First things first. Amrita, you were right. This is the first real Rahman album in a while. I could obsess about each song in turn for a month. So I’m going to imagine that he actually won those two Oscars for this album and not for Slumdog Millionaire. Go Rahman! (To have spoken a line in Tamil and quoted Deewar up there — you rule, man.)
It is a measure of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s success with Rang De Basanti that he could get pretty much any character actor he wanted for Delhi 6 and not have to worry about giving them enough screen time. It is also a measure of his ability to direct such a vast ensemble cast that they manage to pull the movie through some crucial moments where the script doesn’t quite give them the backup they need. Alas, even such a team can sustain it for only so long.
Delhi 6 tells the story of a second-generation Indian-American who comes home with his grandmother who has contracted a tumor and wishes to spend her last days in her ancestral home in Chandni Chowk (PIN code 110006, hence the film’s title). For the next hour and a half, you let yourself get surrounded by this neighbourhood, swayed by its rhythm, loved by its people and worried/amused by their little rivalries, while a “monkey-man” terrorizes the city and this neighbourhood with mostly-imagined nocturnal attacks.
You have no idea where the film is going, but it feels comforting to be welcomed into and ensconced in this world Mehra creates with such fondness. And when he decides to ratchet up the tension by bringing in the spectre of communal disharmony, this neighbourhood, with people jostling for every inch of space, begins to seem combustible. The way he brings this up doesn’t work too well and almost plays like comedy at times, but you care enough about the people that it doesn’t seem to matter.
Trouble is, he’s now created a situation that he cannot resolve in too many ways. And in trying to resolve it in an unexpected manner, he stretches credibility a bit too thin. And you walk out feeling… a bit let down, to be honest. These characters deserved better than an ending like this.
There are a few other glaring flaws. Like Amitabh Bachchan in an entirely unnecessary cameo that irritated me no end by its mere presence. Or Abhishek Bachchan’s now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t accent, coupled with a performance that really isn’t on par with the rest of the cast. But what was really disheartening was how Mehra simply refused to be subtle when needed.
Consider the minor character who carries around a mirror and asks everyone to look into it. This mirror is referenced so beautifully in the end credits, it almost makes you forget the missteps he made right at the end. But instead of leaving it at that, he got one of the characters to speak at length about what the mirror really means. For heaven’s sake, man, we get it!
But despite all these flaws, when I wake up today I don’t remember its ending. And months from now, when I think of this movie, I know what will come to mind:
Om Puri and Pavan Malhotra indulging in a game of one-upmanship during a bhajan session.
The luminous Sonam Kapoor dancing in the Delhi metro. This is a girl worth watching out for. Anyone who is capable of dancing and smiling while running the risk of having a pigeon poop on her head at close range is a keeper.
Rishi Kapoor’s easy elegance. Why did this man ever have to be young if he could be so fantastic in old age?
Waheeda Rahman’s character making meticulous preparations for her own death. Lady, we see too little of you, but when we do, you make us thankful for it.
Atul Kulkarni, Vijay Raaz, Deepak Dobriyal, Divya Dutta, Supriya Pathak, Sheeba Chadha…
They are the only reason to watch Delhi 6. If that prospect doesn’t sound enticing, then this movie isn’t for you.