It's nothing new for a movie to be a critique of the affairs and matters of the industry it belongs to, but the manner whether it is harsh, direct, honest or just plain tongue-in-cheek, would set the agenda. Like in Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om, it's played out in my opinion more light-heartedly, and who can forget that job at sequels, stars and that memorable 9 minute Deewangi Deewangi. Luck By Chance by yet another female director Zoya Akhtar happened to be a more mature examination, with views coming from the bottom up, covers just about almost every angle, and contains a tight 360 degree view in what would be a sharp observation from the inside.
The opening sequence montage is beautifully designed, paying a quiet and dignified homage to the upline and downchain support functions of the entire film industry, like the guards protecting film studios and flim sets, and cashiers at the box office, with the song Yeh Zindagi Bhi as a backdrop. But this serene and muted beginning is in stark contrast to everything else that is going to unfold, where humour is largely used to great effect in cushioning the unflattering commentary on the state of affairs. For example, much has been said about storylines and sets resembling some big budgeted Hollywood counterpart, and you have a director blatantly telling his scriptwriter to adopt everything from his favourite movie. A lot of satire get tossed around, and rewards the viewer paying close attention. There's even an avenue for sight gags, and one of my favourites is the poster entitled "For a Few Rupees More".
The strength of Luck By Chance is in its strong story, characterization and dialogue. It plays on everyone's stereotypes, but yet doesn't turn its main characters to caricatures. It shows the distinct worlds that aspiring wannabe actors have to face, versus those born with luck on their side, being the offspring of famous and established stars in the movie world. It examines the struggles of the dream chasers coming to Mumbai looking for their big break, where it is established that lead roles only go to newcomers when they are soundly rejected by the stars, and the insecurities and threats that established stars constantly face, with the dealing of pressure and success, and maintaining that public icon. For the bevy of star childs as they are known (in my short foray into Indian films I have seen a number of up and coming ones), the mounting expectations that one has to deal from the public.
Luck By Chance has a movie within the movie which the subplots are laid out against, and like all productions, funding is always key, as is the network that one has to find a foothold in because of the tacit understanding that it's about who you know and who you're related to, versus pure talent. Hence the title, where one has to be at the right place at the right time staring at the right opportunity in order to get noticed amongst thousands. Vikram Jaisingh (the director's brother Farhan Akhtar) is one such aspiring actor who moved from Delhi to Mumbai in search of stardom, and lives with 2 other friends and their neighbour Sona (Konkona Sen Sharma) who is the mistress of small time producer Chaudhary (Alyy Khan) of Pinky Productions, waiting for her big break to star in a big budgeted movie with a tailor made role. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the insecure mega-star Zaffar Khan (Hrithik Roshan, whom I think is like a chameleon in being able to shape his physique at the drop of a hat) starring in his new movie with star child Nikki Wallia (Isha Sharvani), the offspring of screen legend Neena (Dimple Kapadia). And adding plenty of colour to the events in and around this movie production, are the producer Romy Rolly (Rishi Kapoor) and his brother, the actor turned director Ranjit Rolly (Sanjay Kapoor) who share the spoils for most of the comedy.
There are plenty of insider jokes spilt at every corner, making fun of commercial and art films, gossip rags and the sensationalizing of news. Upping the fun factor are a slew of cameo appearances with real stars playing themselves, and you can imagine the gasps when Aamir Khan appeared briefly in the beginning, and another Khan (I'm not revealing who amongst the three Kings, your guess) popping out to whistles from the audience for his simple role offering advice about dealing with stardom and what really matters. And to add to that if I may name drop a little, Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, amongst many others.
We follow the making of the fictional movie from start to end, and even then, there is but only two prominent musical numbers which arise from that fictional movie alone, one of which we get to see Hrithik Roshan showcase his slick moves in a big top number. The second half of the film might have sagged a little as more attention was placed to the three way romance between Vikram, Nikki (check out that seduction scene that seems to have taken a leaf out of Russian Dolls) and Sona, and how success can get into one's head and the transformation from humbleness to jerk. Farhan Akhtar gives an excellent performance as the boy who innocently, then manipulating the system to his selfish advantage toward climbing the ladder of success, and the way it ended strongly in quite an unconventional way for a Bollywood movie, gives this film a certain gravitas in being unflinching in the messages it wants to make about the industry, where the tenacious succeed and there is not much room for sentimentalism.
If you're looking for a jump point into what's on offer from Bollywood this year, then I would humbly suggest that Luck By Chance would be your best bet for an introduction to the wheelings, dealings and politicking behind the scenes by all players involved in getting the production complete, right down to generating buzz upon release, and how with luck, one's chances in life could be changed and transformed. Highly recommended.