After reading Navdeep Singh's early review of "OLLO" at PFC, I wanted to see this film the moment it was released here. After all, director Dibakar Banerjee directed the impeccable drama/comedy "Khosla ka Ghosla", and Navdeep Singh directed that gorgeous foray into desi noir "Manorama six feet under". They both couldn't be wrong, could they ?
After watching the 2 hour long OLLO, at the earliest possible time, I have to say that they aren't wrong, but they aren't very right either. Of course I went in to the film, buoyed by thoughts of "Khosla ka Ghosla". Of course I went in to the film relishing the thought of another well-made movie, from a director who knew what he was doing. And while it did turn out to be a well-made film, with exquisite attention to details, and wonderful character development, it definitely did not give me my money's worth.
Why, oh why, does this film not succeed, you might well ask ? Here's the short answer - there is no plot. At heart, I'm an old-fashioned girl. I like my films smart and sassy and with a "hook". The film must have a story, and the story must have a "problem", i.e.; the hook. The film must hold your attention, and progress(which it does) and RAMP UP (it does not).
OLLO as the title suggests is the story of Lucky, or Lovinder Singh Lucky, a Sardar born in dear old Delhi. And not the swanky side either, this is the Delhi of rooftops studded with TV antennas, open courtyards, and narrow galis. For one familiar with the city, or of the city born, this rendering of much-loved Delhi, warms the cockles of one's heart. Young Lucky (played marvellously by Manjot Singh) is a the son of a philandering father who's brought his mistress (whom everyone euphemistically refers to as Auntyji) home to live alongside his wife. Beaten by his father, Lucky is a kid with a false swagger in his step, and a sly word on his lips.
Lucky develops a penchant for trickery, because he wants the finer things in his life, fast. His small-time cons stay with him throught his growing years, only getting honed with time. As a young man, Lucky is an audacious thief, stealing because he can, and because it's his one-way ticket to every material thing he might covet. His life goes from one small-time heist to another, selling and pawning stolen goods, until there's only one possible way this could all end . . .
Abhay Deol really does pick off-beat films; from his "Socha na tha" to the very recent "Manorama 6 feet under", the roles he plays are not the standard Hindi film hero roles at all. As Lucky, Abhay does an excellent job, portraying the "good-natured thief" to the hilt. He holds his own against actor Paresh Rawal. Rawal plays three un-connected roles, and was fault-less in each of them; the only problem I saw lay with his accent, which did not appear to be Punjabi at all (dubbing might have given him more authenticity).
Manu Rishi plays Lucky's best friend Bangali, and Anurag Arora, with his very true Punjabi/Haryanvi lilt is a Special Branch Officer, in pursuit of Lucky. Neetu Chandra, as Lucky's lady love, is another excellent actress. Archana Puransingh, played a shrewish Punjabi house-wife, with all the typically Delhi-ite oily, overt posturing. Overall, the film featured an excellent cast.
It is obvious that Banerjee has taken pains with his characters. From the middle-class Dolly (Richa Chaddha), who realises that she is not English-speaking "gentry", to the apparently gentrified Mrs. Handa (PuranSingh), each role is carefully delineated. The screen-play is solid and dialogues apt. Banerjee makes sly digs at Delhi and it's class-consciousness as only one familiar with the city and it's culture can.
This film savors nostalgia. It features old melodies, goes quite retro in the begining with the titles, and makes quite a few references to that charismatic 80s icon, Vinod Khanna. With it's well-drawn characters you can't help feeling for, and it's very charming Delhi, Punjabi (you can call it what you want) feel, this film feels like a well-worn and much-loved garment; you cling to it because it reminds you of a city and a people you might have once known. The only problem here is that this garment is thread-bare.