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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.

Welcome to Sajjanpur October 8, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Owing to lack of creativity on my side, I am lifting a few lines from an older post on this blog to describe this film. “A small minority of films manage to put a smile on my face from beginning to end. When I say smile, it isn’t due to the funny events on screen but due to the sheer joy that I experience from everything put out on the screen. This is one such film.” Welcome to Sajjanpur is the kind of film which is so hard to write about because you can’t really slot it into a genre. Call it a simple comedy or a social satire or an engaging drama….it works on every level. Maybe films of this kind have been made in the past but none which I’ve seen.

Mahadev (Shreyas Talpade) is the only literate guy (more accurately..the only one who can actually write stuff) in Sajjanpur who aims to be a novelist but has to settle for being a letter-writer. Due to the uniqueness of his profession everyone in the village has got to use his services at one time or the other. The myriad letters he composes include complaints to the district collector, appeals for money from relatives, missing father search requests, love letters (of course!) and probably the most ingenious of them all – farmer generated spam mail. Short vignettes of the people’s lives who he comes in touch with and how he inadvertently (or otherwise) gets involved forms the crux of the movie. For Mahadev however, most important of them all is Kamala (Amrita Rao) – a childhood sweetheart now married and dying to correspond with her husband who is out in the city for work since the last four years. Mahadev senses an opportunity for some subtle manipulation to get closer to her.

Filled with ample humor and tongue-in-cheek references to social issues all and sundry; Sajjanpur is a treat to watch. I’ve noticed at few places the music of the film receiving much flak but I fail to understand why. Shantanu Moitra’s tunes blend so well with the film and I had absolutely no problem with it. Shreyas Talpade absolutely rocks. As the letter-writer with a troubled conscience when seeing injustice happen or the clever trickster when it comes to his love; his is a character you’ll simply adore. Shyam Benegal’s genius is most apparent in the fact the he made Amrita Rao shine in a role like that. Given the stuff she has done before, this really is a giant leap. The supporting cast is also wonderful – Yashpal Sharma, Ila Arun, Divya Dutta, Daya Shankar Pandey and Ravi Jhankal to name a few.

Shyam Benegal’s previous mainstream ventures in the last ten years or so like Zubeida and Bose didn’t justify his reputation but with Sajjanpur he is back and how! Welcome to Sajjanpur is a film which defines the phrase “wholesome entertainment”. It’s a pity if you miss this!