Review: Oye Lucky Lucky Oye
To say that a new dawn is visible in Bollywood is a tad contrived, but somehow that is all I can think of when I think about Dibakar Banerjee, the director of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. Banerjee’s earlier film, Khosla Ka Ghosla came at a time when small-budget films with relatively unknown or character actors like Parvin Dabbas, Ranvir Shorey and Boman Irani were still treading a tightrope between appreciation and rejection, and yet, the honesty of the film, its complete rootedness, pulled it through, and got Banerjee a National Award.
Oye Lucky… comes three years after Khosla… and it is visible that Banerjee is not sitting smug in the success of his last venture, but is out to deliver a story that is based on real events; it may be based once again in Delhi, it might once again be a combination of fact and fiction, but its originality puts it in a class by itself, and to compare it with Khosla… is actually an exercise in futility.
Oye Lucky… is the story of Lucky (Abhay Deol) a lower-middle class whose simple desires are thwarted by his father (Paresh Rawal), only giving rise to aspirations of a different, more affluent lifestyle. Surrounded as he is by bullies and thieves in the making, his desire pulls him towards petty crime and ultimately towards thievery of a much larger scale. He comes in contact with Gogi (Paresh Rawal), a singer with a backdoor business of supplying stolen goods to people. Lucky’s quick style earns him some demand in Gogi’s group, but his dreams are bigger; he isn’t made to serve anyone else, his only aim being profit and of course some fun. He meets the quiet Sonal (Neetu Chandra) through Dolly (Richa Chadda), Gogi’s dancer and begins a relationship with her. He goes on to meet Dr. Handa (Paresh Rawal) who, though initially fooled by his impressive lifestyle, soon puts two and two together and tries to swindle him.
The keen observation that builds this film is unprecedented. From the director to the production designer, we can see a complete and very controlled vision of Delhi. It is not overstated in its filth or affluence or gaudiness, instead the architecture of the houses with its small rooms but open verandahs, the easy access from one wall to the other, the iron doors of some houses are what are competently captured. Little details work wonders, like the red chillies set out on a newspaper in the sun, the clothes drying and of course the public walls with very Delhi ads and election messages. Characters use names on areas in west Delhi, but that is just an added bonus for Delhi audiences who can relate to Lucky’s joy at being able to take a girl from Amar Colony to Rajouri Garden.
A glimpse of the Delhi Police works as an oblique comment in the film. We are used to seeing their brutality, their corruption and an entire host of related things. Some of those things are there in Oye Lucky…, but they too are understated. It is the body language, the things around them, the appearance of police stations that is emphasized. The dark dingy rooms of the thana, inspectors in various stages of undress, the enmity yet a camaraderie between the police and the thief occupy this film, speaking to audience without shouting a message in our faces.
The actors are in sync with the director who has conveyed his pitch, soul and vision of the film to them perfectly. They depict every detail as if it comes most naturally. Abhay Deol is striking in his persona of Lucky. He takes on the anger and desires of the young Lucky and develops it just a notch as ‘he has grown up’. His romantic life serves as a good balance to his otherwise ambitious, somewhat aggressive outlook. It betrays hints of the young, awkward sardar that lives in the suave looking Lucky. The resentment with which he observes the rich around him is well-stated; he may be sitting in a coffee shop like the rich girls around him, but he can never occupy it with as much command as they do. And this is perhaps what draws Sonal to him. She is as accomplished as any of the girls in skirts, but she too resents their ease with clothes she can only aspire to wear. Richa Chadda who plays Dolly was an apparent force in the film, one of the most visible comments made by the director. Her need for sympathy, attention and love are conveyed by the things that touch her. Rejection brings out a hardened side natural to anyone, and in particular an emotionally abused girl.
Archana Puran Singh was the comic strength of the film portraying the Delhi Punjabi aunty to the hilt. Mispronunciation, contrived relationship forging and an aspiration for what Delhi folk call ‘high life’ make this character. Agreed that she is something of a caricature compared to most other characters in the film, but she increases the comic quotient thereby making the film more endearing, not to mention the ‘being-able-to-relate’ angle that she brings in.
The only point of disappointment for me in the entire film was Paresh Rawal and that is surprising because I thought he would carry the film. Younger actors around him overshadowed his somewhat artificial performances in all three personae. Three roles and very little to write home about, Paresh Rawal sadly became the weakest point of the film.
Great visuals, actors, story, songs, and Dibakar’s keen observation are things we hardly see packaged together, and it is this that this hearteningly simple film will stand out for.