exclusive by Devansh Patel
It is always difficult for me to write reviews of films which leave behind a long lasting impression. Next up, I need a good hot cup of masala chai to write even better. That is precisely what I did. I catch a cab outside the Famous Studios after watching the special screening of Delhi 6, tell the cabbie to take me to Bandra Cafe, an Irani cafe where I can sit and sip down my favourite cuppa. I have three cups with two buttered buns and two omelette sandwich. What then? I ponder over the film and try to hold my emotions. I couldn't. I text Abhishek Bachchan and called the writer Kamlesh Pandey to inform them how I liked the film. They both amiably replied back. And then I took off on a journey in search of nirvana. 'A journey within' as the director of Delhi 6 aptly puts it, while the inmates of Delhi 6 venture out on a journey to find the anonymous Kala Bandar.
Filmmaker like Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra does a wonderful job in capturing the colour, commotion and cacophony of the Old Delhi (dearly known as Delhi 6 by their natives) which seem to put more emphasis on razzle-dazzle than religion itself and how! Delhi 6 opens up with a man attacked by a Kala Bandar (a monkey man, known to create havoc in the city of Delhi). Cut to a Ramlila (a dramatic folk re-enactment of the ten day battle between Lord Rama and Ravana) sequence written and sung by Raghubir Yadav. The film then takes you to a scene in New York where the doctors advise Dadi (Waheeda Rahman) for a complete rest in her remaining few months which she's got to live. In order to fulfil her wish to go to Delhi 6 where she was born and brought up, her grandson Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan) agrees to take on the responsibility and they both land in the old city. Family and friends welcome Dadi who now waits for her purana (old) ghar (house) to open up. This task is given to Roshan and you are a witness to a dry Tulsiji (a holy plant) and a black and white frame of Dada who is no more (Dadi's husband – Amitabh Bachchan).
The neighbourhood is populated with swamis (Akhilendra Mishra), fakirs (Rajat Dholakia), a jalebi vendor (Deepak Dobriyal), a local garbage collector (Divya Dutta), an innocent soul, Gobar (Atul Kulkarni), a lalaji (Prem Chopra), a loyal friend Ali Baig (Rishi Kapoor), a local police inspector (Vijay Raaz), a desi photographer (Cyrus Sahukar) and the near and dear neighbours (Supriya Pathak, Om Puri, Pawan Malhotra, Aditi Rao and Sheeba Chadha)...all who offer opaque words of wisdom designed to help steer the faithful to a more serene life and afterlife. Yet the muhalla (area) often seemed more like a circus. From the entire above if there is one person who doesn't give and take bull**** is Bittu (Sonam Kapoor), the aspiring Indian Idol contestant who wants to break free from her black and white world of Delhi 6 and jump into the colourful world of Mumbai.
Back to the story; Roshan slaps the police inspector, gets in the jail for showing his honesty and gets out of it, thanks to Ali who bribes the dishonest policewala. The Ramlila still continues but is hampered by the Kala Bandar again. Roshan tries to adjust and understand his surroundings by breaking into an early morning walk with Delhi 6 title track playing in his ear phones. In the next half an hour, they sing and dance to Genda Phool and Kala Bandar followed by Bittu on her terrace dancing to Masakali. With everyone happy at one end, Madan Gopal and Jai Gopal household have their own indifferences to settle. Both play a game of one-upmanship. Photographer Suresh fools around and sleeps around with Lalaji's wife, garbage collector Jalebi gets no respect but has respect for Gobar, Dadiji gets unwell but gets well after seeing the holy cow giving birth to her calf, Gobar talks sense but for all, he is just a mere non-sense. The going on's go on till you realise it's intermission time. But what follows in the penultimate one hour takes you by a complete shocker and that my friends, I leave it for you to go and witness.
Delhi 6 the film is a handsomely photographed, beautifully edited, and constantly absorbing glimpse into a unique corner of the human experience. Rakeysh has vividly conveyed all the vitality, joyful abandon, and tumult of voices in this old city with the infusion of both the Hindu and Muslim conflict shown in a very light hearted and humorous manner. The film combines traditional acts of faith, philosophical discussions and an almost carnival-like atmosphere. Some Indian and Western audiences may not understand everything they see in this film, but the film nonetheless makes for absorbing viewing and is highly recommended for anyone in search for different answers to universal questions of faith and hope, for which credit goes to the producer, director, writer, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra along with his co-writers, Kamlesh Pandey and Prasoon Joshi.
All the tracks in the film compliment the scenes. A.R. Rahman deserves yet another Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar nomination. Mr Mehra, I highly recommend you to make this film in English the next time around.
I've always believed that if the casting of any film is perfect, half the battle is won. Rakeysh deserves full marks or if there was a casting director, I don't know. Abhishek Bachchan with not-so-heavy-accent gives a ten on ten in performances. Last week when I met Abhishek at the RK Studios, he said that it's not how much he has grown as an actor which counts, but how much are the directors willing to push him, is what matters. Rakeysh succeeds in pushing Abhishek off the cliff. Abhi's body language makes him a true NRI boy, and by the way, for all you Bandar chaap's, you don't need to have your hair spiked, wear Armani and Versace, be a cool dude and have burgers to portray an NRI image. Sonam Kapoor is going to go a long way with her masakali smile and dance routine, I tell you. She acted her part with perfection and looked a sheer beauty in her Indian outfits. I surely wouldn't advocate Bittu to take Rat Poison. The rest of the cast fitted the jig saw puzzle very well. Vijay Raaz, Om Puri, Rishi Kapoor, Waheeda Rahman, Atul Kulkarni and Pawan Malhotra looked like real life characters put in to the reel life. What makes Delhi 6 a larger than life film is its protagonists.
The film is not a tagged in to a comic, action, thriller or a romantic genre. Delhi 6is an epic film and that's its genre; which was almost banished from Bollywood. For many critics, scholars and, most importantly, film producers, it was a thing of the past, something that could have attracted crowds only in the era of black-and-white television. There came the man who decided to use of all his energy and talents of actors and director in order to revitalise that particular genre – UTV and Ronnie Screwvala. In the end, whether the audience is patient enough to discover hidden meanings or simply wants to enjoy an entertaining film, Delhi 6 is more than adequate choice for all fans of this recently resurrected genre. The film does not preach, it does not advocate, it does not lecture or urge, but it searches the answers to the many questions which in today's time are either ignored or untouched.
How do you find mysticism in today's films? How can you make watching a film into a divine experience? Many spiritual seekers and Hollywood filmmakers today are fascinated by the real India which lies in the small towns, villages and cities like the Old Delhi. Those who do not have the time or the daring to travel to this exotic land can journey there via this questing film which leaves you with those answers which books alone cannot find.
Rating - ****