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Is being a good actor enough to make you a star? In Zoya Akhtar's detailed sketch of Bollywood and its colourful...

Published: February 1, 2009 2:09 am

Lucky and clever
Movie Name
: Luck By Chance
Directed by: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Farhan Akhtar,Juhi Chawla,Dimple Kapadia,Rishi Kapoor,Hrithik Roshan,Konkona Sen Sharma,Isha Sharvani
Showing At: Gold big cinemas,E-square,Inox,City-pride (Kothrud),City Pride (Satara Road),Mangala,Fame Jai Ganesh (Akurdi),West-End,Ashok,Alaka,Laxminarayan

Is being a good actor enough to make you a star? In Zoya Akhtar’s detailed sketch of Bollywood and its colourful,conflicted denizens,the most important ingredient in a wannabe’s portfolio seems to be that elusive thing called luck.

Luck By Chance,a wonderful colloquialism which you hear only in Mumbai,opens a wide window on our dream merchants: strange-yet-familiar characters we’ve met in fanzines,other films-on-film-people,on TV shows. What makes this debut of Zoya Akhtar,daughter of Javed,sister of Farhan,less than what it could have been,though,is in the way Luck By Chance unspools-shutting between the generic and specific and back again can sometimes diffuse a film: this one,the latest in the line of Bollywood-looking-at-Bollywood ensembles,needed to have been both newer,and sharper to make it the insider story.

But while it’s happening,you can sit back and admire some superbly-designed cinematic moments. Saurabh Shukla,playing the genial acting class guru,tells wannabe star Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan Akhtar): Hollywood ka hero banana bahut aasaan hai,par Bollywood ke hero ko sab kuch karna padta hai. The man who has just shown us he can direct and act and sing in his last film (Rock On) swings a cool Bollywood hip here: watch him gyrate in a shocking pink waistcoat.

Konkona as Sona-the-struggler—’compromising’ with a director who’s been stringing her along,agreeing to bit parts in the hope of the big one,facing rejection-is equally first rate. Just like Vikram,who is shown to be not such a nice guy on his way up the ladder (schmoozing with the heroine’s mom,dumping his old friends,betraying his girl friend),Sona is no doodh-ki-dhuli girl. She knows what it takes,and is willing to do it,but unlike him,she knows where to draw the line. The roundedness of their characters is one of the high points of the film.

So are the other performances,drawn with a fine,sardonic-yet-sympathetic eye. The be-ringed,jowly director (Rishi Kapoor),his trophy wife (Juhi Chawla),the hangers-on (Aly Khan,Sheeba); the talent-less but bade star ki beti (Isha Sharvani,very good),her mom,the super-ambitious yesteryear diva (Dimple Kapadia,terrific),the script/dialoguewriter who has to include the foibles of his paymasters when he writes (Anurag Kashyap in a stand-out cameo; he should seriously start thinking of acting).

Enjoy also the walk-on parts of real A-listers. Everyone’s here-Shah Rukh,Aamir,Kareena,Rani,Akshaye. And Hrithik’s large-ish special appearance,as Zafar Khan the star who dumps his producer to sign with another,more happening one,without a qualm,threatens to run away with the movie.

Despite the occasional lapse into the sort of indulgence a first-time director displays,and the indeterminate end,there’s enough in the film to keep you going. Now that Zoya’s got Her First Movie out of her system,it’ll be fun looking out for her second.

A dull game
Movie Name
: Victory
Directed by: Ajitpal Mangat
Cast: Harman Baweja,Amrita Rao,Anupam Kher,Gulshan Grover,Dilip Tahil
Showing At: E-square,Inox,City-pride (Kothrud),City Pride (Satara Road),Gold big cinemas,Mangala,Fame Jai Ganesh (Akurdi),Alankar,West-End,Vasant,Ashok

The other film of the week is about India’s other ‘junoon’: Luck By Chance backgrounds cinema,Victory does ditto with cricket.

Vijay (Hurman Baweja),a cricketer from small-town Rajasthan is so good that he should,by rights,have been in the Indian team. But,and this is a story we know well,he doesn’t even get a look-in on the Ranji.

Victory is about Vijay’s rise-fall-rise,the heady feeling of success,and the perils of untrammeled avarice. A greedy agent (Gulshan Grover) gets his claws into the rising star,who slides down the slippery slope of here-now-gone-the-next-instant-fame,forgetting those who kept him grounded,deshbhakt dad (Anupam Kher),and best bud (Amrita Rao).

The film has been mounted lavishly,and no expense has been spared at making it look and feel authentic. A fleet of international cricketers have quite a lot of screen time. They include Harbhajan Singh and Jayasuriya and the dishy Brett Lee: their job is to stand around and applaud while our hero wins the matches.

Hurman’s batting looks credible (he trained for a few months),and his earnest playing of the part is miles away from the self-important,singing-dancing turn in his dud debut Love Story 2050. Anupam and Amrita lend able support. But again,what makes this film less than riveting is that we know so much of it— the setting,the situations-already. Blame the carpet coverage of cricket on TV channels.

Victory has all the right intentions,but its execution is bland.

SHUBHRA GUPTA

Extracurricular Lessons
Movie Name
: Elegy
Directed by: Isabel Coixet
Cast: Penélope Cruz,Ben Kingsley,Peter Sarsgaard,Patricia Clarkson,Dennis Hopper
Showing At: E-square,Inox,,City Pride,Gold big cinemas

Elegy is such a serious,often a grave exploration of desire and the ways of ageing and desperate flesh that it’s a miracle the two central characters – a literary star named David Kepesh and his much younger lover,Consuela – have as much sex as they do.

Despite some low-key lovemaking and the considerably more overwrought talk,there’s very little pleasure to be found amid this film’s penumbral lighting,careful compositions and muffled,muffling good taste. There isn’t much juice here either,though the film is based on The Dying Animal,a brutal,short novel by Philip Roth that oozes like a wound.

The book is fascinating and repellent,more admirable than likable,a fusion of early Roth (sex) and late Roth (death). It’s narrated by Kepesh (Ben Kingsley in the film). His fury and vigorous language belie the ageing flesh he bitterly complains about as he recalls his obsessive affair with Consuela (Penélope Cruz,an obvious if remote object of desire) eight years earlier. She was his student and ripe for the plucking.

The film is an overly polite take on a spiky,claustrophobic,insistently impolite novel. In the novel Kepesh is pathetic and self-loathing,but perversely enthralling because Roth’s prose is. Kepesh detests his decaying (dying) body and worships Consuela’s ripe (blooming) one. In the film,directed by Isabel Coixet and written by Nicholas,Kepesh is cool and watchful and Kingsley plays him without a trace of plausible weakness. The actor and the filmmakers have made the character their own,but their portrait of a lonely man incapable of surrendering to love is familiar and banal.

MANOHLA DARGIS/NYT

Safe and predictable
Movie Name
: Bedtime Stories
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Cast: Adam Sandler,Keri Russell,Guy Pearce,Richard Griffiths
Showing At: E-square,Inox,City-pride (Kothrud),City Pride (Satara Road),Gold big cinemas,Mangala

On the face of it,Adam Shankman’s Bedtime Stories is one of those stories told at bedtime – safe,comforting and predictable. But there is a topping: it has Adam Sandler,a hero whose main virtue isn’t his looks,kingdom or valour but a likeability that helps you overlook all of it. He is Shrek,with an “ass” by his side. Plus,it has two children whose smiles don’t last ours. So the story of a hotel handyman with dreams of one day owning a hotel of his own,and his fanciful bedtime stories to his nephew and niece which come real isn’t as implausible as it sounds. Sandler’s cheery earnestness stands him in good stead; you want what he wants.

Skeeter Branson doesn’t have much experience with kids,but an interaction doesn’t really throw his world upside down. As for his ambitions,he isn’t maudlin about it. Life is good,it could be better. Who can argue with that,especially with magical luck helping?

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