Zoya Akhtar's much awaited directorial debut is finally ready for public consumption, and the wait seems to have been worth it. The debutante has managed to capture, with brutal honesty and sharpness, the functioning of the Hindi film industry, stopping just short of making a caricature out of events and characters, which speaks a lot for her control over her subject and the film's content. While, in a sense, there is little about the industry that those on the outside do not know in these days of 24x7 media coverage, but the director still manages to spin a poignant and yet brutally honest tale about the angst of a struggler and the workings of the industry. In a certain sense, Luck By Chance is also a coming of age film. It is about growing up, looking at life anew and moving on, just as the female protagonist Sona does at the end of the movie.
Zoya's film begins with Vikram Jaisingh's (Farhan Akhtar) struggle to become an actor and ends with Sona's (Konkona Sen Sharma) coming of age. Both their paths cross each other for a while, each enrapt in their personal struggle to touch the stars. For a while the two manage to share their dreams and aspirations together, but luck was not on their side. Luck, maybe by chance, gives Vikram one of the biggest breaks possible and he soon finds himself being launched by one of the leading banners of B town, cast opposite the daughter of one of the leading divas of the silver screen. All too soon, he learns to play the survival game, driven by his ambition to become someone. And in his journey towards stardom, he dumps his junior artiste girlfriend as he charms his way into his heroine's (Isha Sharvani), and her mother's (Dimple Kapadia) heart.
The film encapsulates Vikram's journey towards stardom and ends with him having reached his destination. But as a superstar tells him, Shah Rukh Khan, playing himself, his journey from now on becomes even more perilous as his future success would depend on the kind of roles that he chooses henceforth. His first role, akin to his destiny, chose him, and now it is his turn. Vikram makes his way back to Sona, but she seems to have grown up somewhere in this time spent apart. Already having had her share of disappointments in her career and her personal life, she has managed to pick herself up and move on. There is something endearing about Sona's gritty courage behind her vulnerable façade. A true survivor, film ends with her making her way to Film City for a shoot. The ambitious Vikram has realised by now, that his new found stardom is just the beginning of another journey, one that he embarks on, with full knowledge about himself and his choices.
Zoya does a brilliant take on the film industry, its producers, its wannbe directors, superstars, their tantrums and the exploitation of aspiring young actresses, like Sona Mishra from Kanpur. The depiction, like we said earlier, stops short of being a caricature. She presents the world just as it is, flaws and warts included. And like Sona Mishra, in the end, one ends up loving the world. Zoya displays a certain sharpness, in the manner in which she narrows down on detail. Nothing seems to escape her eye.
The first half of the movie unfolds at a leisurely pace as the film takes its time to introduce the cast of characters and the inner working of their mind. But it soon picks up pace as the events in the life of its characters gather momentum.
One of the most brilliant characters in this movie, is that of the ambitious Punjabi producer, Rolliji, played by Rishi Kapoor. The veteran actor really infuses his character with so much colour and energy, that he steals the scene from everybody whenever he is around. The actor is believed to have taken great interest in his character and even worked on the character's styling, very closely with the director. He is a marvel to watch. Despite playing it over the top as the exuberant loud Punjabi producer, Rishi manages to draw that invisible line and never lets his character become a caricature. The difference is his serious approach towards his character and the manner in which he layers it with mannerisms of speech and movement. He is very well supported by Juhi Chawla, who plays his wife and Sheeba Chaddha, who plays the wife's sister. Aly Khan as the brother in law, too puts in a good performance. Sanjay Kapoor surprises with his performance as a wannabe director.
But the surprise packet is definitely Hrithik Roshan. The actor does a cameo as Zafar, the reigning superstar, and comes out tops. In the little time that he comes on screen, he is absolutely fantastic. He proves again, njot that he needs to, what a great dancer he is in the song, ‘Baawre'. But the most enduring image of him in the movie, is the look in his eye as he looks at Vikram, the new star on the horizon, who may well be his competitor. Actor Aamir Khan appears for a scene as do the likes of Abhishek Bachchan, Akshaye Khanna, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor, Karan Johar, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, among others.
Coming to the main cast, Farhan gives another muted yet passionate performance as the ambitious Vikram Jaisingh, who does not mind playing psychological games or indulge in a little flattery, or flirtation, if it can get him what it wants. He is ruthless. The character has its grey tinge and Farhan does an excellent job of playing out the various hues shades in Vikram and making him a character one can relate to.
Konkona digs her teeth into the character of Sona Mishra as well and renders a powerful performance. She manages to capture the naivete and innocence of a small town girl, who dares to follow her dreams. The film is just as much about Vikram Jaising as it is about Sona Mishra and Konkona does full justice to her role with her very natural and easy style of acting. Last but not the least, Dimple Kapadia as the aging diva, is just about perfect for her role. Isha Sharwani too is very well cast.
Seeing that Zoya has written the film herself, one has to admit that she has done a superb job, in the manner in which she created the various characters and the situations in the film. The manner in which she has worked in the destiny factor in her screenplay too is creditworthy. By no means does this film come across as one made by a debutant. Zoya has managed to see her film so well and s clearly in her screenplay and script, that she has managed to do 50 per cent of her work. Because the film has been so well conceived of, it has been so brilliantly executed. The film's camerawork, its music, its editing have all come together to add value to the movie. This has truly been a debut worth its wait.