I’m back! This is a completely ridiculous and non-practical series, by the way. JHMS, I got the best views EVER (even beat Bahubali). This, I’m getting like a few dozen on each post. But on the other hand, it is my few dozen most loyal commentators/readers, so just for you, I will continue to put them up. Well, and also I really liked the film. (full index of Luck By Chance coverage here)
First note “Karan phone call ends playtime for Hrithik”
This whole section with Hrithik is fascinating. It’s when we start to see him as a person, not just the ideal perfect star. And how that person conflicts with the ideal star.
See, that’s another way in which we can see that Hrithik’s character isn’t quite at the top-top yet. Karan and Aamir and Shahrukh, the little glimpses we get of them, they don’t have those conflicts. They have learned to carry their star responsibilities with them always, and be grateful for any moment in which they can be human. Not to be human most of the time and only put on the “star” part of them when it will do them good.
And so Hrithik is playing video games with a friend, enjoying being himself, when he gets a phone call from Karan and suddenly playtime is over. There’s no “call my people, we’ll talk in the office tomorrow” or “now is not a good time”. At any point, he can be called on to change from the person to the star and he can’t say no. And he also has to handle this problem like a “star”, that is, all by himself. If Karan Johar calls and offers you a role, you don’t get to say “let me talk with my manager” or “I’ll see if I can break my contract”, it’s a yes or a no immediately. And if it is a “no”, you don’t just lose this role, you lose a personal relationship with Karan. It’s hard and never ending and always alone.
Next note “Hrithik playing with kids through window”
This sequence is amazing. Hrithik is driving in his car, debating internally the situation he is in between the starring role with the producer who launched him and the multi-hero role with a Karan Johar production, when the car stops at a traffic light and some children playing see him and run over.
At first, Hrithik tries to ignore, them sees tired and irritated by the distraction. But then as they keep pounding on the window, he turns on the charm, smiles, moves his hand back and forth and watches as they follow the movement, reaching out to touch the glass and put their hands inside of his. Hrithik’s face changes, he goes from duty to delight, to a strange kind of wonder. This is how fandom is, the audience and the star separated by glass and yet somehow transferring energy through it. And it is the star who is in awe at the end, not the fan. In awe of the purity of their love and faith in him.
And again, I think of the line this film is drawing between the “real” stars and the ones on their way up. What Hrithik is experiencing here, it seems like it might be one of the first times he has felt it. He has been recognized before, we see the tired irritation there. But this sudden realization of a connection, that is new to him.
But it is not new to people in the “real” world. Another moment where I am aware that this is something Zoya would have grown up seeing. Seeing, but not experiencing. Going out with “Amit Uncle” and “Jaya Auntie” and seeing how they people came up to them, how they looked at the people, what that felt like from both sides. I don’t think you could make this scene if you had never been sitting on Hrithik’s side of the glass. But I don’t think you could make it if you were Hrithik himself either, you needed to be able to watch that change from the outside to fully appreciate it.
And one final story, which I don’t think Zoya had in mind at all but which is so similar in effect. In Anupama’s Shahrukh book, she tells a story he told her about when he first arrived in Bombay. He had taken a huge risk, leaving his dying mother and unsettled romance in Delhi to come to Bombay because a producer promised him a regular job. Fauji was a huge hit, but he hadn’t done anything else. He landed at the airport, and there was no one there to meet him, despite the producer’s promises. He didn’t know what was happening, if he even had a job any more, if he would be able to find money to go back home and what he would do if he did. So he went into a telephone booth and started calling everyone he could think of trying to figure out his next steps. And just then, a Haaj flight landed and a stream of men and women started passing his telephone booth. And the women in burqas recognized this young man in the telephone booth, started murmuring “Fauji, it’s fauji”. And, seeing his distress through the glass, they blessed him as they passed.
Next Note “‘I work for Zaffer Khan’ fans argument, fake”
What makes this film brilliant is how that moment of sincere realization from Hrithik, that awe at the love he was offered, is translated into a moment of pure cynicism. Because the two exist together. You can’t say “oh they are just out for what they can get, no one cares about anything” and you also can’t say “they are noble warriors for Art and Audience!” It’s both at the same time.
Hrithik wants to get out of this film because he wants to do the Karan Johar film. We the audience know that, and he knows that about himself at some level. But he doesn’t want to just leave the film for a better opportunity, he knows enough to know that would sabotage himself for future work if he gets a reputation for disloyalty. And he also doesn’t want to actually be disloyal, to walk away from a producer to whom he owes everything. And who is also a sincerely good decent person, who wants to make a film because he loves films.
And so in the moment he is suddenly inspired and argues to Rishi that he is not “Zaffar Khan”, he works for “Zaffer Khan” and Zaffer Khan works for his fans. That is why he has to get out of this film, his fans won’t accept him in a negative role. It’s a selfless argument, based on artistic issues, nothing else.
Of course, it’s also a cowardly lie. Hrithik knows the right thing here. He committed to this film, there are hundreds of people counting on him, including this nice old man sitting in front of him. He should turn down the Karan offer and work with Rishi. But he is torn, because his career tells him to take the Karan job.
(Interesting thing to think about is that at one point Karan was the Rishi person, the one counting on favors and loyalty. And it paid off, Salman did this tiny role just because Karan asked him)
What is really fascinating is later when we see this whole situation from Karan’s side. Karan doesn’t care about this petty right versus wrong. He sees a gap in the industry that needs to be filled, he offers it to Hrithik, whatever Hrithik decides the industry will adjust. He isn’t thinking about what is best for his film, or the next film, he has a broader picture than that. A picture Hrithik just doesn’t have yet.
Next Note “‘If done with bravery/conviction, will work'”
This is a tiny thing. Rishi is talking with his screenwriter and Sanjay and Juhi (of course, Juhi is always there, because she has the job of “producer’s wife” and contributes in a specific way in that role) about how they might be able to change the film. There is discussion about giving it a happy ending, Hrithik and the heroine end up together happily after all. The screenwriter is reluctant, but Rishi insists “if done with himmat, it will work!” Which is true! If you are going to take a huge leap in a script, you have to do it bravely. The reason scripts/films fail is not because they took the leap but because they didn’t believe in it, you can sense they were holding back. Tubelight, among other issues, never fully committed to what it wanted to say, never seemed to really believe in it.
Next Note “Konkona doesn’t know English”
This is SO MUCH. In terms of the plot, we went from Hrithik trying to remove himself from the film back down to Konkona on the bottom. She is hanging out with Farhan, they go to the store together. There is a competition to win a fridge, Hrithik suggests that she enter it, Konkona says it doesn’t matter, she will never win. And Farhan points out that if she never tries, she will certainly not win. And then Konkona points out that the contest is in English anyway, and she doesn’t know it. So Farhan writes something quickly on the back of the entry form for her.
What we are going to see over and over in this film is that Konkona hates Isha, Dimple’s daughter, for having this chance handed to her. But who she should really hate is Farhan, and all the other Farhan’s. The ones who had it handed to them but can convince themselves they didn’t. The ones who know English, who casually assume they will “win” because they have never known loss. The ones who stay rent free with an aunt in Bandra instead of struggling for rent of a small apartment with a broken fridge. She just doesn’t know it yet, doesn’t realize that the ones who are her real enemy are the ones who are the dark version of herself, the outsider who is truly an insider in a different way.
(Ranveer’s advantage over Anushka wasn’t a distant connection to Anil Kapoor, it was that he was born in Bandra)
Next Note “Grandfather clock, Emraan in Australia”
And this is where that “Konkona doesn’t know English” note pays off. Farhan has the time and the money to go out for dinner with friends and pay for them so they are willing to spend time with him. And because of that, he is right there for his friend’s phone call from Bhatt films, that he needs to bring in an antique grandfather clock first thing tomorrow because Emraan is going to Australia and has to shoot the scene before he leaves.
First, the Emraan part, very satisfying. Tying in nicely with the Bhatt films unspoken connection. Because of course Emraan is Mahesh’s nephew/in house hero. And it’s also a (probably unintentional) comparison with Hrithik’s character’s behavior. Emraan is flying to Australia to shoot for someone else, but is making sure to complete his obligations to his family/the producer who launched him before he leaves. He isn’t just walking away.
But it’s the grandfather clock that is more important. Farhan sees an opportunity to get a favor from his friend. He has a grandfather clock he can loan them. We see a sudden shot of the grandfather clock in his memory while they are still at the restaurant and for a moment I thought it was actually in the restaurant.
In a strange way, that would be getting by on merit. For Farhan to see this opening, and to be brave enough to go after it, even if it meant stealing from a restaurant or otherwise taking a risk. That’s merit, that’s seeing your shot and taking it.
But instead, this is his aunt’s grandfather clock. A symbol of wealth, of established family, all of that. He only has it to offer because of the advantages he was born into. Konkona couldn’t have taken this chance, not because she wasn’t brave or smart enough to take it, but because she didn’t live in a big old house with an indulgent easily convinced aunt and a bunch of expensive antiques. And, in a larger sense, because she didn’t have the time or money to spend at dinners out, or on taxis to take a grandfather clock to the studio, or anything else that let Farhan do this.
Next Note “Javed and Shabana at premiere”
Farhan takes his chance, in return for the grandfather clock, he asks his friend to introduce him to Bhatt sahib. And when Bhatt sahib is unavailable, he asks for an invite to the big premiere of “Love Birds”.
Now, this is clever! This is where Farhan truly is better than Konkona, not at anything from his wealthy background but just his smart mind. Konkona let herself get tricked by Alyy right when she arrived in town. And she has made friends and built a life. But she hasn’t been taking full advantage of her chances, not the way Farhan is. Neatly pivoting from wanting to meet a powerful director/producer, to just looking for an invite to a premiere to see what other chances he can find there.
The premiere sequence is also very fun, showing all these little cameos and how these parties work. This is a chance for everyone to make connections, people on the way up, people on the way done, people at the top. And it’s also the only time we see Zoya’s parents, Javed and Shabana. Playing themselves for just a quick second. It’s not exactly a cameo, it’s not as long as some of the others, it feels almost more like just a fun kind of blessing on the film, to put them in there.
Next Note “Rani and Akshaye in lockstep at premiere”
Love this, Rani and Akshaye on opposite sides of the room saying the exact same thing to the press about working together, a little preview of the same sort of deal that Farhan and Isha will have by the end. And also a sign of one of the other levels of this party. There’s the people actually meeting and matching, and then there’s the show they are putting on for the press.
Next Note “Dia!”
Dia! She is only in it for a second, Farhan tries to say “hi” when she come up to the bar, and she (rightfully) ignores him. I just like tracking back as an experiment how she ended up in this film. For instance, possibly, it was because Hrithik was in the movie and Hrithik’s brother-in-law was Zayed Khan and Zayed Khan is Dia Mirza’s best friend/business partner. Or it could have been any one of a dozen other ways.
The point is, looking at Dia as an example of the kind of story we are watching in this film, you don’t have to be an evil Farhan type to make it to the inner circle. Dia was a model, no film connections. But I have only heard nice things about her, and she seems to be someone who everyone just likes. She made good friends, platonic friends, with Zayed Khan. She is friends with a bunch of other people as well. She goes to all the events looking very nice, and when she is offered a role, she does it to the best of her abilities. And she does things like this little throw away 30 seconds here, and it turns into a full-fledged part in Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Limited a few years later.
But it wasn’t calculated, that’s the thing. Right here, Farhan says to his friend that he is going to meet Isha. Not Dimple, Isha. He knows that Isha is connected and fragile and vulnerable. And so he is going to hunt her down and use her. And he goes over and does just that, gives a great memorable line to Dimple about how his parents first met because they were both her fans, and how she is just as beautiful as ever, and at the same time is making eyes at her daughter. If we hadn’t had that moment before with his friend, we could believe it as a sincere thing. But we did have that moment, so we in the audience know it isn’t a “Dia doing a tiny part to be nice without calculating that it might turn into a bigger role later” thing, it is a “Only doing this because you are tricking them into feeling an obligation that will force them to put you in their film later.”
Final Note “Juhi and Rishi sweet moment, without star they have nothing”
I don’t think we actually see the moment when Hrithik turns down the film, backs out. Just the aftermath. And the aftermath is the important part. Stars come and go, but people like Juhi and Rishi will always be there. And so Zoya shows us that, how these decisions that people like Hrithik’s character make completely selfishly for their own career have all kinds of ramifications that they just don’t want to think about.
And that’s what Rishi is bemoaning, he is such an experienced guy, he has been around so long, and he has a smart wife/business partner who loves him. And yet none of that matters if they don’t have a star. This guy who just moved on from them without thinking. It’s a moment of sadness, but what is more interesting is that the rest of the film shows that Juhi’s words of comfort are actually correct. They truly don’t need a star, they can work the system and the expectations and everything else to make it work. They don’t need just the name.