Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! is rather like a fist of iron clad in a velvet glove applied directly to your chin. Directed by Dibakar Banerjee (Khosla ka Ghosla) and starring Abhay Deol and Paresh Rawal, Oye Lucky! is a story about pretty much everything human and what it all means.
The movie opens in the narrow lanes of the lower middle class in class-obsessed Delhi where a young Sikh boy named Lucky (Manjot Singh) is coming to terms with the fact that if he wants to live up to his name, he’ll just have create his own luck. His father (Paresh Rawal in the first of three roles) is a crushing disappointment, his mother is a doormat, his elder brother stays out of the house as much as he can, his younger brother is just a kid and his father’s fat mistress has moved into their home and has less than wholesome designs on his young self. To complicate matters further, he is obsessed with the “gentry” – rich/upper middle class kids who’re usually up to no good but have everything he wants and look down upon him.
All Lucky wants is to be able to live their life, romancing their women and beating down their men and he isn’t really sure how it all works or why it’s so important but it’s the greenest grass he can imagine and he really wants to play in it.
As Lucky grows up (into Abhay Deol), things seemingly begin to look up. He’s not just a smalltime punk pulling a smalltime scam to impress some girl in the neighborhood; he’s hanging out with real movers and shakers, and moving on up himself. A born hustler who instinctively understands the power of the image over reality, he embarks on a brazen career of crime.
Along the way, he loses his family, tries to buy them back, loses his friends, tries to buy them back, loses his substitute father figures (Paresh Rawal in roles two and three)… and tries to buy them back. Sadly for him, he just ends up spending a lot of money.
On the surface, this is very much a story about Delhi and the impulses that drive that city, but at a deeper level this is the story of modern India as well. Although Lucky is rooted in the city of his birth, his aspirations are the kind that infect millions.
It all sounds rather depressing when you think about it, and in many ways it is as you watch Lucky scratch repeatedly, desperately at the surface of the life he wants, begging, demanding to be let in and trying to deal with the disappointment of it when he fails again and again – yet Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! never loses its sense of humor. There’s nothing particularly funny about either the dialogues or the situations the characters find themselves in – it lacks the kind of zany comedic value that Ranvir Shorey imparted to Khosla ka Ghosla, for example – so if you’re expecting the usual slapstick, this isn’t the movie for you. What it is, is clever; a black comedy that recognizes the futility of race it’s tracking between all the serious little hamsters on their wheels.
I can’t end without a special shoutout to Abhay Deol, which is not to say that the ensemble as a whole wasn’t excellent right from Paresh Rawal to Neetu Chandra (Traffic Signal) and Manjot Singh. However, if you’d told me just a couple of years ago that I’d actually see the day when I’d find myself looking forward to the movies of a second-generation Deol, I’d have laughed myself silly. Well, the day’s arrived and I don’t find it in the least bit hilarious – he carries the film.