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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.

Saawariya November 11, 2007

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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I fell in love with the theatrical trailer of this film the first time I saw it. The trailer seemed to be a small piece out of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s canvas for Saawariya and I was waiting with bated breath for the completed painting. Though the master paints a great picture and transforms the audience into a dream world envisioned in his mind, he falters with the content.

First, the positives. The visual style of this film is striking. Bhansali (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Black) has always made visually pleasing, dramatic films. The former aspect is always the one that sticks the most in my mind. This film is no different. He creates a world of his own for this film. A city that doesn’t exist anywhere. One which borrows from many locations. A place where the weather follows Bhansali’s imagination. The film is completely shot on opulent sets that are wonderfully designed to exact specifications (the lighting choices are not the best at times) and even the sky isn’t real (visual effects are quite good). To bring this predominantly blue-green world to life, Bhansali collaborates with production designer Omung Kumar (and Vanita Omung Kumar) and cinematographer Ravi K Chandran (who were also a part of Black). The costumes (Rajesh Pratap Singh, Reza Shariffi, Anuradha Vakil) are beautiful, the choreography (Shiamak Davar, Ganesh Hegde, Mallu, Pappu) is superb and even the movements of the actors in the individual scenes seem to be choreographed by Bhansali. And the result is some brilliantly imagined and executed visuals. This film provides enough enchantment for the eyes to warrant a watch (for those that are interested in that sort of thing). My favorite scene in this film is the one where the main protagonists are jumping over puddles of water (that are also specially created).

The film is a musical in the Hollywood sense of the term (with a song popping up every few minutes and poetry replacing the spoken word) and the soundtrack is remarkable. Monty Sharma (Pyarelal’s nephew and Mithoon’s cousin) makes a commendable debut. It is hard to pick one favorite from among the two versions of Saawariya, Masha Allah, Yoon Shabnami and Thode Badmash (whose tune was composed by Bhansali himself). The quality of the lyrics (Sameer, Sandeep Nath, Nusrat Badr) is great and the singers do a superb job too. Debutants Shail Hada, Parthiv Gohil together with Kunal Ganjawala and Shreya Ghoshal do their best in rendering the painstakingly created numbers as they add their bit in creating some unforgettable songs.

Bhansali extracts good performances from the star kids in their launch vehicle. Ranbir Kapoor (Rishi Kapoor’s offspring) makes an impressive debut and the film revolves around his character. He is a charming young fellow that seems set for bigger things. Bhansali pays tribute to Raj Kapoor in numerous ways including a visual recreation of the RK banner’s logo. Even Rishi Kapoor is invoked a couple of times. Sonam Kapoor (Anil Kapoor’s daughter) is a beautiful girl and her smile is captivating. She emotes well and shows potential. Though Rani Mukherjee, who isn’t specially impressive, gets a character that is an important part of the script, I am not convinced about the necessity of its presence in the film. Salman Khan has very little to do in his special appearance. Zohra Sehgal gets a neat supporting part and she is charming as usual.

Now, the negatives. The problem with this film that it remains a short story (based on “White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky), one that can actually be described in a few lines (Boy falls in love with girl. Girl is waiting for her lover, who may never show up. Boy tries his best too woo the girl. And I’ll leave the rest to your imagination). The screenplay (Bhansali and Prakash Kapadia) does little to add meat to the story. Interestingly enough, the underlying theme is sort of like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam revisited, shortened and reversed to an extent. The characters are clearly from the Bhansali world but they stop short of being memorable. The film does have its share of fascinating moments but not enough to make it a very good one.

This film is most definitely not one that is looking to entertain like a Bollywood potboiler. The film unfolds at its own pace but provides an experience that is firmly entrenched in my mind. I am not sure that this film will be a crowd pleaser (its business prospects might be hampered by Farah Khan’s Shah Rukh Khan starrer Om Shanti Om, which is only looking to entertain) but there will be a select few who will enjoy this greatly.