Delhi 6: A Motley Microcosm

February 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm 1 comment

“Delhi 6” tries to realize a lot of things as a film – and even though it succeeds mostly, this, in itself, turns out to be its nemesis. Rakeysh Om Mehra brings alive the eclectic and rich sights, aroma and flavours of Chandni Chowk through its characters and music. But for anyone who has yet not been touched by the diversity of “Purani Dilli” (Old Delhi), the movie might be little overwhelming.

As a story, it is the oft-repeated tale of an NRI boy coming to India and falling in love with the country and the country’s girl, but the script elevates the film to another level. Though, some sub-plots in the film tend to feel awkward at times, Mehra largely manages to imbue his story with the perfect hues that turn the chaos of Old Delhi into a visual splendour. As a director, he adds subtle touches of brilliance to seemingly ordinary proceedings, some of which would make you laugh, but some which you would just miss – as the scene in which the local politico barges in the middle of a Ramleela. Someone who has not attended the night shows of the local Ramleela is most likely to miss the satire behind the episode. In another scene towards the end, children throw the monkey mask onto the burning effigy of Ravan. It is an understated moment but symbolically, it says a lot. Mehra has these, and many such snippets, strewn throughout the movie, for which one needs to watch the movie carefully and be able to appreciate the localized influences.

The movie’s narrative relies heavily on the characterizations and the director must thank his entire cast for ably supporting him. Each of the characters lends authenticity to their part and though it is difficult to say who was the best, Divya Dutta gets my vote for her small yet powerful role as the fiery Jalebi. Deepak Dobriyal as Mamdu shows a great potential (I happened to like him in Shaurya as well) as he metamorphosed from a happy-go-lucky neighbourhood guy to a distraught fanatic. Watching Atul Kulkarni as the simpleton Gobar, it was hard to believe that he was the bellicose Laxman Pandey of RDB; truly a versatile actor! Vijay Raaz as the vile policeman makes you loathe him, which is proof enough of his superb performance. Waheeda Rehman has perfected the role of the affectionate grandma, and she seemed to be having a lot of fun along with the affable Supriya Pathak and co. Rishi Kapoor played his part with aplomb, as did veterans Prem Chopra and Om Puri. (It seems that I am just left with the pigeon Masakali and Pavan Duggal to say a good word about, so I shall move on… 🙂

Despite the huge ensemble of supporting actors, the lead pair manages to deliver impressive performances as well. Sonam has a stereotypical role which didn’t give her much scope to showcase her potential but she proves her acting prowess in many frames, particularly the “Masakali” track. Abhishek Bachchan, who has met with some criticism for faking an accent, doesn’t really deserve the brickbats. He brings out the initial apprehension of accepting India quite naturally; watch him as he dances with the woman folk in the “Genda Phool” track, cute.

A. R. Rahman’s score in “Delhi 6” is notches above his Oscar winner, “Slumdog Millionaire”. The film’s music evokes so many emotions so much so that it becomes a character in itself. The “Arziyan” qawalli leaves you spellbound as the camera panoramically sweeps across the expanse of Jama Masjid – it is one of those moments that stir your heart. The divine invocation of Goddess Durga in the Aarti “Tumre Bhawan Mein” is soft and pious and is used to great effect in the film. Enough has already been said about “Genda Phool” and “Masakali” which are ruling the charts because of their musical merit. Being an ardent advocate of including more classical music in films, I must thank Rahman and Rakeysh Mehra for reviving the magical vocals of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in the “Gujari Todi – Bhor Bhayi”; Shreya Ghosal does an outstanding job of rendering it as well.

Hand in glove with the music is the awe-inspiring camera work. The surreal song “Dil Gira Dafatan” is remarkable in its concept. In this masterpiece, the music and cinematography complement each other so well that it is hard to blink your eyes as you watch bylanes of Chandni Chowk mingle effortlessly with the streets of New York. The Ramleela sequences have been conceived and shot very well; and they have been juxtaposed effectively with the events running throughout the story.

The Black Monkey (“Kala Bandar”) urban myth finds prominence in the plot, but ideally I would have like the story treated differently. The film tackles communalism in a clichéd fashion, as is evident in the hasty and somewhat half-baked ending. But I’m ready to forego all that for the vivid portrayal of Old Delhi that “Delhi 6” leaves on my senses.

“Delhi 6” is a thought provoking film, which might not appeal as much on first viewing. In fact, it is tempting to write off the film as boring and preachy. But as you think about it, and there will be moments which will keep coming back to you even after you have left the theatre, it grows on you. I am already in a mood to go and watch it a second time.

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Entry filed under: Delhi, India, Movies and Cinema, Music (Bollywood). Tags: , , , , , .

Hollywood Bollywood – Slumdog Millionaire Political Potpourri at its Bollywood Best!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Decarlos  |  March 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Just dropping by.Btw, you website have great content!

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