Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Cast: Abhay Deol, Paresh Rawal, Neetu Chandra
Storyline: A petty thief becomes so popular that he becomes a celebrity
Bottomline: Only Bunty, no Babli. But uncork the bubbly anyway.
On paper, Oye Lucky seems like Bunty aur Babli without Babli.
Maybe because Dibakar Banerjee and Jaideep Sahni (who wrote Bunty aur Babli) go back a long way (they collaborated to make Khosla Ka Ghosla), there’s a lot that’s common about these films.
Both films are about protagonists from the Great Indian Middle Class who decide to take the short-cut to the top and have a little fun on the job.
Both films are rich in local flavour and transport us to the heartland of the country where people speak in distinct dialects and not from the generic vocabulary of Hindi film appropriations.
And yes, they both feature thieves who can con their way through charm.
But while Bunty aur Babli was all about the adventures and orchestration of the con jobs, Lucky’s operations are relatively simpler because the thief here sticks to basics. No Oceans-Eleven-planning. No disguises. No guns. No casualties. No smart deceptions. He just takes what he wants, from where he wants.
Maybe because Banerjee does not want you to look at Oye Lucky as just another caper. He doesn’t spell anything out ever but it’s all there between the lines.
Oye Lucky is an all-subtext sandwich between a wafer thin cat-and-mouse plot that keeps the screenplay ticking.
The non-linear storytelling here is backed with some smart editing that holds back the cards, intrigues and eventually reveals the missing detail. In a normal film, when we see a boy ask his dad for a bike and his request is turned down, conventional storytellers would then tell you how the boy gets the bike before his date with the girl he likes.
But Banerjee believes that the Indian audience has come of age and will eventually figure it out when he suggests it in passing, after the date.
The idea here is probably to show us that Lucky, with his straightforward stealing is probably the cleanest in a country full of people with secrets and lives they aren’t proud of. To do this without overstating or underlining the message is quite an achievement in the context of Hindi cinema and Banerjee is a master of subtlety.
The humour in the satire is largely cerebral. Which is why though you may never laugh out loud during the film, you go home thoroughly entertained and chuckle at its heartwarming simplicity and native charm. More so if you’re familiar with Delhi.
It is difficult to think of anyone else who would’ve played Lucky with such casual ease, his dimple doing most of the work in this film. A deglamourised Neetu Chandra is revelation. It is refreshing to see the versatile Paresh Rawal play three different roles (he’s a volcano of emotions as the father, a smooth slimeball in one and a deceitful gentleman in the other) in one film after watching him play the same type in three hundred different Priyadarshan films or less.
If you loved the brand of humour in Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky is a landmine of laughs.