Lucky Man review: Puneeth Rajkumar’s swansong is an endearing fantasy rom-com

Director Nagendra Prasad’s ‘Lucky Man’ is a coming-of-age tale centred on the hero’s journey to reclaim his lost life. But in essence, it’s a measured combination of fantasy, comedy and urban romance.
Puneeth Rajkumar in Lucky Man
Puneeth Rajkumar in Lucky Man
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Lucky Man, at the outset, has all the workings of a perfect rom-com. Arjun Nagappa (Darling Krishna), the film’s protagonist, marries his best friend Anu (Sangeetha Sringeri) on a whim, but clearly has feelings for childhood crush Meera (Roshni Prakash). Arjun isn’t happy professionally either and in fact, hates being the ‘quality control’ guy for his father-in-law’s commode business. Stuck in this rut of a romance-less marriage and the squat of an Indian toilet, he now seeks an intervention and voila, God (Puneeth Rajkumar) himself enters in a Bruce Almighty-like fashion to offer him a way out. Lucky Man is an extra special film because it marks Puneeth’s final appearance onscreen as a film character and one can sense the energy surge up inside the cinema hall every time he is seen in his full glory.

At its heart, Nagendra Prasad’s Lucky Man is a coming-of-age tale centred on the hero’s journey to reclaim his lost life. But in essence, it’s a measured combination of fantasy, comedy and urban romance that refers to a number of Hollywood hits such as Oh, God!, It’s a Wonderful Life, Liar Liar, and others. But the charm of Lucky Man, at least on paper, is how it employs the various elements.

On a random night in their hangout pub, when Anu proposes marriage to Arjun, he ponders the length of the auto ride back home and says yes. The proposal isn’t of the romantic kind in the first place, because Anu would rather marry her best friend than end up with the match her father has chosen for her. Whereas Arjun is convinced to say yes because he doesn’t have any solid reason to say no to his childhood bestie. It becomes obvious soon enough that a marriage based on just rationality can never sustain and before you realise it, Anu and Arjun are in a courtroom seeking a divorce.

But what if the divorce isn’t required in the first place and Arjun is granted a golden ticket to go back in time to fix the mess? Maybe he can turn down Anu on the proposal night, profess his love for Meera, and even end up as an actor. Or, on the flip side, realise that he was always living the best version of his life. The best of Lucky Man is in these switches as it constantly springs surprises on us. Arjun’s journey features many loose ends, we are told, and the narrative becomes vibrant and bustling with energy because of all the drama around.

The problem, however, arises when Lucky Man begins to feel contrived. The fantasy trope is brought in quite early in the narrative, but it never lends the film a unique edge and a vast majority of this portion is redundant. We are made to endure a barrage of scenes showing Anu and Arjun’s constant bickering, his absolute disdain for his job, and the realisation that he should be with Meera instead: and yet, none of them help the characters reveal their true selves and the film never takes off from the ‘interesting concept’ stage to become a full-fledged drama about real people and their real conundrums. So, when Arjun does get the second chance after his encounter with God, you are forced to ask yourself: ‘Well, is this all?’ because you have already spotted the chain of events from afar.

Lucky Man also suffers from what can be termed as the ‘those who have seen the original’ problem. Remakes of romantic comedies are deceptively tough because, while they offer neutral settings and don’t often remain confined to a specific nativity, filmmakers are still forced to retain the same tone and treatment in the newer versions. And since the essence of any rom-com is comedy, its retelling cannot help follow the exact blueprint of the original. To make things worse, Lucky Man is a shot-to-shot replica of the original (Ashwath Marimuthu’s 2020 Tamil film Oh My Kadavule) in certain parts and yet doesn’t feel genuine.

Interestingly, a film that comes to mind here is Abbas Tyrewala’s Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, wherein a similar routine between two best friends felt so much more organic and endearing, despite the underlying simplicity of the story.

And as far as choreographer-turned-director Nagendra Prasad is concerned, the debutant manages a decent job in retaining the ethos of the Tamil original but doesn’t seem too keen to leave a mark of his own. The scenes involving Powerstar Puneeth Rajkumar and Sadhu Kokila (who plays God’s subordinate) are particularly engaging for both the word-play and their on-screen camaraderie: as a pun of sorts on modern-day romance, God refers to his subordinate as ‘Baby’ and even taunts him as if they too were entangled in a weird romance of some kind. As a bonus for fans, the film concludes with the track ‘Baaro Raaja’, which features a special dance-off between Puneeth and Prabhudeva.

As far as the rest of the cast is concerned, Darling Krishna as Arjun fails to step up to the task and own the part completely. As someone who revels in the rom-com space, Krishna’s rendition of the ‘confused urban boy’ comes across as stiff and mostly off-pitch. Although Sangeetha Sringeri and Roshni Prakash carry their respective parts with care and nimbleness, one does not sense any real romance brimming in the story and it is likely because the male lead seems too coy at times. Nagabhushana shows up in yet another role as the hero’s friend but is never allowed to shine because of the lacklustre writing. Although the cast tries its best, it doesn’t dazzle as an ensemble and that often is a concern for a rom-com.

But that said, Lucky Man is still a few notches superior to the line-up of romantic comedies in Kannada cinema. Although not novel, the core idea is fresh which gives sufficient room for exciting moments and showcases modern-day romance in a more nuanced light. Sure, the film feels a bit too stretched in terms of runtime and is essentially a remake, but the hearty blend of romance, comedy and fantasy is still more than sufficient to make your visit to the movies worthwhile. And, of course, the Powerstar!

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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