Delhi 6 movie review
Moth-balled havelis. Jam-packed lanes. Ever-gruffy, dramatic uncles. All-time gossiping aunties. Pompous police officers. Corrupt politicians. Ram Lila-staged, pigeon-populated, kite-flying neighbourhoods. Lively, cow-worshipping, ‘isms’-inflicted neighbours. ‘Biradaris’. ‘Bustee-wallahs’. ‘Bandaari paan’.
Delhi-6 brings the so far un-captured ‘Incredible India’ to life. It is a kaleidoscope of the big, bustling contemporary India that bridges past faiths with present trends. An India that is carefree even in conflict. Happy even in depression. Contended even when there is nothing to boast about.
A rich, happy and chaotic India that flies the ‘Chandrayaan’ and at the same time, grumbles in the cobwebs of caste ism. A free India that mints millions overseas yet stops to worship a cow in the street. An educated India that is apparently tolerant yet overwhelmingly humane.
Rang De Basanti chronicled the young rebel who raised a movement, questioning all the wrongs happening around him. Delhi-6 captures a young NRI watching a hopeful, turbulent, emerging India in a tongue-in-cheek, ‘we-are-like-this’ fashion. We see and sense Chandni Chowk and its riches through his eyes. No, no, this is not the first-person, “I grew up here…” kind of narrative. This is a multi-tracked, multi-dimensional plot narrated with multiple characters.
After his father refuses to visit the communal-cauldron called India, grandson Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), a young NRI, accompanies his ailing Dadi (Waheeda Rahman) from New York to her old, cobwebbed haveli in the dusty streets of Chandni Chowk. As soon as the grand dame lands on the desi soil, she takes a ‘bandari paan’ from her benign neighbour Ali Baig (Rishi Kapoor) and declares, “Now I can die in peace”.
The next one hour is Roshan’s introduction session to friends, relatives, aunties, uncles, ‘jalebi’ women, local policemen, opposite-house mussalman, non-stop gossip-mongers, next door naughty boys and all and sundry in the neighbourhood. Though at first Roshan plays the typical yankie guy with a sheepish-smile to the neighobourhood, soon he looses himself in the chaos and wonders about things he finds inexplicable in his Dadi’s abode: Why do his uncles (Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra) fight a lot among themselves? Why does the firebrand ‘jalebi’ Imrati (Divay Dutta) treated as an untouchable? Why does the corrupt cop (Vijay Raaz) so uncontrollably fetish? And why is Bittu (Sonam Kapoor) waiting for an approval from her family instead of pursuing her dreams and make it to the ‘Indian Idol’?
When questions galore in Roshan’s mind, we have a greater drama tearing the plot seams! The indispensable Monkey-Man (Black Money or Kala Bandar) and his intriguing appearances in several places are the talk of the town (Remember the Monkey Man tales of 2001 Delhi?). Though Roshan does not initially mind the Monkey-Man (when he first hears about it at the airport), the ‘Kala Bandar’ crosses his life time and again and he too is drawn into the whirlpool. The neighbourhood conceives the never-clearly-seen-yet-hugely-popular ‘bandar’ as a potentially dangerous creature and seeks Baba Bajrangi’ advice. When the holy man raises a doubt as to whether the Monkey Man is a Hindu or a Muslim, conflict rages and the majority abuses the minority declaring, “the Monkey-Man is a Muslim terrorist”. Rest is mayhem.
Mehra’s work carries strokes of UTV’s earlier movie Swades at several places. While Ashutosh Gowarikar deals directly with these ‘desi’ issues, Mehra uses the Monkey Man metaphor to tickle our comic veins and bring to light our blind passion towards religion and politics. However, the Monkey Man episode leads to the climax, which is a bit sloppy and sudden, lacking the vivacious drama of the previous scenes. The climax indeed comes out as a fitting moral end to the story.
Mehra paints Delhi-6 with many funny and entertaining sequences. There is a scene where Roshan’s Dadi suddenly falls ill and is rushed to the hospital in a cycle rickshaw. While going along with her, a frustrated Roshan, thinks of the kind of treatment she would have had back in the U.S. Before his thoughts could take off, the rickshaw is stalled as hundreds of people are gathered in the street watching a cow in labour. Since the event has a religious significance, there is no way of moving the people out of the street. A desperate Roshan sets out to disperse the crowd only to later find his grandmother approaching the cow with genuine prayerful. In another funny sequence, a local politician – clad in saffron – interrupts a Ram Lila play, delivers an intense, spirited speech and disappears from the scene the next minute.
Delhi-6 also presents a gallery of interesting and vibrant characters. Abhishek Bachchan plays the jovial, quicksilver-tongued chap from the U.S. perfectly. Sonam Kapoor is such a darling with her Masakali and her rather roguish opposition to her family’s plans for her marriage. Waheeda Rahman and Rishi Kapoor steal the show with their glorious performances. Atul Kulkarni, Vijay Raaz, Pawan Malhotra and Om Puri also essay their roles well. Divya Dutta, though a short-lived character, does a laudable job.
With the music already full of chart busters, the movie is sure to do well at the box office. Despite the shoddy climax and a little overboard lecturing of Mehra, the movie has substance to pull crowds into theaters.