Luck By Chance Review (SPOILERS): First, Do No Harm

If you haven’t seen this movie, or want to think about performances and songs and mise-en-scene, go back to my last review.  This is for talking about what actually happens and what we think of the characters and what the point of it all might have been.

As the movie played out, I kept trying to get a grasp on who was supposed to be “good” and who was supposed to be “bad”.  Partly because it is a story about filmmaking, and we have been trained by media stories that there always has to be a “villain” in these.  The evil producer who abuses actors, the star who breaks a contract, and of course the star kid who benefits from nepotism.

But by the end of it, I realized none of those people are necessarily bad.  There are only two really “bad” people in the whole film, Alyy Khan and Farhan.  And what makes them bad is that they are willing to chew up and use others to get their own way.  Everyone in this film is self-focused, is ambitious, wants to be successful and have a good life.  Because that is what everyone wants, why should we hold film people to a higher standard than others?  But only two of them succeed by abusing their power, by trying to defeat others in order to achieve their own goals.  That is the message, that this is an industry made up of people and you should be kind to the people around you, as kind as you can be without damaging yourself.

And both of them, Alyy and Farhan, are ultimately rejected by the industry.  The “real” industry, represented by the triumvirate of Dimple, Juhi, and Rishi.  The family producer who has been building relationships for years, whose wife has kitty parties with the wives of all the other family producers.  And the aging actress who came up the hard way and knows more than anyone else about how the industry really works and what needs to be done.  There are moments, slight moments, where you can see a turning away, a hesitation, a reluctance to spend time with Alyy.  He married his way in, but he hasn’t earned his place.  Dimple doesn’t even want to waste time looking at him if she can avoid it.

Farhan is on his way.  He is a rising star at the end, so they have to treat him well.  But no one likes him.  That is what Shahrukh warns in his cameo, that Farhan has to remember the people who were his friends before, because no one else is truly his friend.  I wonder if a sequel would show Farhan as Hrithik’s character, on top?  Or if we are meant to see that he could fall as soon as he rose, his tactics won’t work in the long run?  That the “real” industry will turn away from him?

It is the “real” industry that Zoya wants to show us, and wants us to love.  Juhi and Rishi, who are crass with their ridiculous clothes and over the top attitude, and faith in numerology and spiritual advisors.  But they love each other, Rishi has a young photo of Juhi sitting on his desk, she comforts him when he feels sad, and she is his true partner, there for most meetings and consultations as a matter of course.  And they love her sister, Sheeba Chaddha, who has no influence, who is shy and sweet and excited to be helpful.  They welcome her for her sweetness and innocence.  These are good people.  It is easy to make fun of them, too easy, to talk about ripoffs of Hollywood films and how they aren’t “classy” or “artistic”.  But they just want to make a living, and to help other people making a living, without hurting anyone.  And what is the harm in that?

Image result for juhi rishi luck by chance

Dimple is terrifying.  And brutal to her daughter.  But she does that to survive.  She has given her daughter a great life.  We forget that nepotism is ultimately selfless.  Dimple isn’t trying to make her daughter a star in order to live again through her, or not exactly, she is trying to teach her how to survive the only way she learned to survive.  The same way a different kind of parent might teach you how to change a tire or balance your checkbook.  Dimple wants her daughter to do well, but not at the expense of anyone else.  If you don’t cross her, she won’t cross you.

Hrithik’s character is the most complex.  He seems to be the God that all revolves around, the star that can control whether or not a film is made.  Who children worship.  And yes, he does a bad thing, he drops out of a film.  But only after internal debate and consideration.  He does it for his career, but he knows there is a price to be paid for doing it.  And he weighs what he has already done for this producer (agreeing to be in many other films with him in the past, agreeing to be in more films with him in future), against this one mistake.  And ultimate chooses the path that he knows is wrong.

And then there’s Karan.  This is the real “God” of the industry.  Him and Shahrukh and Aamir.  Each of them only glimpsed once, because they are so far removed from the actions they put in play that the “common folk” aren’t even aware of them.  Karan calls Hrithik up for a big film, Hrithik leaves a smaller film, Rishi and Juhi and Dimple are thrown into turmoil, and Farhan gets his chance.  Aamir does one scene at the beginning with Konkona and she starts to realize how insignificant her career is.  Shahrukh talks to Farhan at the end, and he starts to see his whole life in a new way.  They are benevolent Gods, but they are very busy, they don’t have time to think about every little action they do and the effect it might have, they have a whole industry to run.

Bringing it briefly to the real world, remember Kangana twitting Karan because he told someone not to hire her back at the beginning of her career?  What does Karan care!  Does he even remember?  He is making big big decisions every day, he isn’t trying to destroy the life of every struggling actress, or any struggling actress, he has a lot more important things to think about.  Any harm he does is unintentional, he is too big to wish harm on anyone else.

That’s the thing, they are so powerful that it would be inappropriate for them to care about what happens to the little people.  That’s what makes Farhan and Alyy so “wrong”.  Farhan shouldn’t be forcing these big people to notice him, blackmailing them into paying him attention.  And Alyy shouldn’t be going below his level, abusing those far below him for his own pleasure.  Stay respectful to those above you, and kind to those below you, and you deserve to succeed.  Abuse from either direction, that is the greatest wrong according to the moral universe of this film.

And one of those power levels is men and women.  Way back at the beginning, a female student in Farhan’s acting class asks if a heroine needs all these skills too, and the teacher blows right past it, says “yes yes, of course of course”, but clearly doesn’t mean it.  Farhan as a man can become a star, can have multiple chances, can try many different things.  Konkona, Isha, Dimple, they are restricted.  They can’t afford one wrong step, or their career will be over.  They have to struggle to even have a career, Konkona ran away from home and made it on her own while Farhan is there with the blessing (and money) of his father behind him.

That is the greatest hidden evil of the industry, the way it can chew up and spit out women.  Even protected Isha suffers from it.  Konkona, “strong” Konkona falls prey to it.  And we learn at the end that this is what made Dimple into what she is today.  The only women who “escape” are the wives.  And even they don’t really.  Juhi does, she is happy in her husband and her life, she is not spoiled and protected, but she has the life she wants without having to suffer for it.  But Sheeba, again, she is the only real innocent in the film.  And she is suffering in her own way, stuck with a husband who doesn’t want her, who clearly married her just for her connections, not for her mind.  A kind good woman who deserves better and who we are grateful to Juhi and Rishi for protecting.

(Poor Isha!)

Late in the film, Konkona confronts the possibility of this “happy ending” for herself.  Leaving her film career, marrying Farhan, becoming the spoiled star wife.  And she turns it down.  Because she has seen that even that, at least with Farhan, would be no better than what she already has.  The worst thing would be to be dependent on someone else for everything, once again.

Although ultimately the point of this film is that we are all dependent, we are all connected.  The film industry survives because all of these people from all these different places come together and work together and help each other.  And it goes right down the line, from Karan Johar to the chaiwalla at the tiny single screen.  That’s what Konkona learns to appreciate in the end.  This world doesn’t exist to give her a chance, or take a chance away from someone else, it exists to just keep existing, for everybody.

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24 thoughts on “Luck By Chance Review (SPOILERS): First, Do No Harm

  1. Recently in the Tamil industry, actor Sarath Kumar’s daughter Varalaxmi started openly talking about the topic almost nobody else even dares to mention or acknowledge: the casting couch. She told the usual story about how a producer after talking to her about a role then casually asked her out for stuff etc which blatantly to her meant only one thing. Whether or not her story is true is beyond scope here I suppose, but is it that which Dimple’s character also implicitly means when she is yelling at her daughter? Not sure if that topic has even been written about here anywhere.

    My favorite part in the film is how Farhan at his first big party immediately makes it count and makes himself memorable with the “I’m in this world because of you” line to Dimple and which later does help Dimple recall him quickly during the audition or something.

    Also KJo did also initially strongly recommend against picking Anushka for Rab Ne.

    And here’s the Varalaxmi tweet:

    Liked by 1 person

    • One thing that I will get into at one of the later posts probably is that the casting couch is another thing the “real” industry people don’t indulge in. That’s part of the “family business” part of it for me. If Juhi Chawla in this (or Pamela Chopra in real life) is sitting in on these casting discussions, her husband isn’t going to be coming on to the actresses. Not like she is doing it to “keep an eye” on him, but like that is what their marriage is, a partnership, and that is what their business is like, a family. Sure, they are loud and tacky, but Dimple picked them because they would keep her daughter safe.

      Same reason, I am sure, that Karan keeps getting the nod to launch all these star kids. He is someone their parents feel safe with. Not because he is gay, but because he is a nice guy.

      It seems like it’s more the fly by night producers who indulge in casting couch stuff. But then, they are also the ones more likely to hire newcomers and nobodies, since the big “safe” studios have limited slots and those are being snapped up by families who know their value.

      In real life, I doubt Dimple ever went through that. I mean, what she did go through (married and pregnant at 15) was plenty bad. But she got the “safe” launch with Raj Kapoor opposite his son. There may have been some age appropriate flirting with Rishi, and Raj certainly had his own affairs, but he wasn’t the type who would force a 15 year old to sleep with him just to get a part. Or to risk a film on an unknown just because she slept with him, not because she had talent.

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      • For good or bad, my view of the film world has leaned towards a more cynical side after the Roman Polanski thing.

        I find it interesting that there are women who actually don’t have a problem with those who choose to use their body and sleep with men as favors to get ahead etc., talent notwithstanding, just as a shortcut. It is almost seen as a freedom thing, two consenting adults/professionals choosing to mix business with pleasure.

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        • I would be one of those people who don’t have a problem with women sleeping with men as a shortcut. But not everyone agrees with me, i am sure. If you aren’t hurting anyone (like, a wife), then no problem. Konkona in this, she was being used by that producer. But she also knew he was married, and he had that sweet sweet wife who didn’t deserve to be cheated on. Farhan, he was romancing innocent Isha to ensure his role in the film, knowing he was her first boyfriend and he was cheating on his own girlfriend to do it. But the sleeping to get ahead on its own, that doesn’t bother me. Just speaking for myself.

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          • Hmm well I suppose it comes down to one’s views of ethics, fairness, dharma and justice. I guess Amarendra may want to have a word with you on that!

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          • Well sheesh! If everything I did/thought had to live up to Amarandra’s values, I’d probably never get out of bed in the morning. For instance, I am guessing he would also have words with me about having a milkshake for dinner tonight and skipping church this morning.

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  2. M

    Not sure if you came across this before but there was a story I heard which said that the bidding romance between Rishi and Dimple in Saagar (her big film after Bobby with him) was nixed because she was Raj Kapoor and Nargis’s love child.

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    • My college roommate told me that story! and i super don’t believe it because why would Raj have cast her opposite Rishi in Bobby to begin with if that was the case? But I also kind of love it because it is sooooooooooooo scandalous.

      On Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 3:28 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I just rewatched Dear Zindagi, and this reminded me of Ali’s mistrust of her producer boyfriend. He keeps her off balance by implying that she is getting a break because of her hotness, not her talent. Since he is clearly not part of a “family” company, this makes even more sense that she would be wary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was thinking about Dear Zindagi a lot as well. The way the young women in the film were able to have so much freedom and so on thanks to working in film, but how they could still be exploited in ways that were almost invisible.

      On Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 7:27 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • When I watch movies like this one, I can’t avoid to see the way more bigger picture…that everything everywhere is a question of power – use and abuse. The own choice is what is important.
        When ShahRukh did his little speech I simply thought about himself as a real person…what about him and his own friendships? In which way does he maintain them (if indeed)? And I think about me and my busy life and all those I left behind – for whom (at one point of my life) I stopped to care…

        Liked by 1 person

        • When I watched it, part of what I saw in the “real” versus “fake” industry people was how those relationships were still all important. Juhi’s sister who was welcomed into the inner circle just because she was her sister, Shahrukh with his speech, even Konkona had a lot of real true friends who wanted to help her. It was only Farhan and, to a lesser extent, Hrithik who truly tossed away those relationships. Dimple was vicious and terrifying, but she also brought in Boman Irani to fund the film, she was loyal to her producer and helped him.

          And, on a meta level, all of these many many people agreed to cameo in the film because they grew up with Zoya and Farhan. I was noticing how many of the cameos were second generation and thinking maybe there was a meta commentary there. And then I realized that was just because these were Zoya and Farhan’s school chums, and people who ran in and out of “Honey Auntie” and “Javed Uncle’s” house when they were little. So of course they would do this as a favor to their old friends. The whole film itself is a testament to the closeness and realness of those bonds.

          On Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 8:55 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I’m so glad you finally watched this! I re-watch this every once in a while for Konkona and all the older generation actors. Every scene with them is just so good. I love your take on Dimple’s character. So much respect for her, but she would scare me in real life. I hope Isha’s character finds a way to have a life and career on her own terms somehow. I also have a soft spot for Farhan’s “theater” friend–who nevertheless is tempted to submit his photos for the big movie.

    Watching the Bawre video is a sure fire way to cheer myself up.

    Farhan’s character is so charming, that it really came as a shock to me to realize what a truly not-good person he is. Great writing and a brave performance from Farhan. On the second watch it was so much clearer so much earlier (like the thing with the grandfather clock–so manipulative of his aunt and his friend both). So glad that neither of the women he sleeps with over the course of the film end up with him. I hope they had some fun at least. 😉

    The ending is perfect, with fake Farhan on the billboard looming over working-actress Konkona, and her barely even noticing as she gets on with her life. Sigh.

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  5. Nothing new to add to your reviews and the comments. This really is an “important” film about films and the communities they create. (Though I hate how pretentious some of these films can be, especially in Hollywood). Zoya pulls this off perfectly. Also, just a good one about human nature and how everyone makes choices, especially in their careers, that reflect and impact their morality.

    The ending scene is one of the most memorable for me in any film I’ve ever seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I think is key is that Zoya never gets romantic about the actual art that is being created. The films are a product like any other. It’s a product that supports a lot of people and makes them famous, or at least keeps them fed, and it brings joy to a lot of people (I love the moment when they visit the single-screen theater to see how the film is playing), but it’s not about “great suffering brings great beauty”, or anything like that, they even make fun of that kind of attitude with Farhan’s quote in his cover story at the end “I am an actor, not a star”.

      On Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 10:56 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. My favorite scene has to be the one where Karan talks to Hrithik about outsiders coming in. And the soft dawn of realization on Hrithik’s face, he was really good!. And Hrithik asks him – Why didn’t you tell me before and Karan’s like “you never asked” lol!

    Whatay meta scene that was. Firstly, that it was due to him that Farhan gets into the industry. Then it’s Karan’s movie that Hrithik refuses Rishi’s movie for. And Karan honestly doesn’t know/doesn’t care. Like you say, he’s so high up he doesn’t need to know the trials and tribulations of the lesser mortals. I also feel its exactly the Ranbir-Ranveer story. Ranbir refuses Band Baaja Baraat and Ranveer gets signed on – Ranbir’s biggest competitor today (atleast I think so)

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    • Exactly! Karan says it perfectly in the film, and it must be something Zoya knows from her whole life. She was, what, 3 years old when Sholay came out? And her father picked Amjad Khan out of a stage show because Danny Denzongpa dropped out/didn’t want to attempt the role.

      It’s not just outsiders either, it’s any young smart person who takes that chance. Alia took Highway, Varun took Badlapur, you’ve got to be ready for that chance and take it. And then you get famous, and you aren’t willing any more. Shahrukh turned down Lagaan, once he made it big, even though he took Baazigar back when he was young and hungry.

      On Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 5:17 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Yeah, there’s a cast photo somewhere from some pre-filming event, and there he is! And then there was a conflict and he had to drop out, and they brought in random stage actor Amjad Khan.

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  7. Pingback: Luck By Chance Annotations Index | dontcallitbollywood

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