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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...

Written by Shalini Langer |
January 31, 2009 1:30:36 am

Luck By Chance
Farhan Akhtar,Konkona Sen Sharma,Isha Sharvani,Rishi Kapoor,Dimple Kapadia,Juhi Chawla,Sanjay Kapoor,Aly Khan,Sheeba Chaddha
: Zoya Akhtar

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 definitive 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): 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),his trophy wife (Juhi),the hangers on (Aly,Sheeba); the talent-less but ‘bade star ki beti’ (Isha,very good),her mom,the super-ambitious yesteryear diva (Dimple,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.

Hurman Baweja,Amrita Rao,Anupam Kher,Dalip Tahil,Gulshan Grover
: Ajitpal Mangat

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

Vijay (Hurman),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) 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),and best bud (Amrita).

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.

: Adam Sandler,Keri Russell,Guy Pearce,Courteney Cox
DIRECTOR: Adam Shankman

On the face of it,‘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 overlast 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,for he doesn’t want for wanting it. He adroitly strikes the right note even with the children.

Sandler’s Skeeter Branson doesn’t have much experience with them but an interaction doesn’t really throw his world upside down. Branson just follows a simple rule: do what he did,and liked,in his childhood. Yes,it still works!

As for Branson’s ambitions,he isn’t maudlin about it. Life is good,it could be better. Who can argue with that,especially with magical luck helping?

The two women,Russell (the children’s teacher-cum-guardian) and Teresa Palmer (Paris Hilton with a heart of silver,if not gold),don’t really have much to do except figure in Branson’s stories. Courteney Cox doesn’t figure at all.

A creature that does hog an inordinate amount of space,though,is this guinea pig with enormous eyes. Yes,those eyes stop you in your tracks,but how often does one need reminding?

The two children who help put these tales together with valuable,but thankfully children-like inputs,are competent foils to Sandler. He is trying to re-discover his childhood,which included some magical moments with his father; they are trying to find a foothold as adults without a father around them. In this film,for some time,they find a delicate balance.

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