Monday, December 01, 2008


Cast: Abhay Deol, Paresh Rawal, Anurag Arora, Neetu Chandra
Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Runtime: 131 min. (citation needed)
Rating: ****
Genre: Comedy, Caper

        I hate ghazals, and as far as romantic songs go, I love the throbbing kind. The one that evoke a sense of a guy who is smart and confident enough to go home and date the prom queen, and doesn’t sing slow, tedious lines of pain and despair. Like Amitabh Bachchan in Satte Pe Satta, where he sings Dilbar Mere with great gusto. Not much of a melody, I know, but one of the great of many Kishore Kumar numbers that have an infectious enthusiasm and larger-than-life feel to them. And one that is very dear to me. Another such song is Chahiye thoda pyar from Lahu ke do rang (1979), where a dashing Vinod Khanna is chasing Shabana Azmi. These are songs that lift your spirits sky-high with their confident exuberance, and if you choose to listen to them while you drive your way to wherever you go in the morning, I’m fairly certain you might never have a case of bad mood. If there’s something like macho-charm, this is it. I believe, if there’s a way of describing what it is to watch a film like Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, it would be like watching an extended version of such songs. Enjoyable, yes, charming yes, cool, yes and rocking, hell yes. That they use that Vinod Khanna song extensively is an indication of that very same confidence. As I drove back home, I was singing that song at the top of my voice, all the way. And I am never the singing kind. My fellow traffic-mates were watching. I sang even more loudly. Oye Lucky Lucky Oye is that kind of a film, you see.
        Now, this is a caper movie. The film claims it is based on the story of a real-life conman, though I have no idea who that might be. Any help here would be most appreciated. The man in the film though is Lucky, from Delhi. I remember this running joke we had down at school, while we were traversing through our fourth and fifth grades, that every Sardar friend we knew was called either Happy or Lucky down at home. We use to see it as a vast improvement over Bunty and Sunny. So, this Lucky, we meet him as a young lad, already quite street smart for his age. He might need to develop that shrewdness pretty early too, because he lives in Delhi. His father has brought this lady home, one he is supposed to call Aunty, and one who will live with them, though his house still has his mother. Now Lucky (Manjot Singh), while he is shrewd, also is mighty neat on his hands. And he has confidence to back it up too. He tries, he gets beaten by the police in public, and he learns. To gather more expertise. It is all just a game, like cricket and football were to us. He is interested in a young girl too, one who is the daughter of a card shop owner, and his tryst with her is his first fling in life. Cut to an elder Lucky (Abhay), and what we can perceive for ourselves even before a word is spoken is the calm suavity of an expert con. This is one of the many glorious aspects of this performance from the man, who is charming and confident, much like George Clooney is in the Ocean films.
        This is the set-up, and Lucky has the whole world before him to steal. One might label him a kleptomaniac, because he exhibits the tendency to ease his mood by stealing, but then his very source of income is that expertise of his. So, this is a smart man, one who loves what he is doing, one who is doing what he loves, one who is good at what he is doing, one who is doing what he is good at, and doing all of that for money. Not free. He takes orders, for cars, for stereos, for televisions, for laptops, and steals them and makes money. Big time.
        Now, enough of the plot. As I see it, there isn’t much to it anyway. No need to be wary, though. The magic isn’t in the plot, but in those scenes which have been constructed with such great care for detail, and filled with a great sense of observation for everyday nuances. I don’t recall a single scene which might be labeled as short, and most of them are long and detailed ones. As a result, you might feel slightly disoriented when the film makes a quantum leap in time. It brings a strange episodic feel to the film, one that was integral to Spielberg’s Catch me if you Can, and one that actually gives the film its breezy energy. A loose structure, if you might label it that way. Look at the way young Lucky first speaks to the girl down at the gift card shop. These are teens mind you, eager to explore. Or Lucky sitting on what feels like a cross between a bike and a moped, and asking the girl to tag along for a ride. It is funny, because we feel like we know them, and we’re watching them from a window nearby. You see, the focus is on the behavior, on the individual parts. The overall picture and its character is asked to sort itself on its own.
        Of course, as the film goes on, it gradually tends towards relatively more artifice. And I don’t mean that in any negative way. As a matter of fact, the film does that consciously, jumping through various tones with great ease. I half suspect that young Lucky is based on director Dibakar Banerjee’s (Khosla ka Ghosla) school going years, or maybe it is one of his friends. The dialogs take center-stage, and towards the later part, there’s a faint stench of the trite. But don’t let that bother you, because the film always manages to be either of two things – it is either genuine, or it is funny, and at times both. And stylish. Often, outrageously hilarious.
        And you got to commend the performances. There’s Anurag Arora, who walks into the picture with a beard and black sunglasses, which he might have picked down at the Regal under the impression it was a genuine Ray-Ban product. Often a Haryanavi Jat doesn’t need to do much other than to look, and talk. The voice and that natural coarse accent does the trick. Anurag plays a Special Branch cop, and he gives it tough to everybody who shares screen space with him. There’s that chameleon, Paresh Rawal, one of our great actors, and he does what he does best, and sometimes even managing his way around a tritely written situations. That is what actors are for, right, to jump in and lend that extra credibility when the writing just gets a little tired. Not that he needs to do much.
        Abhay Deol is the man who steals the show, and rightfully so. With that winning smile of his, and with that twinkle in his eye and that effortless ease which seems to be always about him. A natural actor, if there’s one today. There always seems to be plenty more to him than meets the eye, as if the interior is processing a lot more information than that is apparent. In many ways he is the movie, and the movie is him. Not many times do we see a natural understanding between a movie and its actor, as we see here. Abhay Deol doesn’t hit even a single note that the film doesn’t intend to. His character might be troubled, but only on the inside. The exterior though stays cool and unruffled, much like the film itself. Yes that is right, don’t mistake the film to be skin deep. It is wise, and it assumes you’re too, and it leaves for you to gather and understand the subtexts. There’re three characters played by Paresh Rawal, and all of them are father figures to Lucky. Or at least, they act as one, in their own unique ways. They say, father is our idea of God. The biggest influence a child can ever have. And all Lucky wants in life is to be treated with love. Discover the themes for yourself, and enjoy the ride too. It is a perfect way to celebrate your Friday evening.
        As far as the robberies go, the film for the most part wisely skips the specifics. We have seen it all, and what it instead focuses on is the suavity of the man. You know what, the pay-off isn’t money stolen from somewhere, but the way Lucky charms his way through us. These guys, Dibakar Banerjee, Abhay Deol, these are the ones who are changing Indian cinema with their breezy and smart way of filmmaking, returning it to its natural innocent and affable roots, those qualities that made us fall in love in the first place. These are the films that make you want to sing out loud –
        Pyaaaaaaaaaaaaar!!! Pyar!!! Pyar!!! Pyar!!! Pyar!!!
        Do lend some love to this fine film. In these troubled times which might cause you despair, there wouldn’t be a better film to soothe your nerves, and uplift your mood.

Perx has been kind enough to supply two links which shed some light on the real life person upon whom the film is based. Here they are -


Anonymous said...

Finally a movie which respects audience's intelligence and at the same time, is amazingly entertaining. In terms of performaces, the guy who plays Bangali was also briliant.

Man really LUCKY to have born in an age when directors like Anurag, Dibankar, Sridhar(Johny gaddar fame) are making movies.

man in the iron mask said...

The man is Shriram. Shriram Raghavan. Johnny Gaddar was a great film. I wonder what he has up his sleeve now.

Satish Naidu

Perx said...

Hey dude, nice review....
It's supposed to be based on "Bunty" a thief from Delhi who was arrested in 2002.. but the director denies it.. might wanna follow this links:

Aravind G. said...

I found this movie very subtle. I watched it twice this weekend and cannot agree more on the point that Abhay Deol understands the tone of the movie and character very well. The encounters between him and Paresh Rawal are exceptional, esp. the ones with the GOGI Bhai.


A Confused soul!! said...

oops sorry for the blunder. i always get confused between the 2 bros sriram and sridhar. both are ace writers. sridhar is the chap who wrote bluff master

man in the iron mask said...

Thanks a ton, Perx.
I've updated the review with the links you've provided.

-Satish Naidu