Luck By Chance completes 10 years: Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut proves why she is not an incidental filmmaker
Luck By Chance reflects the dichotomy that dictates Zoya Akhtar's life — of being an industry insider yet not letting the rules govern her sensibilities.
Zoya Akhtar is no filmmaker by chance.
Born in a family of writer-filmmakers like Honey Irani, Javed Akhtar and Farhan Akhtar, it was only organic that Zoya follow suit. Her sheer passion towards filmmaking did not allow her to be anything else. However, unlike her father and veteran screenwriter Javed, she did not conform to the diktats of mainstream cinema completely.
Javed, along with his longtime partner Salim Khan, created the larger-than-life action hero persona that still dominates the single screens. However, Zoya's sensibility is more akin to that of her brother Farhan. He revolutionised the language of Hindi cinema with his 2001 buddy film Dil Chahta Hai and went on to do the same with a war film (Lakshya) and a suspense thriller (Don). Zoya established from her directorial debut that while she is well-versed with the ways of the film industry, and she has managed to rise above the same.
Luck By Chance, that completes 10 years on 30 January, reflects the dichotomy that dictates Zoya's career. It is a film set in the industry yet goes where no Bollywood film has gone before. It is a film about people from the film industry yet they are not glossed over, as is the ritual. The film has almost every character hit the pitch that Bollywood is infamous for, yet the idea behind the same here is to mock them, not celebrate them.
Zoya could have easily fallen prey to the trappings of making a championing Bollywood film like her cousin Farah Khan. Her 2007 blockbuster Om Shanti Om also revolved around the way Bollywood functioned. Farah also took several potshots at the megalomaniac film stars and producers but those were within the confines of their onscreen extensions or public perceptions. Zoya's Luck By Chance is strictly an insider's take on the industry and does not spare any character from its analytical lens. However, all those from the film industry or aspiring to be part of it are not depicted as demented. Their despicable actions and monstrous egos are justified, even if that justification resides in a single scene or even a shot.
Take Hrithik Roshan's character for instance. He plays Zaffar Khan, a leading star who finds ways to wriggle out of his godfather Romy Rolly's female-led film. In a scene where he is complaining to his manager inside a car, while ghosting Rolly, one feels he is being depicted as utterly ungrateful to the producer who gave him his first break. However, in the very next scene, he is seen entertaining a bunch of street kids who recognise him when he peeps out of the window. One then realises that he may have made it so far because he connects with his fans and is grateful to them for they have allowed him to sustain his stardom.
Romy (played by Rishi Kapoor) feels he can pull off any project with his goodwill in the industry. His ego falls flat when Zaffar stops responding to his texts, compelling him to doubt the 'respect' he thought he still commands in the industry. In a moving scene, he breaks down in front of his wife (Juhi Chawla) and confesses it is no longer fun to make movies. Here, Zoya depicts a filmmaker who, like her father, would have been at the top of the Bollywood chain in the 1970s, but has now faded over time.
There is also Nikki Walia (Isha Sharvani), a starlet born with a silver spoon who has never defied her mother and veteran actress Neena Walia, because she owes it all to her. But when her mother places the strategy of continuing her own legacy through Nikki's film career over concern for her daughter's personal life, a distraught Nikki somehow musters the courage to raise her voice against her mother. Neena, whom Rolly once describes as a "crocodile in a chiffon sari", is also painted in empathetic colours when she tells Nikki about how she was forced into the business by her mother at a tender age, and even had to sleep with producers to land her lucrative roles.
Even the male lead is not spared. Farhan plays Vikram, an aspiring actor from Delhi. He believes that one has to push oneself to gain an entry into the heavily guarded world of Hindi cinema. He is willing to go to any extent in order to realise his big Bollywood dream, even sleeping with his heroine and flirting with her mother. For Zoya, Vikram symbolises ambition, of the Bollywood kind. Hindi cinema has often put wealth, success and fame on a pedestal, while projecting creative satisfaction, contentment and altruism as hurdles. Vikram is depicted as the 'hero' of the story till his betrayed girlfriend Sona (Konkona Sen Sharma) makes him aware of his flaw. "It's okay. You are selfish. Some people are like that. No need to feel bad about that," says Sona, seeing through Vikram's manipulation as he seeks forgiveness for cheating on her.
Sona is a character that comes closest to Zoya's trajectory. While she makes her fair share of mistakes by trusting a selfish producer and a self-centered boyfriend, she learns to pick herself up. The difference here is that while Sona is an outsider, Zoya, as an industry insider, must have seen her childhood friends and family members go through the ordeal only to realise how inconsequential their struggles have been. In the end, we see Sona embrace her identity as a small but satisfied TV actor. She refuses to comply with Bollywood's idea of success and redefines rules for herself.
Zoya also makes it quite clear that she believes the most in the process of filmmaking. The only 'glamorous' shots in the film are those in the opening sequence when random members of a film crew, including the spotboy, the set designer and the caterers, are seen indulging in their work of transforming raw material into finished products. An actress is seen adjusting her makeup with a dilapidated building in the background. This dichotomy is what makes the frame 'glamorous', strictly by Zoya Akhtar standards.
Luck By Chance proves that for Zoya, if there is anything more fruitful or beautiful than the movies, it is the processing of making them.
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