Saturday, October 22, 2011


How important is spoken language in our daily lives? Most of us would think quite important. After watching Lucky at the Mumbai Film Festival, though, my idea of the need for a spoken language in order to “communicate” has evolved. Simply because the film teaches you how in order to know, it’s more important to feel, and a spoken language is not even necessary to understand someone.

Directed by Avie Luthra, Lucky is a South African film set in Durban. It’s a story of an orphaned 10-year-old Zulu boy Lucky (played by Sihle Dlamini), who leaves his village to the city of Durban, to keep his promise he makes to his dead mother that he would do something in his life. He goes in search of his uncle, who his mother had told him would help him should anything happen. The uncle, however, does not seem too interested in taking care of Lucky, who wants to go to school.

The uncle gives him a tape that his mother had left for him. Lucky, in desperation to play the tape, finds a taperecorder in a neighbour’s house. The neighbour Padma (played by Jayashree Basavaraj) is an old Indian lady who lives on her own. The contents of the tape recorder determine the emotions that drive the growth of an unlikely relation between Lucky and Padma.

Padma initially treats the boy very unwelcomingly, as she has her reserves with his skin colour. But as time and incidents progress, she develops a fondness towards him, yet being cautious in her interactions with him. What is most beautiful in this odd yet endearing relation is the way they both start to talk to each other in their own languages. Padma speaks to lucky in Hindi and Lucky speaks to her in Zulu. Although both of them don’t understand each other’s languages, they still connect and develop a strong bond. The languages act as no barrier in their communication with each other. One particular scene towards the end is extraordinarily touching, where the silence that ensues after one says something to the other is remarkable in creating a beautiful mood.

The film brings to the forefront the need for love and longing to belong. Padma is a lonely old woman who lives in a land distant from her own, away from her roots and family. She may seem tough and cold on the outside, but inside lay a kind and honest soul, who is looking for someone she can care for. A sympathy is developed when we see her being nagged by black women early in the film, seen through the eyes of Lucky. Lucky on the other hand, has just been orphaned and is looking for someone who will understand his needs and is looking for love and comfort. In both these circumstances develops this fondness for each other, although both of them come from completely diverse backgrounds.

Avie Luthra delicately deals with issues of racism and communal hatred. Padma visibly has a dislike for the blacks, except that she softens her reserve with Lucky after she gets to know his story. However, her insistence on keeping her distance from him, and even refusing a hug from him, shows the deep-rooted fear and anxiety that lies ingrained in her mind. Lucky’s uncle admonishes Padma and even hurts her in the process, when he confronts her on taking custody of Lucky. He accuses her of being after the money that she would get from the government by claiming him and providing shelter. He addresses her as “you people” which is a clear expression of his indignation against the community of Indians who have occupied his land.

Sihle Dlamini’s character as Lucky is silent but strong and imprints an impression on the viewer with his quiet ways and resolute attitude. He drives the film forward. The film’s tagline “Sometimes luck has to be found” is apt to Lucky’s quest. He may not seem as lucky as his name suggests, but he has the courage to look for it, with his spirit and determination. He cries when he falls weak, but rises to fight for himself when he needs to. Despite having few dialogues, Sihle Dlamini has a very strong screen presence. His sometimes vacant eyes, his rare smile and quick actions are worth looking out for.

Jayashree Basavaraj as Padma is the perfect blend of a bewildered old woman living alone on high alert and a doting mother who misses her son and family. The transformation we see in her, as she grows more and more attached to Lucky is phenomenal, without being obvious. She retains her protective self for a good part of the movie, but with every passing encounter with Lucky, we see her weaken her guard and welcome him into her life. She gives a captivating performance and equally balances the chemistry of the film with the protagonist.

The film explores greed, hatred, love, possession, longing and above all the cultural and emotional journey of two lives. It shows two completely different worlds, one that is incongruent in the other, yet strangely finds space that intertwines at the level of the heart, where it matters most. Watch it for its wonderful story, its heartwarming moments and for its outstanding performances.

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