Thursday, February 19, 2009

Delhi 6 movie review - Monkey man exists - LiveMint

After 2006's Rang de Basanti, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was feted as the chronicler of Indian dreams and disappointments. A title like that is a big cross to bear, especially when it's time to make your next film. With Delhi-6, Mehra tries to make another what's-wrong/right-with-India movie and--god I feel so bad saying this--completely loses the plot.

This time too, like in RDB, he attempts to weave together multiple narratives that you hope will meet in that Crash Bang Climax. Instead, he leaves us wondering What Just Happened.

Mehra sets his new film in the choked gullies of Old Delhi (recreated mostly in Sambhar, Rajasthan) where Hindus and Muslims live in apparent harmony. Simultaneously, he introduces the breaking news story of an infamous/mysterious Monkey Man (surely you remember him from Delhi circa 2001?). If you read the creature's Wikipedia entry before you see the film, you'll be familiar with a sizeable chunk of this part of the plot including the illustration and the theory about the motherboard concealed under its fur.

Mehra bombards us with a dizzying array of characters in the first half of a film that's as crowded as the lanes it's shot it. But now I'm confusing you; let me start at the beginning.

Abhishek Bachchan is Roshan, a grandson who brings his ailing Dadi (Waheeda Rahman, beautiful as ever) back from the US to her home in Delhi-6.

When Bachchan first hears the story of the Monkey Man on the television channel above the conveyer belt at the airport, you think the NRI is experiencing just another we-are-like-this-only moment. But when the Kala Bandar begins to pop in and out of the plot with more frequency than many of the other characters; and when the Delhi-6 Ram Lila Committee and a strident sadhavi make their appearance, you get an inkling this is all going to end messily.

Dadi is welcomed back home by family friend Ali Baig (Rishi Kapoor) who was once madly in love with Roshan's mother. She accepts his paan at the airport and declares: "Now I can die in peace".

For the next hour, Abhishek meets the neighbourhood. Let's see, there are two warring brothers and their families; Bittu, lead actor Sonam Kapoor, is the daughter of the grouchier brother played by Om Puri. Then there's their unmarried sister, the low-caste garbage collector called Jalebi, the useless policeman Choudhary, the jalebi seller; the local idiot, the Muslim elder, the moneylender with his young wife who's having an affair with the neighbourhood photographer who's helping Kapoor fulfil her dream of becoming an Indian Idol (because "wohi to ek cheez hai jo ordinary middle class ladki ko nobody se somebody bana sakti hai"), the Kala Bandar of course and half a dozen other characters I've probably forgotten.

Waheeda Rahman looks like she's having fun in the first half (before disappearing in the second half) as she does her own "maut ke liye shopping". In another sequence, she collapses while she's talking to her daughter-in-law on the laptop and is rushed to the hospital on a cycle rickshaw which is forced to stop because the road is blocked by a cow in labour.

There are funny dialogues, and nice insights about how backward (caste, arranged marriages, superstitions, religion) and forward (Chandrayaan) we are (and Bachchan records them all on his Motorola cell phone). If you thought Slumdog had Indian detail, wait till you see the kaleidoscope that is Delhi-6. But sometimes, when you're so focused on getting all the little things right, the big picture can slip out of your hand.

After the Interval, the Kala Bandar momentum picks up; they've already merchandised the creature. Then, as if there aren't enough characters floating around, Baba Bajrangi shows up to exorcise the creature--and floats the idea that it might belong to a specific community. Now everybody wants to know if the KB is a Hindu or a Muslim.

"Bandar ek musalmaan atankwadi hai," someone announces. Things implode and explode even as Ravan's Lanka is set ablaze by Hanuman in the other parallel Ram Lila track. By now poor Dadi is saying, "Ab to yahan marne ka bhi dil nahi karta."

It all comes to a head in a climax that I'm not going to reveal here (except to say that it almost seemed to me that co-producers UTV Motion Pictures suggested to Mehra that he change the dramatic ending to make it not so dramatic).

If one could judge a movie just by its soundtrack, this one would be brilliant. But even the songs leave you bemused in the film. At one point, three songs play almost back-to-back; Arziyan is shot to Rishi Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan playing pool. Bachchan and Kapoor have only one song together--he walks through a door to emerge at Times Square along with the cycle rickshaws and jalebiwalas in dream sequence Dil Gira. Don't miss the Godzilla-inspired shot in this song.

Moral of the story? The Kala Bandar resides within us and not out there. But details be damned, Mehra's tedious lectures about the way we are just don't ring true.

Delhi 6 movie review by Priya Ramani of Livemint.com

Other reviews

First delhi 6 review / rating- times of india
Delhi 6 movie review - Monkey man exists Livemint.com
Delhi 6 movie review rating - rediff movies
Delhi 6 movie review rating - Indiatimes movies
Delhi 6 movie review rating - Sify Not happy

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Arun Karnik said...

After watching Delhi6, I think Director wants to convey “For the kidnap of Sita by Ravan, why did Hanuman burn the whole Lanka?”

He also tries to portrait while Indians try to look into the Glass of Foreign world with colours, why don’t they see themselves in the Mirror first!

And also a glimpse of Tradition and Modernity entangled, most of the actors have tried their best to perform. Music is a Class but the film goes too dramatic, makes feel whether you are watching a film or a Street Drama!

All in All, a Class Movie of All-times.

February 21, 2009 at 4:14 AM  

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