DIRECTOR: Dibakar Bannerjee
ACTORS: Abhay Deol, Paresh Rawal, Neetu Chandra

About the time of Dibakar Bannerjee’s fine debut, reading a Delhibased columnist Mahmood Farooqui refer to Khosla Ka Ghosla as K2G, I remember feeling strangely envious of a delightfully cheesy acronym I hadn’t thought of myself.

That doesn’t explain the silly abbreviation on the headline above. It’s just to call attention to the film’s firstrate title, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye; words skillfully repeated the same way many Delhi-ites, particularly Punjabis, are known to in their everyday speak.

The film itself seems a warm trip back from the many LIG, MIG and HIG (lower, middle and higher income group) residential colonies that the nation’s capital is a grimy cluster of.

Paresh Rawal plays three unrelated characters in the film. He lends instant familiarity to each, in a manner that it appears only this rare superstar character-actor could. To be fair, every part in this movie, especially the inspired walk-on ones, let alone Rawal’s, have been petted and smothered with such genuine affection for minor nuances, you’d think you’ve somehow met them all before.

Or maybe, I have; growing up in Delhi. This shouldn’t exclude others. All universal films, to start with, are specific by nature.

One of Rawal’s main roles is that of Goga Bhai, a jagran singer. He has a thickish double-chin. He wears hair dyed in henna, and a flashy sarong around his shoulders. Loud all-night jagrans are roughly to Delhi, what the dandiyas are to Mumbai, though the former can inconvenience neighbourhoods any time of the year. The picture of Goga immediately brought to my memory, one Narendra Chanchal, whose mildly scary banners would decorate gullies of several LIG or MIG colonies while I was around. I don’t know if Narendra Chanchal still is.

Goga Bhai’s night-job is a front for a crime syndicate. One of his star-employees is young Lucky (Abhay Deol; characteristically calm and affable). Lucky steals from Delhi homes with the gaudiest décor. He himself bears no home address: “ Jiska pata nahin hota; uska pata nahin hota (No address is best for no whereabouts).” The retort directed at him is right, “ Bahut jald duniya tumhara pata poochhegi (Soon the world will care for your whereabouts).”

Another time Rawal appears on screen as the hilarious Handa saab. He’s the sort of networking pest, always ready with their business cards, that you would’ve surely bumped into at the an airline-seat next to yours. So does Lucky. Handa saab, a veterinarian, has a sociable Mrs (Archana Puran Singh). They want to get into the “restara” business. Lucky wishes to legitimise his life; gentrify his existence. They could work for each other. They do. Or actually they don’t. Inevitably Lucky realises the superficially cultured world before him is in fact far more crooked than his unpretentious profession. This question of class is in fact the perennial undercurrent of this truly urban film.

You sense it most unsubtly when the confident swindler takes his sweetheart (Neetu Chandra; naturally innocent) out on a coffee-date. She mocks a group of Modern School girls for the skirts of their uniforms so short; they’d rather not wear any. You must’ve worn them to school too, he asks. We wore salwar kameez, she says. That’s why you’re jealous, he jokes.

In fact the way little Lucky (Manjot Singh) grows up is of its own a movie of the caliber of City Of God. If not, this is the closest we’ve come to an adaptation of Kiran Nagarkar’s novel Ravan And Eddie (a script still waiting to be filmed). Li’l Lucky, under an uncaring father (Rawal again) and his mistress, mother, siblings, TV antennae, electrical poles and wires of the quarters in East of Kailash, grows up to become a thief. It’s alarming, if not unrealistic, the ease with which he robs anything he can lay his hands on.

But his inexplicable modus operandi isn’t the point. This is an altogether atmospheric film; the sorts where the sum of sweetly stirred parts and details is so much superior to the whole. How often do we watch a Mumbai movie whose setting alone we can smell from our seats. It’s the cheapest ticket to experience another place. We should feel lucky to have this.

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