Sunday, February 01, 2009

Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! by Dibakar Banerjee

If you have the impression that Bollywood films are not realistic, entertaining, artistic, provocative, subtle or well-made, go see Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. Easily the best Hindi film I have seen in a long time, this film is a total blast, an exuberant, no-holds-barred, crackling tale of middle class India. This is a very dense film, a film with satire dripping in almost every line of dialogue and in almost every shot (when was the last time you saw a Hindi film cracking a joke over the dead body of a young person?).

This film was not a hit in India, and that's a pity. The director and the crew have been insanely ambitious with this venture, and they have not been rewarded at the box office. Some blame the timing of the release (The Mumbai tragedy happened during this film's weekend premiere), but I blame the Indian audience. Many people (at our film club) who went and saw this film didn't like it. Perhaps the film hits too close to home, perhaps its irreverence is too much to take, perhaps it shows us the ugly India which we comprise (rather than slums which one can view from a distance), perhaps its pace is too breathless for most people! Perhaps. But there is no doubt in my mind that the film is a masterpiece. I haven't seen this kind of attention to detail (notice the Adidas cap in the picture below) in any recent Indian film.

People have unfairly called it a copy of Catch Me if you Can (it is not). If at all, it is a satirical cousin - minus the tragedy, the violence, the drugs, the emigrant-mafia - of Goodfellas (and OLLO provides a self-conscious nod to Scorsese's film in a crucial scene). In both films, the protagonist, a normal boy in a normal family, is dazzled by the lifestyle of those who have it easy (and this is the first satire: in India, the establishment is the gang) takes to crime, and after what seems like a lifetime, suffers betrayals from those closest to him, but lives to become wiser.

The director has entered the arena with his arsenal loaded, and no icon escapes his aim. It is ultimately privilege and hypocrisy which he attacks with his satirical guns blazing, and he leaves us gasping for breath.

What a film!


Anonymous said...

"If you have the impression that Bollywood films are not realistic, entertaining, artistic, provocative, subtle or well-made, go see Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!"

Then I have to watch it. :-)

Good that there are English subtitles.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Srid,

The film has many inside jokes (which may be better comprehended by North Indians), and the choicest north-Indian epithets, but I'm sure you will enjoy the film.

Anonymous said...

I agree, I had a fun time watching the movie. We definitely need such movies, which any ordinary middle class person can relate to. No Drama (Overacting), lighthearted, to the point, precise and absolutely clear. Abhay Deol has performed the role of Lucky superbly. I thoroughly enjoyed its music track as well. Kind of soul and mood lifting :)

Anonymous said...

im looking forward to see it! and also dev-d.

three indian movies ive seen in recent times are:-

hazaron khwaishen aisi (different stratum of india merge into each other), matrabhoomi (blistering satire on indian society, especially rural), 12 park avenue (family coping with a member having psychiatric problems)

sandygautam said...

good that you alerted me to this film and I made it a point to see it yesterday. Thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the continuity between the child and adult protagonists demeanor.

Guru Kini said...

It was a brilliant movie. Absolutely loved it. However, I think it couldn't have been a crowd pleaser. It has too many old-Delhi elements that are completely lost on non-Delhiites. The difference between its reception in North India and everywhere else would be clear.
Also I think the first section of the movie gives the feeling that it is an out-and-out comedy. Slowly it becomes a complex drama. Several people commented that they felt "cheated" :). I guess this would be the same section of people who hated "Cheeni Kam" for the same reason.
Plus your regular cine-goer expects some kind of redemption for the "anti"-hero (using the word freely) in the end. The hero needs to settle down and have kids, etc. They expect a morality show.
I think Dibakar Banerjee was well aware that this is a film for a certain niche. I would hardly blame the masses in that case :).

Nice blog, by the way, and I can see you are very keen on movies. Good stuff!

Di said...

I didn't quite "get" the film. I read its rave reviews from a fellow bangali critic and saw the film (with greater expectation). lot of subtle things and satire that you mentioned escaped my pea brains. I was quite confused by Raval's character and didn't get that he was in several roles, till the end of the movie (dumb of me). I need to watch it again some day to know what it is that people are raving about.

Sharad said...

Thanks for the recommendation. It took me a while to follow through and watch it. I thought I was not going to enjoy it after the protagonist grows up and Abhay Deol steps in. I was wrong!