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Delhi 6 - Movie Review

By Naresh K. Deoshi
Fri, Feb 20, 2009 23:30 IST

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra A mandir-masjid dispute arising out of monkeyman menace in the heart of Delhi is as bizarre as a couple of youths gunning down the country's defence minister only because he ridiculed their dead pilot friend!

Despite its shortcomings, we loved Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra 's Rang De Basanti for the movie's sheer novelty and rebelliousness. Delhi 6 is more complex and subtle in its structure, but the very basic premise of the story is so flimsy that the message the director wanted to give (I'll save that for last) doesn't come across.

For most of its first half, the movie is Mehra's personal tribute to Old Delhi - to its narrow gallis bustling with crowds, to its roadside shops, to the Hindu and Muslim communities living cheek by jowl. The story takes off in the first fifteen minutes when the US-bred protagonist Roshan ( Abhishek Bachchan ) accompanies his dadi ( Waheeda Rahman ) from America to her old home in Delhi-6, where she wants to live her last days. Moments after landing at Delhi airport, Roshan sees a news report in which an obviously over-reacting journalist rants about a mysterious monkeyman that attacks and kills people in the dark of night. And Roshan grins at the first impression of the new world he's about to enter.




Thereon, Mehra takes us on a tour through Chandni Chowk and introduces the colourful characters that inhabit it. The Muslim jalebiwala (Deepak Dobriyal) who's also a Bajrang Bali bhakt. The neighbours next door - Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra as feuding brothers who live with their families on either side of the wall that divides the household. The charming and friendly Ali Uncle ( Rishi Kapoor ). The slap-smacking cop ( Vijay Raaz ). The dim-witted domestic help Gobar ( Atul Kulkarni ). The spitfire sweeper Jalebi ( Divya Dutta ), the opportunistic Lala ( Prem Chopra ) and most importantly the free-spirited Bittu ( Sonam Kapoor ), who dreams of becoming an Indian Idol and make her own place in the world rather than marry a man handpicked by her imposing, conservative father (Om Puri).

The narrative keeps flitting from one character to the other as Roshan gets to know them and in the process falls in love with Bittu. But this world that seems so friendly and loving erupts into communal hatred when the menacing monkeyman strikes closer home.

Mehra uses Ram Leela as a metaphoric thread throughout the course of the story. And he creates subtle allegories that reveal themselves as the story unfolds. There's a sequence before the intermission where Abhishek hops like a monkey from one roof to another in pursuit of a kite. Or there's an incredibly well shot dream sequence in 'Dil Gira Dafatan' song where the worlds of Delhi 6 and New York meet at Times Square, and Abhishek, dressed in a monkey suit, holds Sonam in his arms atop a building, a la King Kong. These sequences meet their parallels at the movie's end.

So, structurally, 'Delhi 6' is finely crafted. Cinematography by Binod Pradhan is superb and music by A R Rahman is in a different league altogether. But where Mehra fails, and that too big time, is in providing a plausible twist to the plot. The reason behind the communal feud is so incredulously frivolous that it detaches you from the story.

Thankfully, it's the story's myriad characters (and their portrayal by actors) that saves the film. Abhishek Bachchan looks a bit rusty at places but delivers well in a role that has more facial expressions and reactions than dialogues. Sonam Kapoor is gorgeous and shows glimpses of fine acting. But it's the supporting cast that takes the cake.

Om Puri, Rishi Kapoor, Pawan Malhotra, Vijay Raaz, Waheeda Rahman (an image of grace), Supriya Pathak, Deepak Dobriyal, Divya Dutta (watch out for her outburst against the cop), Prem Chopra (still leering), Atul Kulkarni - it's an awesome ensemble that gives soul to the story.

Not to be missed in 'Delhi 6' is the character of a mad fakir who keeps showing mirror to people on the streets. It's a character that says a lot in just the tiny screen space it occupies. It encapsulates the message of the film that God, like evil, lies within and not without. So if there's any monkey that needs to be killed, it's the one inside.

It's a message with a heart and mind. And though murky it comes across because of Mehra's goof up with the plot, it makes 'Delhi 6' worth a visit at least.

Rating: ***



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