Delhi Ka Thug, Delhi Express, Delhi Darbar and now Delhi 6. The former three are oldies which include the grand city as a character within their plot. In more recent times, Delhi has been associated very closely with one popular neighborhood known to its audiences as Chandni Chowk. However, there is more to the colonial metropolis that meets the eye. As a visitor, it would be foolish not to visit Chandni Chowk simply for its beautiful galli’s, great shopping, tasty paranthas and for the mere fact that it is Bollywood’s favorite chowk. The area code, Delhi 6 actually lies in this very area which is where Rakesh OmPrakash Mehra’s new extravaganza Delhi 6 begins and ends. Post Rang De Basanti, Mehra had taken a sabbatical to come back with his new flick starring Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor in never before seen avatars. Read on to see if Delhi 6 is bigger and bolder than Mehra’s RDB or not.
Welcome to Delhi! NRI return, half Hindu-half Muslim, Roshan Mehra (Abhishek Bachchan) arrives in “Dilli” to drop off his ailing grandmother (Waheeda Rahman) who expresses her wish to breathe her last breath back in India. Young Roshan, who has had very little exposure to the Eastern culture, is mesmerized by his heritage, love and affection he receives from his new found relatives and friends which he constantly captures on his cell phone. He bumps into young and vivacious Bittu (Sonam Kapoor), an Indian idol wannabe who is looking for ways to escape the arranged marriage syndrome. While the duo sing and romance on the terrace of their homes which are literally a hop skip and jump away, Mehra is also introduced to a multitude of interesting neighboring characters: a local loan shark (Prem Chopra); his leachy debtor (Cyrus Sahukar); the bickering brothers (Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra); the local “untouchable” prostitute (Divya Dutta); family friend (Rishi Kapoor) and lastly, the “Kaala Bandar” (Black Monkey) who has been terrorizing the area. Add to this collection of interesting personalities, a crazy beggar and a corrupt police cop and you’ve pretty much met the whole neighborhood. After the meet and greet session is over, the story finally begins. The popular Kaala Bandar causes havoc in the lanes of Chandni Chowk and the residents decide to get together to rid their neighborhood of him. When the question of whether the monkey is Hindu or Muslim arises, members of the respective communities come to their defense quickly. The movie goes on to show the divide that still exists today between the Hindu and Muslim communities, between families and between political groups. As Roshan attempts to dissect and digest the manner in which India works, he decides the only way to rid the monkey problem is to take it on himself.
Critically speaking, the movie is based on a number of connotations the average moviegoer may have a hard time understanding. The “divide” concept for example does not only happen on a larger level but at a smaller one too. The character of Bachchan cannot understand why Dutta is considered an untouchable; he cannot fathom why Kapoor is sheltered when she wants to fly like Masakali the dove, and lastly is unable to gather why the eccentric brothers have a wall in their own house while their wives chatter through a missing brick in the wall. While these ideas are all very fascinating, it does take some time for the audience member to identify the ideology behind each situation and relate it to Mehra’s division concept. Mehra along with Prashoon Joshi have come together and thought of a script that is quite honestly too hard to comprehend or appreciate. It begins at slow pace only to get slower and never really pick up. The love story is stale and while the cast and crew have chattered nonstop about the “great chemistry” between Bachchan and Kapoor, it does not seem to flutter an eyelash. A lot of the mini-plots in the movie only add confusion and extra time to the screenplay.
A R Rahman is top notch with his musical score in Delhi 6 post Slumdog Millionaire. Without a doubt, it is the highlight of the film. While Joshi should be weary of his script, his lyric writing for the movie is worthy of accolade. Choreography is fabulous too with ‘Masakali’ taking the crown on this one. While the script is weak, the sights are simply marvelous. Never has Delhi looked so enticing and beautiful. The busy lanes, the jalebi’s, Jama Masjid have all been seized by Binod Pradhan’s camera in the most stunning of ways. This may one of the few reasons to buy a ticket for Delhi 6.
Abhishek Bachchan does an apt job as the fascinated foreign return who sees the beauty in the flaws of his homeland. His effort is genuine. Sonam Kapoor’s role was one to be watched out for and she falls flat on her face with this one. In fact, she has a very short role in the film. Her sequences where is apparently “flirting” with Bachchan look over the top. Performance wise the applause for this one goes to all the supporting actors. Om Puri is his usual best; Pawan Malhotra is excellent; Divya Dutta makes her presence known and the rest do not fade into the background. The talented Rishi Kapoor is fitting as is Waheeda Rahman. As a spoiler, Amitabh Bachchan has a tiny appearance which is not spell binding towards the climax.
Expectations were running mountains high for Mehra’s latest giving. He is, no doubt, a talented and distinctive director whose experimental ways have worked in the past when he jutted out the praise worthy Rang De Basanti. On a personal note, I enjoyed many of the sequences in Delhi 6. I think it may have something to do with the fact that I haven’t been back to India in a few years and miss my country terribly. Delhi 6 is really meant for the patriotic lot who like Roshan, see the beauty in India’s blemishes only to realize like the protagonist, “India Works!”
Delhi 6 is progressive for its time but is worth a one time watch. You either love it or hate it.