June 21, 2021 8:17:26 am
Lucky is a simple man who, like many others, had a rough childhood so he wants to make up for everything in the shortest possible time. He wants to earn enough respect and money, but the path he chooses to get there is an unorthodox one. Dibakar Banerjee’s Lucky is a ‘superchor’ who steals like a smooth criminal but deep within, he is a regular Delhi boy who will greet his victims with a ‘namaste’ before he loots their belongings.
The 2008 film Oye Lucky Lucky Oye was a dark comedy that dealt with the classic theme of ‘haves vs have-nots’ and the clear divide between their worlds that cannot be bridged, even with enormous amounts of money. The new India had a dark side that the director explored through a man who understands that the rich and famous haven’t reached there by walking the straight and the narrow.
It was Dibakar’s second film after Khosla Ka Ghosla and the director, who had displayed his astute understanding of the workings of a middle-class Delhi household in his first film, polished that understanding even further and applied it to individual characters in this one.
For the uninitiated, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye follows Lucky, a charming conman who is unafraid of almost everything in this world. He comes from a lower middle-class family but that hasn’t really stopped him from getting all the luxuries that he ever wanted. So what if he has to steal them? He dreams of having a loving girlfriend, a family that stands by him and dances at his wedding, even if he has to pay them to do so. But Lucky isn’t always lucky as he is constantly on the run from the police. The bane of his existence are the three father-figures (all three played by an excellent Paresh Rawal) who are the core villains of his life.
At the time when this film came out, India was just about opening up to multiplex cinema. These were the films that worked in the newly-minted multiplex that were a world apart from the single-screen theatres where only masala and marquee names worked. Abhay Deol was having a dream run in movies that might not have made much money at the box office but certainly made a place in Indian cinema’s history. Here, Dibakar utilised Abhay’s endearing personality and made his character impossibly charming. Abhay’s Lucky disarms his victims with his wit as he steals away their televisions, refrigerators, jewelry and even pet dogs.
Dibakar tried to show how the young boy becomes a hardened criminal, starting from his teenage (where he is played by a convincing Manjot Singh). Usage of slow motion when Lucky sees something that he wishes he could have and the theme music that appears when Lucky is experiencing euphoria become the classic markers in Lucky’s character arc.
Using the same actor for three different characters in a film was an unconventional move for those days but Dibakar pulled it off quite successfully. Lucky’s first villain is his father who brings home an ‘aunty’ that disrupts his home life. The second one comes in the form of Gogi Bhai, who thinks he can play Lucky like a fiddle but doesn’t realise that Lucky could never be a sycophant. And the third, who probably does the most damage to his ego – Mr Handa. Handa is Lucky’s entry into the ‘gentry vale log’ so when he cons Lucky, it cuts deep.
Oye Lucky Lucky Oye is the kind of comedy that makes you laugh at a funeral scene in the most unexpected way yet when Dibakar digs deep into his protagonist’s psyche as he meets his brother in the mountains, you feel the hurt that he is experiencing.
Ever since its release, the film has been widely celebrated for its music, dark comedy and performances, and deservedly so. Richa Chadha’s debut as Dolly is quite remarkable here. The film’s dialogues by Manu Rishi (who also played Bangali) in the film are still crackling and present a certain kind of Delhi that has since been explored in many other films. But at that time, this was a novelty.
In the years since, Dibakar has directed films like Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Shanghai, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar and portions of Bombay Talkies, Lust Stories and Ghost Stories but the spunk he showed in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye still packs a punch.
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