Only 2 parts left after this! Now I am kind of sad. This was a nice different way to cover a film. (full index of Luck By Chance coverage here)
First note! “Talaash actress IS Konkona”
Sheeba Chaddha absolutely rules this film. She has such a tiny role, and she doesn’t really have “star” presence onscreen or anything like that, but her performance is so nuanced and brilliant that you can’t help but love her. In this scene, when she walks in on her husband Alyy and a crying Konkona, she not only manages to sell a very complicated mix of emotions in an honest way, she makes us love her while she does it.
The scene is clearly Alyy dumping an actress he used and abused. From what we see of Alyy, Konkona can’t be the first actress he has treated this way, and this can’t be the first scene like this that Sheeba has walked in on. And yet Sheeba sells it that this woman is so innocent, she truly does not realize what she is seeing.
And she makes us like her while she is doing it! We don’t feel that kind of disgust with her innocence that we feel with Isha, we just love her for it. And that’s what makes the film work, this true innocent who just wants to help threading through everything.
Oh, and also my realization that Konkona’s character, the truly good actress who is never going to be a star, IS Sheeba!!! Right down to her happy ending being finding regular work in TV.
(And also marrying a total silver fox. If that is in fact her husband)
Next note “‘At times like these only family cares'”
Sheeba’s pure goodness comes from Alyy and Konkona to Juhi and Rishi and Dimple and Sanjay, tying them together for the first time. Because Sheeba is the only person at their high level who is good enough to notice and care about the people below. She saw Konkona’s tears, felt bad for her, Konkona’s explanation was that she was asking for help finding a job for “cousin”, Farhan, since she happened to have the headshots he gave her on her anyway.
Sheeba took the photos, and now brings them to Juhi and Rishi who are looking for a potential “new boy” to use in their film. Again, a different actress, it would play like she knew all along what was happening with Alyy and Konkona, and her attempt to get Farhan a job was part of trying to break them up. But with Sheeba, it just feels sincere, she feels bad for the crying girl and wants to help her.
Oh, and then the line that I wrote down, “at times like these only family cares”. That’s the response to Sheeba helping. Two layers to it, first that this is why everyone in the industry has or tries to have these “family” type of relationships. Because, yes, the industry can be vicious to those on the way down and out. Any business is like that. But, what is different, is that you can manage to overlap the business and the personal, which secures your business life. And then the other layer to it is that family is welcomed! The response to Sheeba joining the discussion isn’t “go away, you don’t have a degree or a resume that qualifies you for this discussion”, it is “all help is welcome!”
(And this is how Mohit Suri ends up directing Zeher)
Which is how Sheeba ends up handing Farhan’s photos to Rishi and Juhi, and Farhan ends up getting a call to audition. Not through all the classes and so on, but because of a lucky chance. Because the real chances don’t come through the professional formal open calls, but through these random happenings and informal connections.
Next note “Help w/ form in English”
SEE???? This is what I was talking about in my nepotism post about the Dangal open casting! And more generally the idea of the industry being “fair” if they hire degree holders and so on. Farhan is at the semi-open casting call, filling out the form, and the actor sitting next to him asks for help with the form because he can’t read English.
So, yes, it’s an open call for a “new boy”. They have brought in dozens of potential young actors at a professional casting agency. This is supposed to be the “fair” version, where everyone succeeds on “merit”. But only if you can read and write English. Which excludes 90% of India.
And also only if you have the time to go to open calls, the money for headshots, and so on and so on. You keep adding restrictions, and you end up with a pool of talent only slightly smaller than what it would be if we stuck with the same old nepotism system. And at least under nepotism, people actually spoke the language of the films they were supposed to be working in.
Remember, even Konkona in this movie wouldn’t have qualified through the “fair” system. She couldn’t wait around for her open call chance, she needed to pay rent and support herself, so she took a bunch of small jobs and therefore lost her shot at the big break, since now she was over-exposed. You have to be pretty rich to be able to “plan” a career instead of just plain working.
Next note “Theater line from friend”
This is the moment when Farhan’s essential emptiness begins to become more and more apparent. All his hidden advantages until now, we could say that he was just unaware of using them. Hadn’t thought through how lucky he was to live at his aunt’s rent free, get an allowance from his father, know English, be able to borrow a grandfather clock at a moment’s notice.
But this, this is taking from someone, not just accepting a gift. His friend said to him “doing theater helps keep the actor in my alive”. And now Farhan is taking that line, clearly knowing where it came from, and using it in his audition.
Next note “Fake Dimple films”
This is a little thing that I just love. To prepare for his callback after Dimple recognized him from the audition tape as the guy from the party, and the others liked his actor line, Farhan does his “homework” by watching a bunch of old Dimple movies. But not “real” movies. Well, not entirely. We just see the DVD cases, and they are all images for her real films, but kind of mixed and matched together so nothing is identifiably real.
And it pays off, he goes in to the audition ready to charm both mother and daughter, and succeeds, and is offered the role. His charm wins out over the hard body type who is up against him. Well, his charm and another moment of pure ambition, sabotaging the other actor by giving him false confidence and making him not even try in the audition.
Next note “Sergio Leone-Western to Italy to India”
Another random thing. The posters in Sanjay’s office are Indianized versions of Sergio Leone movies. Which is super clever, since Sergio Leone was an Italian who took American style cowboy films and remade them, and now Sanjay is taking his movies which were inspired by other movies and making them in India.
So, a little reminder that the Hindi industry isn’t the only place that steals from other industries.
Next note “Young photo of Juhi on desk (no cheating for family productions)”
This is where we get a shot of Rishi’s desk, and see a super young photo of Juhi. A small prop touch, but put in their on purpose to paint a picture of their lives together. Not only have Juhi and Rishi been together since she was young, he keeps an old photo of her on his desk, not an obligation photo of her from recent times, but a sentimental photo from when they first fell in love.
(Could also be because young Juhi was super cute)
And this was also purposeful to make the Rishi character the one with the great marriage. His crude and crass and loud, but he loves his wife and he would never treat an actress the way Alyy treats Konkona. He is straight up in his business affairs, no funny business.
Next note “Hindi to English because Nikki can’t say it”
Now Farhan is hired and beginning to work with Isha/Nikki. We already began to get a bit more depth on Isha. Her first photo shoot to “introduce her” is in a pink bedroom (now Joyomama can tell us that pink didn’t always mean for girls, but in this case it does, right? And not just “female”, but like childish female). And then her mother suggests they take a photo against the “wall” outside. Which is a giant blow-up image of Dimple from Bobby. Which I would not be surprised to learn is actually in her house in real life.
(No luck finding the mural, but check out Dimple front and center in the photo spread on her daughters!)
Isha is childish and young, but she has her own troubles in her life. What we aren’t sure about at this point is if she really wants this for herself or if she is just her mother’s puppet. It seems like she might mostly be a “puppet”, but a puppet with some depth to her, some pain on the inside, not the “perfect” life it looks like from the outside.
But most of the time that pain is hidden. For instance in her first rehearsal with Farhan, where she is clearly giggly and excited to be spending time with this charming young man. And also is a terrible actress. She can’t remember her lines, the writer is there to prompt her and she still doesn’t know them. And when she can’t say a line in Hindi, the writer is there to change it to something she can say.
Now, first thing, look how little respect there is for the writer! He is there literally to support the stars, change the script, dialogue, whatever is needed on command.
Second, the Hindi-English thing again! The upper classes, even the filmi upper classes, can’t speak Hindi any more. Even if someone besides Farhan were to have been cast, they would have struggled to deal with the industry without having English skills to help them, it is the common language.
And third, looking ahead a bit, we will see that Farhan is the better smarter actor. But Isha has some hidden skills, she is the better smarter star. This silly rehearsal scene, this is only one small part of her job.
Next note “Rehearsals are new, used to dialogue onset”
Dimple swans in to observe and points out how strange it is for them to be rehearsing, back in her day she used to get dialogue on the set itself. I don’t feel like the film is necessarily saying one system is better than the other. This is a silly rehearsal, Isha is incompetent, the writer is changing dialogue on the spot to help them. It’s also silly to just get dialogue on set and then say it.
But the 90% of the film that isn’t dialogue related, that’s the same either way. They still need to do their songs, make their faces, all of that stuff. And of course being very very attractive. Isha can do all of that, Dimple can do all of that, even Farhan can do that, and no dialogue rehearsal is going to make them better or worse at it.