought-after these days. After sitting through some of the crap he's signed up for in the last few years, the idea of him turning something down had me guffawing out loud.

Sorry A. You know I love you, but you sure don't know how to pick 'em.
Similarly, the side characters were very well written and performed. They felt like people you sort of know or run into off and on throughout life.


And the tribute to all the faces in the film industry that we don't see except in Farah Khan credit sequences. Lovely!


How badly do I want to see Pyaar Hua Tumse? Please, somebody, make this film!


Rani + Akshaye = MUST HAPPEN, even if the result is just their painfully bland assessment that each other was great to work with. I'd also queue up for A Fistful of Rupees or The Good, the Bad, and the Worst, which somehow sounds an awful lot like a Govinda film, doesn't it?

Sanjay Kapoor was great in this film. The first time I ever noticed him was in the adorable "Akhiyan Milau" from Raja on a Madhuri song DVD, and based on those two performances alone I say "More, please!" - he seems to have the ability to project slime, vulnerability, and impish cheer like his bro but is far less manic about it (sorry PPCC). (I realize this might be a minority opinion.)

Speaking of "More, please!": KJo and SRK as wise elders!

Vah!

Last: visuals. This movie is packed with interesting things to look at that add context and characterization, comment silently on the action of the scene, and make jokes. Of course megalomaniac yesteryear glamazon Neena has a Birkin bag.

Of course she decorates her house with her own image.

Loved this extreme of the ubiquitous filmi oversized self-portraits in most hero/heroine living rooms!

A more artsy-fartsy version too.
Her films from the 80s would look exactly like this.

Sona's apartment is a wonderful contrast to Neena's: she loves bags too, but hers are giant and gaudy. Her jumble of cosmetics and jewelry would never fly in the more spacious and organized (though absolutely not more tasteful) Walia home.

Speaking of not tasteful: loved the sartorial riff on "Ek Pal Ka Jeena"

and the silver Hammer pants.

And Zaffar's party ensemble is dreadfully tacky.

Fabulous in its dreadful tackiness, of course, but still. And Ranjit's self-styled table !

And the fake magazine covers!

For those of you who have never read magazines aimed at teen girls, 1) count yourselves lucky and 2) this is totally accurate. "Is school secretly making you fat?" Heehee!
The fictional but totally true-to-life content-free film magazine stories!

The golden cage of the lush life, of a successful past that you can't live up to!

Loooove! There's so much to see in this movie - just in case your brain had any spare power left over from thinking about all the ideas from the text!

* I think it's really interesting that the only truly likable major character in this film had to choose between ambition and her values, and she ultimately chose her values. I kept thinking of Naach while I watched this. It presents a happier picture, since there our heroine's eventual level of success matched her level of commitment to her own values. I think Sona was ultimately satisfied with what she was doing, and certainly how she was doing it, but from an observer's perspective, she was much less successful in any obvious kind of way than the flattering, betraying user Vikram.

16 comments:

Banno said...

Makes me want to see the film all over again. I'd also be able to see it more leisurely on DVD.

Loved, loved, loved the older gang, and yes, wished they'd had more to do.

As for Sanjay Kapoor, the poor guy never had a chance because he just resembles Anil Kapoor so much, it is disconcerting to see him on screen. A bit like hearing someone else dub for an actor, when you know the original voice, it keeps nagging at you.

Though I do agree with you, I find his muted intensity more appealing than Anil's.

celluloidrant said...

I keep wondering about this: Sona was just as prepared to sleep her way to the top as Vikram was, except that she woke up after realizing that she was being used by that sleazeball. Is there a double standard here?

~ramsu

Filmi Girl said...

Maybe I would like this more on a second viewing but I just couldn't get into the Farhan/Koko storyline - it just felt so trite!

I did love Dimple and Rishi and Hrithik and the behind-the-scenes stuff and wish there had been more of that and much, much less of Farhan's blank looks....

Anarchivist said...

Yay for the Rishi Love Train!

Amey said...

Somebody noticed once how the strugglers in the cast are well-connected in real life while the daughter of yesteryear actress (Isha Sarvani) has had no Bollywood connection before she started acting :D

Emily said...

Zoya Akhtar skewered the film world so gut-wrenchingly and leaves such bleak tatters behind that I felt like a chump for liking any of its products.

That's exactly why I've put off watching Luck By Chance for so long. I hate having to scrape up the pieces of my Bolly-love after being disillusioned; if that means staying blissfully ignorant and ignoring gossip then that's what I do. But on the other hand your and others reviews have made LBC sound so good...I don't know what I'll end up doing. I've also been less enthusiastic about Farhan Akhtar since Rock On (funny, since that seems to be the movie that made everyone else take notice of him). But...but...but Akshaye!

Argh, what a useless comment. :-P

Beth said...

Banno - Yeah! I had to pause a lot and think. Sanjay does look freakishly like his brother, and I so dig his chiller vibe. I was really confused when I saw him in that song from Raja - I don't think I had a clear idea that Anil had sibs who acted, so my brain just did not know what to make of him.

ramsu - That's a good point! You're right, she was just as willing (and in fact acted on it, I gather it is implied), and the real difference is that she figured it out. There might also be commentary on how things are different for men and women in the industry? Not sure.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering which characters in the film (other than SRK, whom I don't count since he's really being "himself") actually made it in the industry without any sort of family connection or favor-doing. I don't recall a back story for Rishi or Dimple....

FG - Yeah, it was not the strongest aspect of the film by a long shot. I liked her a lot - I liked her "waking up," as ramsu said - but he got progressively more annoying and forgettable.

Do you think Farhan's blank looks were for the character? Or is that what he does when he's acting?

Amey - Oooh! Nice!

Emily - I feel your pain. Fortunately, someone on twitter assured me that it got less bleak as it went on, and I found that to be true, though it is not in any way purely celebratory. I think it might be closer to a sort of "look at this lotus that rises from the muck" story, with energy on both the muck and the bloom. There are scenes that show, or hint at, what is lovable about the Hindi film industry too, though to my mind those were not as overt. But that's okay - we already have delightful films celebrating the film industry.

I too do not care for Farhan as an actor (LOVE as a director though!). He's fine, but whatever - I think he's getting the chance to be in front of the camera as much because of his name as because of his previous body of work as a director.

There is much Akshaye love here. I'm really curious why he got as much time as he did - more than Abhishek, John, Ranbir, etc. Maybe he and Zoya are friends?

I definitely recommend this film - even if it's very bleak in parts, or even vaguely bleak overall, it's really good and provides a ton to look at and think about. Dimple's performance alone makes it a must-see, I'd say. So try it, but do have a chaser of something that you love lined up for afterwards :)

shell said...

I really liked this one Beth. I thought it was thoughtful and cynical and I adored Konkona. I read a lot of critisism about this movie that it was very "unBollywood", but I like this new realistic format for films - diversity folks! Anyway, great review. Love the screen caps. Check out my review: http://shellsbollyworld.blogspot.com/2009/05/luck-by-chance.html

E said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie. So well written, and chock full of enchanting little moments that add to the plot.

One of the best things about it was her non-judgemental outlook - you didn't get the feeling that something was frowned upon just because it's considered "wrong" by society's stardards, like sleeping your way to the top. Both Vikram and Sona did this, however I guess you also have to choose who to sleep with in order to succeed... Zoya Akhtar never gives the impression that she condones or condemns, but lets us choose our own opinion and I love that.

The reality is that moviemaking is a dirty business and yes, full of nepotism and favoritism but it shouldn't stop us from appreciating and loving the movies themselves.

I saw it again the other day (for the fourth time..) and I still think that Dimple Kapadia is the best thing in it. Every moment on screen with her is delicious. In the words of Rolly - a crocodile in a chiffon sari!

memsaabstory said...

This had so much in it, I liked it a LOT. And I don't think that Sona's success at the end was less---even in an obvious way---than Vikram's. She was clearly happier, and headed on a path to more happiness, than he...I think that was part of the message, at least it's what I got from it: don't buy into other people's ideas of success. Find your own.

And Rishi is such a great "character" actor. I much prefer him now to his 80s-90s hero days...

Ness said...

I didn't really bond with this film when I watched it - I found it kind of...bleak and cold and like I was distanced from the whole thing. Maybe that was the point? I don't know. Your great post has definitely inspired a second viewing, anyway.

Shalini Razdan said...

Ethically and morally speaking, I didn't think Sona was much different from Vikram. They were both willing to compromise their values to get what they wanted. Where the difference comes in is that Vikram's opportunism gets him what he wants, while Sona's doesn't. I also think that's why in the end, we cheer for Sona but feel contempt for Vikram - she redeems herself by "failing", while he reminds us that in life all too often, the jerk *does* "win."

eliza bennet said...

I agree with what Shalini Razdan wrote. In fact I was thinking of writing something along those lines.

Sona was the mistress of this married man director for years thinking that he will cast her as the lead in his next film. But in the end he doesn't and not only that but he also humiliates him and this is enhanced further by his wife witnessing it.

Sona was willing to play the game but she did not possess the thick skin that is required to be a player.

In the end Sona was happier and more enlightened than Vikram who is neither after happiness nor enlightment anyway.

So everyone got what they wanted no?

And I loved SRK cameo, but that is a given.

Akshaye cameo was the only time I liked Akshaye in a film.

Retroman said...

Luck by Chance is an updated version of Raj Kapoor's film Shri 420. Think about it.
Talented boy comes from small town to the big city. Meets sweet girl who helps him and he falls in love. He then meets up with glamourous woman who gives him an entree into high society (films in this case). Girl A feels dejected. Boy then returns to Girl A who takes him back (in Shri 420) rejects him (in LBC). A familiar story, done in an interesting contemporary way.

Pitu said...

I absolutely loved this movie too. The thing abt Akshaye Khanna rejecting a film: I think Farhan & co were actually making a dig at him. I saw Farhan's interview on some show and he said that the reason he was cast in the film was becoz his sister kept getting rejected by all the actors she approached. It got to the point where she (Zoya) and her friend would compete on the phone- Guess who rejected my film today? It became like a funny rivalry about how could get a more out-of-work star to reject them.

So I think having Akshaye and Vivek Oberoi rejecting the film was a dig that they probably didn't even get, depending on how self-absorbed they are :D And yes, that delighted my schadenfreuden tendencies :p

Hans Meier said...

Some delightful screen caps here highlighting the amusing and thoughtful artwork that went into LBC. Have seen the movie twice (so far), still didn't notice some of the details posted here :)