THE CRUX OF THE NATTER
Imran Khan tries, once again, to act all grown-up in a thriller with more talk than thrills.
JUL 26, 2009 – ONCE UPON A TIME IN OUR CINEMA, dialogue was as much a draw as the names above the marquee – partly due to writers who knew how to shape words into potent weapons, and partly due to one-of-a-kind actors who seized these weapons and went in for the kill. We had the masochistic mumblings of Dilip Kumar, who was forever waging war with the dealings of destiny. There was, then, the memorable eccentricity of Raaj Kumar, whose mode of oratory was apparently to close his eyes and pick out phrases at random that he could lavish love on. Even during the seventies, performers like Shatrughan Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan found interesting things to do with dialogue – the former would coat his lines with the mild contempt of someone too cool for the rest of the world, while the latter was the opposite, simmering with the self-deprecatory rage of the desperately uncool.
This style of speaking is a lost art today because we have little time for poetry in our prosaic modern lives. We’ve gotten so used to zeroing in directly on the point – especially in the age of the SMS – that windy circumlocutions instantly make us roll our eyes and reach for the remote. So at least for this reason, the director Soham Shah deserves a mild nod of appreciation – for his Luck is filled with dialogue that’s been painstakingly worked on, sometimes excessively so. The enormous problem, though, is that none of the actors knows anything about owning a line and delivering it in a fashion that makes it theirs and theirs alone. When a low-rent Lothario woos a girl with a diamond, he insinuates that only her fingers can transform the rock into a ring. (“Sirf aap ki ungliyan is paththar ko angoothi ka darja de sakti hain.”)
But when these words fall from the lips of Ravi Kishan, we don’t swoon – we smirk, we shrink back. Elsewhere, Mithun Chakraborty walks up to Danny Denzongpa and announces, “Mujhe paison ki zaroorat hai,” and the latter replies (in rhyme!), “Mujhe tujh jaison ki zaroorat hai.” (The former needs some money; the latter needs such men.) On and on it goes – with every character spouting the most florid prose, as if, to the last man, they just exited a screening of Mughal-e-Azam and were freshly inspired to put a metrical spin on the most mundane of thoughts. (And with every other utterance bearing fortune-cookie philosophy about the phenomenon of luck, the film breaks some kind of record on the number of lines devoted to kismat, taqdeer and other variants.) Even the occasional English dialogue groans with gassiness. (“Dying men should learn to make peace with silence.”)
Why burden this film, a trashy thriller, with declamatory aspiration? I wish Shah had chosen the visual route instead, as with an early scene where a car window rolls down and what’s revealed isn’t a face but a languid puff of cigarette smoke. That’s the kind of empty style that could have made at least a guilty pleasure of this tale of luck-invested superbeings (Imran Khan, Shruti Haasan, Chitrashi Rawat) deposited in a life-threatening Survivor-style showdown. It might have helped if, between all the talking, there were some genuine thrills – but not even saw-toothed sharks come close to adding a jolt to the proceedings. You can see what Imran Khan is trying here – shake off, with stubbled resolve, that cutie-pie lover-boy image from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na – but will someone please tell him that the faux-testosterone swagger of Kidnap and Luck is hardly the solution?
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