Delhi 6 is not about Abhishek Bachchan – an NRI experiencing a sub-culture within India, or his romance with the leading lady, Sonam Kapoor (who typically is not impressed with the foreign-returned). In fact, these two are the smallest bits of the movie in terms of screen-time and as intention. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 is all about its warm characters, their quirks, their beliefs, and their life… like it is in Old Delhi.
Delhi 6 is an ensemble of connected stories involving best of the character artistes in the country – Om Puri, Pavan Malhotra, Deepak Dobriyal, Supriya Pathak, Rishi Kapoor, Prem Chopra, and others. The cinematography (Binod Pradhan) is brilliant, and captures the essence of characters in the hustle-bustle of the streets of Chandni Chowk and against the magnificent backdrop of Jama Masjid and Red Fort. A.R.Rahman’s surreal music creates brilliant moments, and the sheer imaginative choreography adds to the charm. The spontaneous Genda Phool, eye-candy Masakalli. and Kala Bandar (where Abhishek does a charming walk while doing a rap with two kids on each side) are highlights of the movie. Even Dil Gira Dafatan, a typical song just for the sake of it, is a visual delight with the Times Square and Chandni Chowk in one frame.
Om Puri (regular performance, and a typical character) and Pavan Malhotra (succinct as always) are estranged brothers whose wives and kids stay as a connected unit in clandestine. The newcomer Aditi Rao Hydari delivers a wonderful and in skin performance as their subdued younger sister. Rishi Kapoor playing an old friend of Abhishek’s dad, is affable and brings depth to the character like only he can. He’s on a roll after a brilliant outing in Luck By Chance. Waheeda Rahman has nothing much to do, but looks wonderful and delivers a dignified performance. Deepak Dobriyal comes back after brilliant performances in Omakara and Shaurya, and plays the friendly next door jalebi-wala and also the riot victim later in the movie. Atul Kulkarni plays a dim-witted, but genial and helpful temple worker.Vijay Raaz (as the the bully Haryanvi cop) and Divya Dutta (as the low-cast sweeper) deliver brilliant performances providing ample laughs every time they are on the screen, and you feel sad that Divya’s is a limited role.
The characters work well, and the fine actors help the cause with magnificent two-bit performances.. Abhishek Bachchan comes to India with his grandmother Waheeda Rahman, and discovers Delhi and himself sportingly, with his camera-phone (a Motorola ofcourse), says ‘cool’ in every other line, and becomes friends with Sonam Kapoor who’s got dreams in her eyes, but is scared to admit them to his dad, Om Puri. Abhishek Bachchan is warm and at ease, just like his character. With not much dialogues to speak, he relies on his expressions, and the background score helping. Sonam Kapoor gives an uninhibited performance, with spark in her eyes, and a brilliant screen presence.
The vignettes unfold and develop along with the Ram leela, and the monkey-man hysteria gripping the area. The hysteria leads to communal clash, and that is the point where the flow snaps. One, the whole monkey-man analogy is a li’l annoying on screen as was the incident and the way it was handled by mass media in real life. Second, the climax, and the last half hour, is a deliberate push to send out a social message. The message is a forced one, with typical preachy dialogues, and not through a progressive narrative. The analogy with Ram-leela works well and could’ve carried the script to the end, but the idea of monkey-man scare leading to climax is jarred. The disappointing end is the only negative of this pleasant and tender tale of characters. They are engaging, and lovable, and you’ll feel sad about Mehra catering to the commercial norms of a film drama.
It’s a spirited take on the city’s sub-culture, only to be spoilt by a message given in a frustrating manner.
The message, woven in the lines below, is wonderful, but doesn’t work well for the movie. The lines are beautiful, and worth mentioning.
zarre zarre mein usi ka noor hai; jhaank khud mein, woh na tujhse door hai
ishq hai usse, to sabse ishq kar; is ibadat ka yahi dastoor hai
It’s interesting that Delhi 6 has so much in similar to director’s previous outing, Rang De Basanti. The narrative progresses by Bhagat Singh’s story in RDB, and with the Ram-leela and monkey-man hysteria in this one. Both have ‘heaven’ moments in the end, with the characters meeting Bhagat Singh (a brilliant scene) in RDB and Abhishek meeting grandfather (cameo by Amitabh Bachchan) in his death-scare scenes (not much to write home about) in Delhi 6.
A point worth noting is the immense support Mehra has been able to garner from Network18 mediapersons. You’ll see top journalists of CNN-IBN and IBN7 in the movie playing themselves, talking about the hysteria on air. RDB too had similar thing with NDTV journalists in the last scene.