Film: Delhi 6 (Drama)
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Rishi Kapoor
Direction: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Duration : 2 hours 20 minutes
Critic’s rating: Delhi 6
We're like this only. We may not have much to boast about in our hand-to-mouth existence, but we're happy, contented, carefree. We're like this only. We fight, squabble, break bones and sometimes, heads too, but we're bhai-bhai, despite differences in caste and community. Of course, we're like this only: a great extended family that has its differences but ends up united in the end. So what if in between, some ugly `isms' -- like communalism, casteism -- do create a few schisms. After all the quintessential Indian experience manifests itself only in the slummy chawls of Mumbai and the grubby alleys of Delhi-6, better known as Chandni Chowk, where humanity overrules everything else.
After Rang De Basanti, which raised a toast to the young rebel, filmmaker Rakeysh Mehra chooses to become a flag bearer for the good-at-heart Indian in Delhi 6. Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), the archetype for the NRI babalog, arrives in Delhi-6 on a short trip to leave his ailing grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) home. Now Dadi, a doughty old woman, doesn't want to die in the distant shores of New York and forces her son to send her back to her old, moth-balled haveli in Chandni Chowk. The son hates India, a communal cauldron which forced him to flee with his Muslim wife, so grandson agrees. After all, it's just a short trip, with a bit of sight-seeing thrown in, he tells himself. But hey, hasn't he heard about roots and the theory of relativity (read umpteen overzealous relatives)!
Dadi shakes off the cobwebs, swoons over a banarsi paan, snuggles up to all her biradari and bustee wallahs (friends and relatives) and picks up the strings of a life she'd never wanted to give up. Roshan however begins on a predictable yuppie-yankee note and smiles indulgently at the teeming chaos: the cows in the street, the kitschy Ramleela shows, the kite and pigeon flying soirees on the terraces, the polo session with Uncle Beg (Rishi Kapoor) and the jalebi sessions with the boys next door. And before he knows, he's gently sucked into the chaos himself. Specially when he can't understand why firebrand Imarti (Divya Dutta) is an untouchable; why the unfriendly neighbourhood cop (Vijay Raaz) has a Hitler fetish; why his uncles (Om Puri, Pavan Malhotra) have built a wall in their house, while their wives gossip relentlessly through a loose brick. Or else, why the beautiful Bittu (Sonam Kapoor) chooses to have her wings clipped, like the white dove, Masakali, when she too can fly and fulfil her dreams.
And if that isn't dramatic enough to hold our boy back to where he belongs, there's the infamous Monkey Man and his escapades that became an urban legend in saddi Dilli, not so long ago. The filmmaker interestingly uses the metaphor of the Monkey Man (Kala Bandar) to symbolise the beast within and blends different vignettes of contemporary India to create a composite picture. One that holds up the mirror to the modern Indian and shows him up as both heroic and beastly; communal and comrade-like. Ironically, it is this metaphor which becomes stretched and almost funny in the climax, drawing away from the appeal of the film. The shoddy climax, replete with a scene from heaven, and the sluggish pace of the film do detract from the delicious flavour of Delhi 6, which, all said and done, is a delectable paapdi-chaat of big, bustling, bulging India. The director creates a whole gallery of mesmeric characters, though one wishes he had focussed a bit more on bubbly Bittu, specially since Sonam has such a pleasant screen presence.
Unfortunately, she's left as a mere sketch on this colourful canvas, where, once again, Abhishek Bachchan proves he's in crackling, quicksilver form as the `burger-chaap' Amrikan who tells his bustee wallahs to `get real'. Rahman's Masakali music has already become a chartbuster, even as veterans like Waheeda and Rishi reiterate the truism about old being absolute gold. Watch it for the message of Delhi 6 and the ekdum desi India-feel.
Rating: / 5