Last weekend I saw two films that I enjoyed as much as Slumdog Millionaire. The only reason I’m comparing is because every film conversation these days centres on Slumdog and I know I’m ready to move on.
Luck By Chance: Akhtar’s first film is a box-office hit.
After the killer fortnight gone by, I needed movies to help me recoup from the misfortune of being born a woman in India. As if it’s not enough that we are abandoned at birth or even before, raped by our own relatives in childhood, shot on our streets as we drive home as working women, we have to put up with statements about our conduct from alleged criminals such as Sanjay Dutt and participate in a bizarre national debate about the ethics of a ladies’ night out (the only silver lining was that Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit kept quiet).
Movies work great when you want to shut out the real world. Yet, both the movies I saw worked because they had something to do with the real world.
Zoya Akhtar’s first film, Luck By Chance, reflects a lot of the life she’s seen growing up on the fringes of the Hindi film industry. “I see the outsider perspective,” she told Lounge in an interview last month. So Akhtar’s languorous (at times lethargic) insider tour of the lives of Bollywood’s stars and strugglers comes together nicely at the end precisely because the characters are so real (“He is a vullcano of talent,” Rishi Kapoor, who plays a producer, tells a journalist about his lead star). Hey, there are even 21 blink-and-you-might-miss-them real industrywallahs playing themselves (Shah Rukh Khan’s advice to lead actor Farhan Akhtar is worth heeding).
Only Mickey Rourke could have played the part of Randy the Ram in The Wrestler, the other film I saw. Who knows what cards life played the once good-looking Rourke. He was a blip on our movie radar (unless you’re the type who watches reruns of 9 1/2 Weeks) give or take the odd Sin City, until director Darren Aronofsky resurrected the man Rourke now is, bad plastic surgery and all.
Right from the start of the film, you know Randy’s life is not one you would want to live. “You are a living breathing f*** up,” his only daughter tells him in the film. And you know Mickey Rourke has lived that sentence even before he met Randy.
Even the rear view shots of the former champion wrestler, where you’re peering at his world from behind Randy’s long blond locks, evoke a feeling of dread, of certainty that this is not going to end well. “And now I’m an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be alone,” says the wrestler who can’t bear to be alone.
The pace of the movie changes dramatically after his daughter and the woman he likes reject Rourke. After that, Rourke no longer has any reason to live, and the only way he knows to die is fighting.
After a shot of Western loneliness and Bollywood strugglers, real life as an educated urban Indian woman didn’t seem so bad. After all, we are good at blocking out the freaks.
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