Luck By Chance: Pleasant

200px-luckbychanceThere is an axiom in the publishing industry that says ” Write what you know.” Certainly director Zoya Akhtar seems to have taken it to heart in her debut movie, Luck By Chance. Daughter of famous poet, composer and writer Javed Akhtar, Zoya uses the movie industry in Mumbai as a backdrop for the story of a couple of struggling actors who come to try out their luck in the big bad city.

Luck By Chance, which is also written by Ms. Akhtar, stars brother Farhan as Vikram Jaisingh, the son of a prosperous shopowner from Delhi who rejects the family business to pursue his dreams of success in Bollywood. He signs up for the usual classes in singing, dancing, horseriding and martial arts. (As one veteran acting coach points out astutely, it is much harder to be a Bollywood hero than a Hollywood one.) Vikram is distilled ambition, pointed like a laser beam at the main chance, and damn everyone who gets in the way. Vikram meets and hooks up with Sona Mishra( Konkona Sen Sharma) who has conducted a Faustian bargain with a producer to keep her dreams of a lead role alive. How their struggles play out is the subject of the movie.

Farhan Akhtar is great as the scheming Vikram, proving conclusively that he is not one a one-film wonder( Rock On) and that his acting chops rival his directorial talents( Dil Chahta Hai, Don). Despite his brooding looks( I call him the intelligent woman’s heartthrob) he plays the shallow and conniving Vikram very convincingly. A well developed physique adds to the credibility of his ambition.

The same cannot be said for Konkona. She is a superb actress and is as good as ever in LBC, but the premise that she thinks she is leading lady material seems thin. Or maybe not, given the number of girls who probably wash up on the shore of the metropolis, convinced they have what it takes to make it big. Anyway, her looks leave no doubt about her eventual fate.

The movie is well directed and beautifully acted. Rishi Kapoor is terrific as producer Romy Rolly who gets his failed actor brother to direct a movie. Dimple as the typical actress mama is perfectly cast. Hrithik Roshan supposedly has a “guest role” but he takes up a good bit of time as Zafar Khan, the number 2 superstar behind Shahrukh. Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy’s music is melodious.

With Zoya Akhtar’s connection with the movie business, the number of movie types that show up in cameos are too many to list and the opening credits pay tribute to the unknown workers who toil behind the scenes. The montage captures the bemusement of tailors, stuntmen, spot boys and grips as the light is shined upon them; it is a moving segment to anyone fascinated by Bollywood.

But LBC is too subtle, too low key and much too predictable.  You know how the materialistic movers and shakers in Bollywood are going to behave( though Juhi Chawla as Romy’s loving and concerned wife is somewhat of a surprise). Scenes are telegraphed way ahead of time so there is no element of surprise. As coach Saurabh Shukla says to his aspiring actors, “You need to be a little bit larger than life in Bollywood”. The same can apply to this movie. This is not a criticism of realism in film, but  for a movie to catch the audience’s imagination, it must leave them exalted by the experience. Luck By Chance fails to do that, though I would recommend it as a fine debut effort.

Luck By Chance

*ring: Farhan Akhtar, Konkona Sen Sharma, Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Hrithik Roshan

Directed by Zoya Akhtar.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.

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