Luck By Chance

06 Feb

Have you ever seen a movie that you enjoyed so much, you kind of forgot to care about the movie itself? It’s a little weird. It happened to me for the first time this week while watching Zoya Akhtar’s debut movie Luck by Chance.

The movie’s plot is simplicity itself: boy from Delhi comes to big, bad Bombay with stars in his eyes and capitalizes on a couple of lucky breaks to claw his way to the top. But, “context is everything” as they say.

And the context, in this case, is the movie business – Zoya’s World, you could call it. It’s like watching an anthropological case study that subtly hits on pretty much everything you ever wondered about Hindi cinema. To touch upon just a few:

The Portraits – There is this rule that set designers on Hindi movies, but especially Hindi TV shows, follow: the living space of a character MUST be decorated with multiple headshots and cheesy portraits of said character. Occasionally they will feature said character’s nearest and dearest, but only when the script jumps up on a couch and yells for it. Dominating the scene otherwise will be giant poster-sized images of that person by himself (and it usually is a ‘he’). The more “cool” or desirable the character, the bigger and more thickly dispersed the photographs. The implied narcissism has apparently never occured to any of them. Luck by Chance‘s repeated use of this rule is nothing less than brilliant.

Yeh tum logon ka racket hai, Manish Malhotra!” – Indeed. And did anybody else notice the birkin on the sickbed? Priceless!

The Casting Couch – what struck me the most about the proposition scene was its finesse. There was no leering, no twirling of the moustache, no talk of “assets”. There’s apparently a script in place. And the woman doesn’t think of herself as a victim either: she knows exactly what it is, what the parameters for their “relationship” are, and what she hopes to get out of it. And she doesn’t shy away from verbalizing it either when pressed on it. Nor does her date express shock, awe or even a demand that she reform her sinful ways.

The Accent – nothing kills my joy in a movie faster than watching some himbo / bimbo lisp his / her way through Hindi as though they’d been plucked from a remote hamlet on the Alps and asked to elocute Tulsidas’ Ramayan on the spot. If you want to be in Hindi language cinema, then for the love of God, learn to speak the frickin’ language. Would you audition for a Hollywood movie with a Laloo Prasad Yadav accent? Then why would you audition for a Bollywood movie with a George Bush accent? It is my “cub-surat kwab” that one day a maddened linguist will be driven to ‘khune’ by this continued outrage.

The Selfish Gene – the loveliest part of the entire movie arrives when Sona (Konkona Sen Sharma) tells Vikram (Farhan Akhtar) where he can stick it. And then sits down next to him, takes his hand and tells him not to sweat it because he is who he is. It is such a beautiful character defining moment, all the better for being so tiny and so perfect. If Vikram wasn’t in love with her before that, I bet he was afterwards.

Luck by Chance is a collection of a long string of entertaining moments like these, held loosely together by the overall story arc of an outsider forcing his way into a tight clique.

Admittedly though, I was initially reeled in by the sheer pleasure of watching someone like Farhan, who oozes The New Sensibility, go through the bump-n-grind of turning into your average Bollywood ka Hero. The beefcake shots in particular were an absolute joy – and made all the better when it turned out the movie was in on the joke. But the indulgence with which I’d begun watching his performance changed by the end of the movie – somewhere along the way, perhaps when Vikram walks into Nikki’s (the adorable Isha Sharvani) My Little Pony of a room for the first time, I began watching it with the same kind of fascination that makes me pick up a copy of gossip rags like Filmfare or Stardust.

Which is to say, I don’t particularly care for any of these people but their kind of zoo is a lot more interesting to me than watching sad animals cooped up in a cage. Perhaps the cast was merely doing what came naturally to them, but be that as it may, there isn’t an actor in the lot who didn’t step up.

In the words of Romy Rolly, the roly-poly veteran Bollywood producer played by Rishi Kapoor, Zoya is clearly a “vol-CANO of talent (write it down!)”. If brother Farhan is to be believed (and why shouldn’t he be?), she spent seven years nursing the script and plotting the birth of this movie, and it’s clear she didn’t spend all that time dreaming about the cool outfit she was going to wear to her first premiere.

Zoya Akhtar and her crew have made the best kind of debut film: Luck by Chance makes you glad that this is merely the beginning of a hopefully long career.


Posted by on February 6, 2009 in Entertainment, Movies, Review


21 responses to “Luck By Chance

  1. pitu

    February 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    “Luck by Chance makes you glad that this is merely the beginning of a hopefully long career.”

    Amen. LURVED the movie 😀

  2. Kokonad

    February 6, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Lovely post, Amrita! I watched the movie last night and boy IT WAS GREAT! The writer’s character in particular, with khune and cub-surat khab sent us into peals of laughter!
    While Farhan directs better than can act, I think brother-sister duo can come up with really awesome movies!
    Btw, did you notice the Good, Bad and Worst; A Fistful of Rupees; Teer aur Talwar movie posters? :))

  3. Chevalier

    February 6, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    It was such an awesome movie, and so wonderfully feministic too….but apparently it isn’t doing too well in desh? Sad….

  4. A Cynic in Wonderland

    February 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    i WANT TO SEEE!!! Actually the detailing is what I like about Farhan as well. Thats all the reason i like movies like Johnny gaddar – do u recall that hard as nail beauty parlour femme with the blue nailpolish? Those little little things make ALL the difference I think.

  5. the post-punk cinema club

    February 7, 2009 at 12:44 am


    I want to see it again.

  6. wsw

    February 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Apart from Farhan!Farhan!Farhan! dont remember much 🙂

    But ya LV on the bed, orange Birkin when she enters the audition room.

  7. Mamma Mia! Me a Mamma?!?

    February 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Ooooo! This review gave me goosebumps! How brilliantly you write!

    Have been waiting to see the movie. After reading this…more than ever!

  8. bollyviewer

    February 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I lovvved it… every li’l bit of it. Konkona is great (as always) and Farhaaaaan… Guess I’ll just have to work up the patience to watch Rock On, now! And that scene between Sona and Vikram that you describe, suddenly changes the focus of the tale. From being solely his tale, it turns into hers, too!

  9. Amey

    February 7, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    One more post praising the movie. With every such post, I find it hard to go and watch the movie. Talk about expectations…

    Would you audition for a Hollywood movie with a Laloo Prasad Yadav accent?
    Err, from what I see of Hollywood, it is hard to get a role without Laloo Yadav or some other kind of accent.

  10. ravi

    February 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    How much time do you have on your hands Amrita to write so much on your blog-mind boggling I must say!

  11. Shantanu

    February 9, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Liked the movie too, but felt the first half wasn’t as well-paced as the second.

    Also, sadly the movie isn’t doing all that well abroad, in spite of grear reviews in the NYT and others…

  12. Ramsu

    February 9, 2009 at 3:24 am

    I first thought the Good, Bad and Worst movie poster was simply a sly Clint Eastwood (actor-turned-director) reference. I wonder if Eastwood could sue for slander 😀

    But now I wonder if it is also a nod to this old Sanjay Kapoor starrer titled (I think) Beqabu, where one of the songs basically ripped off the theme from The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.


    ps: Yeah, I know, I need a life.

  13. naren

    February 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Great review! Must watch now.

  14. Amrita

    February 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Pitu – The good thing is that she’s from a filmi family so she won’t peter away into the ether like some other kickass women directors have in the past.

    Koke – I DID! and it CRACKED ME UP! Man I need to see this movie again.

    Chevalier – good movies never work, don’t you know that by now? 😦

    Cynic – You SHOULD see! It’s chock full of moments like that in this one! Little shadings of truth here and there… Dimple has a scene to the end where she talks about how things were for her as a young kid breaking into the film industry and I still don;t know how much of that was really her and how much of it was the script. Aieee!

    PPCC – ME TOO!!

    WSW – ahahaha! I knew I couldn’t be the only one to notice! It’s stuff like that that makes me love this movie!

    BV – Rock On isn’t the amazing movie most people think it is, but it’s definitely cute and soulful. And Farhaan does a really good job in both actually.

    Amey – huh. yeah, i guess everyone raving about it can pretty much ruin it for you, esp if you’ve been reading the reviews and know most of the plot points already 😦

    Ravi – it actually takes a lot less time than you’d think! 🙂

    Shantanu – I thought NYT review was a little condescending myself. But yeah, the second half is when the movie really takes off although I really enjoyed the references in the first half.

    Ramsu – OMG! A Beqabu reference! I bow to you! (and if you need a life, then what about me?)

    Mamma & Naren – I bet you’d like it! Which I can’t often say of most of the movies I review.
    PS, Naren: what happened to your Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi? You never did write about it 😀

  15. pitu

    February 9, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Regarding Dimple’s breakdown, have you seen Sudhir Mishra’s ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ starring Soha? There’s this stone-throwing scene I love in it…….

  16. Shrabonti

    February 10, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Just the kind of film you want to rewind (sorry, I know you don’t have to rewind DVDs) and watch again AS SOON AS it gets over. Delicious. And that Konkona — my god, I basically want to break up the film into her scenes and watch them fifty times. She can emote without even a line of dialogue, did you notice the scene where her choreographer friend tells her she might get a break, and she’s being all jealous and negative while saying nothing much?

  17. Amrita

    February 10, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Pitu – yup, yup, although Soha was a bit too fragile for it. I think she did well enough but she’s clearly not the actress her mother was.

    Shrabonti – it was SO subtle and so well done! The way the two of them play off each other and how they technically have no competition to fear from each other and are clearly best friends, they still have that little buzz working against each other.

  18. M

    February 10, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Just posted this on Bollywhat as well – BIL/SIL saw this over the weekend and were mostly bored by it… least BIL was. Said the subject was same old same old, the treatment was too realistic, so for him, it was a feeling of Oh so What – he said, he’d have liked to see something unexpected happen…that the way the characters reacted was too true to life. SIL is a FA fan, so that helped 🙂 Plus she loved the fashions…but she also found the movie flat.

    Me, I’m waiting for the DVD – not a FA fangirl (I don’t find him hot, he’s OK that’s all), so I should see the movie for what it is, I hope!


  19. Nida

    February 10, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Oooh, goodie!!! You liked it—always a good sign in my book!:) Haven’t seen it yet-its not playing anywhere nearby-but I can’t wait!

  20. dipali

    February 11, 2009 at 1:04 am

    I enjoyeded it, but my teenager and my spouse didn’t really care for it:(
    The details were terrific, and I loved Rishi as the beleaguered producer. FA was hot as ever:)

  21. Chevalier

    March 4, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    As much as I loved the movie, I bow to thee. Your reviews and posts are always SO awesome, they triple my joy with the movie!

    Thank you….

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