All material copyright Rohit Iyer unless otherwise stated.

13 February 2009

Pappu Postman

5 February 2009

I'll Be Home For Christmas

1 February 2009

LUCK BY CHANCE: Beginner's Luck?

As a filmmaker (or perhaps a filmmaker-to-be), I often find myself thinking more about the process of filmmaking itself as opposed to what that process should be used to present. Such is the case with Zoya Akhtar's debut film, Luck By Chance. "Write what you know" they say and it feels that she's tried to do exactly that.

Hot on the heels of the last Excel Productions film, Rock On!!, Luck By Chance marks the entry of Farhan Akhtar's sister into the world of films and it's the world of films that she decides to deal with. And rather than offering us a soup or salad to whet or appetites, she gets right into things with a thali-full of delights.

The set-up of the film is efficient and the title sequence is one of the most poignant tributes to Indian cinema that I've seen in some time. We instantly know that we will be covering a lot of ground. The plot-lines are many and varied: There's Sona Mishra's (Konkona Sen Sharma) struggle to become an established first tier heroine; there's Romy Rolly's (Rishi Kapoor) struggle to make a blockbuster film while balancing the airs of uppity celebrities; there's Zaffar Khan's (Hrithik Roshan) struggle to maintain some semblance of a normal life amidst extreme adulation and fame; there's Neena Wallia's (Dimple Kapadia) struggle to make sure her daughter follows in her footsteps and becomes a big star; and at the forefront is Vikram Jaisingh's (Farhan Akhtar) struggle to tie all of these plotlines together while he treats every other character as a rung on the ladder to the top.

Most of the peformances are top-notch. Rishi Kapoor is completely over-the-top, Dimple Kapadia is super scary and Hrithik Roshan stands out as the straight man amidst all the hijinks. Zoya Akhtar peppers the narrative with minor characters, many a celebrity character and observations on the nature of the industry. While these references are whizzing past with every scene, one minor complaint is that instead of being the perceptive views of an insider they pander to the cliches that one associates with Bollywood. But that's a relatively unimportant issue when we see how much is dealt with.

It's a wonder that the script is able to handle all of these threads (and many more) to weave a rich tapestry of the "Hindi Film Industry". In spite of moments of confusion, we are treated to everything from the corporate side of Bollywood to the dedication of theatre actors to their muse. And while it's commendable that all of this manages to stay coherent, it does make us lose track of who or what we should be following.

While Vikram's story seems to be the one we should be following, a second act turn makes us wonder what we are really invested in. And while this is an interesting approach, it isn't helped by the fact that the story begins to meander and almost reduces itself to a series of gags and oh-look-it's-so-and-so-celebrity situations. Rather than building to a resounding climax, it limps it's way across the finish line to an ending that is quite brave and down-to-earth but at the same time unexpected and a tad undeserved.

In fact it's not very dissimilar to the trailer for the film. It starts as a light-hearted satire on today's Bollywood and descends into sentimentality and heavy-handedness. By trying to have the ostentatious song-and-dance sequence along with a certain cynicism, it balances along an uneven tone and one feels that Zoya Akhtar wants to have her cake and eat it too.

Having said that, I do think it's a great first effort and there is just too much in this film to leave disappointed. It's great to see an intelligent voice shine through and hopefully once Ms. Akhtar achieves the catharsis she seems to desire, she moves beyond the realm of what she knows to what she wants to know.

*** stars out of *****