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Delhi-6 February 23, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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The experience of watching Delhi-6 goes something like this – Imagine that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra promised to take you on a trip to the moon. This wonderful trip through space seems to be going fine and when you finally see yourself approaching the destination, he jettisons you off into outer space (the advantage in this case being that you can actually come back home). Now no matter how much you want to curse him for throwing you off you still cannot discount the unforgettable journey till that point. That for you is Delhi-6 condensed in a few lines – the must-watch disappointing flick of the year.

The film for most part is a satirical black comedy centered around the family and friends of an NRI Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), who agrees to accompany her dying grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) to Delhi where she wants to live with her kith and kin until her final moment. This extended circle of family and friends incidentally turns out to be one amazing ensemble of a supporting cast who bring the streets of Delhi alive. The main premise makes use of the (in)famous “Monkey-man” (Kala Bandar) series of incidents which occurred about 6 years back. You realize as the film progresses that the use of this peg is mainly to take a dig at communalism but meanwhile there are a lot of other issues touched upon with a mix of playful reverence and biting satire like religious beliefs/rituals, casteism, oppressive families etc. with a dash of the usual NRI-finding-his-roots thread. The multiple sub-plots reminded me of last year’s Welcome To Sajjanpur but they are completely different and commendable in their own way.

What seems to have gone terribly wrong is the communalism thread – which is so hackneyed, preachy and completely out of line with the tone of the film. Still, when the film seems to be getting back on track towards the climax you are given another bitter (or rather bizarre) pill to swallow. No wonder it is receiving brickbats from all corners. Apart from Mehra another person to shoulder the blame has to be Abhishek Bachchan. On one hand he should be commended for accepting a role which is little more than a narrator where the only thing expected of him is just to “be there”. Now whoever gave him the idea of using that irritating fake accent – the worst part being he uses that only when conversing with characters who don’t seem to understand English otherwise he absolutely has no issues mouthing heavy duty dialogues in shuddh Hindi. Apart from pissing you off this only seems to make his character appear so disinterested in what is happening around him. If it weren’t for that wonderfully filmed song – with Times Square juxtaposed on Delhi’s crowded streets; his character’s existence in the film would be completely unjustified.

You might say these are small details but these stand out more so because the rest of the cast is flawless to the core. I can only mention the people whose names I know – Waheeda Rehman (my favorite onscreen mom anytime), Rishi Kapoor (whose true “second innings” finally seems to have kickstarted this year), Sonam Kapoor (a similar giggly role like Saawariya which nevertheless suits her so well), Vijay Raaz, Pawan Malhotra, Om Puri, Divya Dutta, Atul Kulkarni, Tanvi Azmi and the ones who play Rajjo Bhabhi and Rama Bua.

The cinematography (Binod Pradhan) and artwork (Samir Chanda) are top notch and there is a fine balance between the use of real locations and set-pieces. If the cast and crew make Delhi come alive then to top it all is the man of the moment A.R Rahman who arguably delivers one of his best scores ever and to his fortune he has a director who knows how to use it to maximum effect.

As the end credits rolled with the mesmerising “Arziyan” track I was feeling so exhilarated yet equally sad – for having seen a film which rises to magnificent heights yet screws up so badly in the last lap. But I strongly recommend every lover of cinema to still check out Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s brutally flawed masterpiece for it has too many great things about it which you’d struggle to find in any so called “good” film you generally come across.


1. rads - February 24, 2009

LOL! Lovely review. Liked the starting and ending few lines. Your summation seems so sure and bang on, that now I ‘d be disappointed if I do see it and actually come out feeling good :p

2. Sai - February 25, 2009

The characters felt real. The ambiance of Delhi 6 was captured superbly. The message was well-intentioned too. But the way it was put forth was quite problematic, uninspiring and most importantly, disappointing.

It is hard to beat your imaginative description of the experience and it accurately mirrors my feelings too. I had a lot of fun watching a large part of this film before it abruptly self-destructs in the third act. The climax came as a shock but the fact that it was over quickly helped and the crowd pleasing final denouement also reduced the after effects of the shock.

The idea to use the Kaala Bandar incidents to deliver a relevant social message isn’t bad at all but the way it is woven into the climax leaves you completely unsatisfied. The community’s sudden acceptance of their mistakes and their change of heart was a bit difficult to digest too. I would probably have been happy if the climax was more fleshed out. Hell, I would have been much more satisfied if the film did not have a climax at all.

If you neglect the message, what director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and his co-writers Kamlesh Pandey and Prasoon Joshi are trying to capture here is the essence of Indian life (a generalized version of it anyway): what we believe in, what we like to do, how we value our relationships, the distinctive quirks, the beliefs and the way of live that makes us tick as a community and can also threaten to derail our existence. All this is obviously hard for one film to tackle but Mehra and his writers surely make a brave attempt to portray some of these aspects and they succeed too. As you note, more than Abhishek Bachchan or even Sonam Kapoor, it is the supporting cast that really helps bring the community to life. A R Rahman’s rousing soundtrack is used mostly in the background but to very good effect. Visually and metaphorically, Dil Gira Dafatan stands out and is probably the most memorable part of this film.

This film really holds well when Mehra isn’t focusing on his message and asking you to bring your inner bandar out. When he does that however, it could be a hit or miss, most likely the latter. Despite this film, I will look forward to Mehra’s next with just as much anticipation as I had for this one.

P.S. Supriya Pathak plays Vimla Bhabhi, Sheeba Chaddha plays Rajjo Bhabhi and the impressive newcomer Aditi Rao plays Rama Bua.

3. Mike - March 2, 2009

Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

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