Elements of Pastiche in Luck By Chance
Divya Sasidharan

luck article

The Hindi film Luck by Chance (2009, Zoya Akhtar) self-reflexively presents the masala approach of Bollywood cinema by representing a behind-the-scenes view of the Hindi film industry.  As such, the film is arguably a pastiche. According to Richard Dyer, pastiche is very like that which it imitates, but is not identical to it. Whereas the structure of Luck By Chance is identical to other Bollywood films with its use of song-and-dance sequences and famous Bollywood actors—elements that suggest the film is a simple “copy,” rather than a pastiche—the film pointedly veers away from traditional Hindi through its blatant acknowledgement of the film production process and its critical scrutiny of Bollywood glamour.  This is perceivable at the start of the film during the opening credits, in which we see behind-the-scenes shots of real world film production crew members. By showcasing extras partially in costume, a smoking security guard in front of a no smoking sign one set, as well as other crew members, the contrived nature of the cinematic image is called into question. In spite of the usual bustle onset, the crew is artistically poised and some even stare directly at the camera, bringing emphasis to the artificiality of their static placement. As a result, the introductory credit sequence—by  a displaying a film process within a film process—echoes Dyer’s explication of pastiche as play-within-a play as a clear instance of pastiche. It moreover serves to anticipate the coming scenes of the film and its decidedly critical focus on the machinations of the Hindi film industry.

As another aspect of its self-reflexivity, Luck By Chance deliberately uses stereotypes to examine Bollywood moviemaking. A distinct instance of such stereotyping is in the naming of characters. In the film, the wives of prolific directors, Satish Chaudhary (Alyy Khan) and Romy Rolly (Rishi Kapoor) are respectively called Pinky and Minty. Not only are their names nickname-like, the audience is never informed of their actual (or full) names. These short and somewhat ridiculous names also accurately reflect the ludicrous personalities of the characters. In the ritual scene where Romy Rolly and his wife Minty (Juhi Chawla) consult an astrologer, Minty plays the comic and stereotypical role of the busybody wife as she nags her husband about his superstitious “lucky number.” Her husband, Romy Rolly is himself a stereotype as he is frequently seen as a breathless, aging director doggedly running after young actors for his films. The importance of names in Bollywood is well-known, and is observable in films such as Om Shanti Om (2007, Farah Khan), when Om Prakash (Shah Rukh Khan) and Pappu (Shreyas Talpade) comment on the importance for a resonant and pleasant name to be a film star. Names therefore constitute a type of deformative pastiche, as they isolate an aspect of the veneer of the industry and accentuate, exaggerate, concentrate, and bring light to it. That the names Pinky and Minty that are excessively cute accentuates the significance placed on name-appeal within the Bollywood industry—the idea that publicity matters more than substance does. Additionally, the fact that protagonist Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan Akhtar) laughs at the name of Pinky’s eponymous production company, Pinky Productions is a stark testimony to the film’s critical use of names, by drawing attention to the industry’s superficiality.

At the same time, the film’s decision to keep the original names of some actors while changing the names of others, despite them all acting and representing themselves, is puzzling. A poignant instance of this is in the naming of Dimple Kapadia’s character as Neena Walia. In spite of the direct reference made of her role as Reshma in Janbaaz (1986, Feroz Khan), which thereby invokes her real persona as actress Dimple Kapadia, the film otherwise insists on her identity as the fictional Neena Walia. She is, in a sense, real and fictional at the same time. However, when extending Walia’s name to her daughter Nikki (Isha Sharvani), some resolution is made. Nikki Walia, a terrible actress whose fame is accredited from her mother, is compared immediately to the illustrious Niki Walia, a highly acclaimed and talented Indian TV actress. The sheer contrast between the real-life Walia and the onscreen daughter Walia becomes ironic and almost pastiche-like in that there is a discrepancy between what is expected and what we seen onscreen. The common association with the name Niki Walia “no longer belongs naturally, effortlessly, of-course-ly, to the subject matter” and instead we are forced to focus on and recognize this inconsistency.

In addition, overt references to the 1980s Bollywood hit Janbaaz, by way of the character of Neena Walia, remind the audience of the previous film from which references are drawn. In an oblique way, Nikki Walia’s status as a wealthy and spoiled daughter of a film star in Luck By Chance parallels Neena’s (or more accurately Dimple’s) character Reshma, who in Janbaaz is famously the spoilt daughter of a wealthy business tycoon. Moreover, in both films only one parent is present while the other is never in sight. The references made and the similarities to the film Janbaaz can thus be seen as pastiche as “[it is] a text that shows extremely close similarities with another, earlier text, but with clear discrepancies and distortions.”  Upon establishment of this reference point, a whole series of parallel scenes come to light. The cut away scene of Vikram riding on a horse on the beach in the beginning of Luck By Chance is a direct quotation Reshma/Dimple riding a horse in the beginning of Janbaaz. Even so, it distorts such a presentation by switching gender roles and replacing a female with a male on horseback. Such an instance is akin to a point Dyer makes in his chapter on “Pastiche, Genre and History.” He writes, “a change in gender role is a change in generic conventions…both put women centrally into male roles in a way that risks highlighting those conventions as conventions, which could mean pastiche.”  In this case, the opposite is true: the change in gender role that puts the man on horseback—which was stereotypically the case in the 1980s—points at the unconventionality of Dimple’s masculine horseback riding scene in the earlier film. In this way, by focusing on the subversion of gender roles in Janbaaz, the film Luck By Chance succinctly performs pastiche.

 

This is an original piece written by a student at Clark University. For more information visit the Screen Studies program website.

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