In the recently held pre-release event of Jawan, to much awe of all the stars including Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, actor Yogi Babu got a rousing reception in an auditorium packed with young college students. And watching the actor in a film like Lucky Man, effortlessly bowling over the audience — mostly comprising the coveted ‘family audience’ — says that calling him a ‘star’ wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Besides being utterly likeable, thanks to his off-screen persona and on-screen comedy, he also keeps finding ways to prove himself as a capable performer and that’s precisely what he does again in Lucky Man; the actor shoulders a modest film purely with his comedic timing and invested performance.
In fact, it comes for a character we’re all too familiar with — the underdog who can’t shake the bad luck off him — and it comes in a film, which without the support of the actors, seems like an indie short film stretched to scale. The story is pretty straight-forward and humble: it follows the life of Murugan (Yogi Babu), a man who grew up being termed ‘unlucky’, whose job at a real estate agency isn’t enough to provide a stable life for his wife Deivanai (Raichal Rabecca) and son Tamizh.
For Murugan, who has no set plan to fix his financial situation and has to depend upon loan sharks to get by, a car he gets as a gift after winning a contest at a chit fund changes his life forever. The four-wheeler isn’t just a vehicle to him but a God-sent gift that proves his luck and is a symbol of all the good luck he has earned in life. Just when things take a turn for the good, Murugan locks horns with an honest but arrogant cop, Assistant Commissioner Sivakumar (Veera). But all hell breaks loose when the car gets nicked mysteriously. With his good luck now taken away, a heartbroken Murugan has to set aside his ego and seek help from Sivakumar.
Lucky Man (Tamil)
Director: Balaji Venugopal
Cast: Yogi Babu, Raichal Rabecca, Abdool Lee, Veera
Runtime: 155 minutes
Storyline: Murugan’s life turns upside down when a car he got through a lucky draw contest gets nicked mysteriously
If you are expecting a film that takes on the vehicle theft mafia or one that digs into the complexities of owning a motor vehicle in India and how ignorance or powerlessness can be used against a vehicle owner, you might be disappointed. Just this year, we had Aishwariya Rajesh’s Soppana Sundari, which revolved around a lower-middle-class family stuck in a quagmire thanks to a car they got through a lucky draw contest; that film held its roots to the financial turmoil of the family and what the car means to them and wove a thriller around them.
Here, writer-director Balaji Venugopal opts for a much simpler story that refrains from unnecessary red herrings or conventional heroism, and yet, the film has a lot of flab. Be it Sivakumar’s enmity with the Deputy Commissioner, his relationship with his romantic interest, or even Sivakumar’s back story for that matter, a lot gets treated in a backhanded manner and you understand the character more from the deja vu of other similar on-screen police characters.
There is also unnecessary meta-ness — characters breaking the fourth wall or an unnecessary call-back to Kolamaavu Kokila between Yogi Babu and R S Shivaji — that only manages to put you off; bringing in Yogi Babu’s passion for tennis-ball cricket seamlessly, however, is a good touch.
The biggest issue is that the story seems too lean and without much substance to support the length of a feature film. But if it manages to achieve any of its ambitions — like, the concept of luck or man’s attachment to things around him — it’s only because of the dialogues and the performances. From crackling one-liners by Murugan to literally everything that Deivanai has to tell about her husband, the dialogues are apt and effective. Actors like Raichal and Abdool Lee (as the second-fiddle comedian) sell both comedy and drama with a lot of conviction.
Just this week, a cinemagoer might watch Yogi Babu in Karumegangal Kalaigindrana, in a heartfelt act as a father figure who gets humiliated in his attempts to meet a child, or in Lucky Man, as a cheery family man but one who also gets humiliated in front of his child in a scene. That he still manages to strike stark differences in the skins of these characters is proof of the treasure-trove of talent this man is. And he needs better films that give him as much as he is always ready to give them.
Lucky Man is currently running in theatres