March 6, 2009

Delhi-6

At one point in the movie, the badly injured Abhishek tells his dead grandaddy (he is hallucinating) that he feels at home in the city, where people make mistakes, but at least the mistakes are of their own people.
Right.
Keep in mind, he has been shot lethally (almost) by those same people as he is saying/dreaming/hallucinating this.
Right.

Title: Delhi 6
Year: 2009
Cast: Abhishek Bacchan, Sonam Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Om Puri, Divya Dutta, Prem Chopra, ....... everybody including the proverbial kitchen sink.

It started well. And had great visuals. And was about Delhi- what could go possibly wrong? Despite warnings from a very reliable source, I had to see this. And I found that with every stroke of genius that the movie displays, it also displays significant flaws at every step.

Abhishek lives with his parents (dad: Hindu, mom: Muslim) on the East Coast with his grandma Waheeda. She is diagnosed with cancer, and wants to go back home to Old Delhi (her old zipcode of 11000"6") to die. Since his parents left the city due to tensions from their inter-religious wedding, they don't want to go back, and Abhishek must take grandma home.

Which is all very nice, except Abhishek doesn't sound like any Indian boy who was born and bought up in the US. He sounds like a Indian boy who has spent maybe a dozen years in the US, and speaks accented English, but remarkably clear Hindi and Urdu.

And so they land in Delhi, met by the absolutely adorable Rishi Kapoor (who is looked more adorable than ever, the older he gets). They are escorted to good ol' Chandni Chowk with all the charm as was expected, and though I may sound skeptical, I was truly enthralled. The cameos were perfect! The imagery was great! This was fun!


And then Abhishek settles into Chandni Chowk with grandma- only after one serious setback and blessings from a roadside cow(!), her illness is mysteriously and entirely forgotten for the remainder of the movie.

And he falls in love with the ethereal and gorgeous Sonam Kapoor- only there is no real "aha" moment- we don't really know why they fall in love- because she is pretty? because they are both- there???


And the Ramlila, which somehow goes on for the duration of the movie. It definitely seemed longer than the traditional 9 days which are allocated to the event.

And the director weaves in the alleged humanoid monkey episode that happened a few years ago in the city.

SPOILER ALERT: If you havent seen this, skip to "Highlights" below.

For no reason at all, Abhishek decides he must jump from rooftop to rooftop , crazy fashion mid movie. In classic masala style, this is really a foreshadowing towards the end of the movie, where he actually wears a "monkey-man" suit and does so.

Which makes no sense- he wears the suit to pursue and stop Sonam from leaving town- couldn't he just have spoken with her during the day, wearing a regular outfit? Riots are on in Chandni Chowk, and yet he decides the best way to stop Sonam is by wearing a costume that's sure to get the crowd riled up?
Argh!

So he gets shot real bad, and DOESN'T die, because of "love."
This from the same guy who directed "Rang De Basanti."


Highlights & Downers:
1- In the opening scene when she is diagnosed with cancer, Waheeda calmly cuts a betel nut with a traditional sarauta (beetel nut cutter) which bought me to tears instantly: my own grandma did the same action often every day, and died of the same disease. Its hard to call this a "highlight," but it really pulled me into the story, and made me sit when I wanted to walk away later.
2- The supporting cast and the leads are beyond doubt brilliant- perhaps the best casting in a very long time. And yet, the movie fails them.
3- I have an inexplicable urge to hug Rishi Kapoor- very very very cute. I wish I had an uncle like that. Or Grandpa. ANYBODY. Everyone deserves some Rishi Kapoor in their lives, I've decided. Also some Waheeda.
4- Contrary to what I've heard from other reviews, I don't belekive that this is a homage to Delhi- old/new/any part. Its a fantasy, composed of what the director would LIKE to remember of Delhi (oh that sounds harsh, isn't it?). I almost suspect that he has forgotten what Delhi was like, and would like it believe that this was it- it happens to a lot of folks who move away. Don't get me wrong,I love Delhi, and I love Chandni Chowk, and visit every time I am back there, but its hard to buy into the fantasy of Abhishek believing living in Chandni Chowk's crowds, dirt and smells to be the best thing ever. There is a reason why non-resident Indians, when they move back, DON'T move to Old Delhi- there are better parts of the city. It would be like moving to LA and choosing to live in South Central- why would you do that? OK- rant over.
5- The Ramlila play in the background was surreal-ly lovely, the metaphors were perfect. And yet, it gets messed up when in the end of the movie the director gets super preachy on us. His "Rang De Basanti" has a message to- I get that, I appreciate that- but here it goes on and on forever, and that kills it.
6- Divya Dutta is lovely- that woman has so much talent in her its really amazing.
7- Just not convinced by the Abhishek-Sonam romance- which is pivotal to the movie, but just doesn't come together for me at all.

Conclusion: It isn't bad, but I'd suggest lowering expectations and waiting for the DVD.

17 comments:

Filmi Girl said...

I'm sorry to hear this wasn't that great... I'll save my $10 and wait for the DVD. :)

If I'm not convinced by the romance, movies lose a lot. On the flip side, when the romance is right (like Hrithik/Aish in Dhoom 2) it makes a stupid movie great! Scriptwriters and casting directors NEED to pay attention to these things!

ajnabi said...

I agree with Filmi Girl; if you're going to bother to throw in a romance, then at least make it a convincing one, please. It's a pity the movie doesn't live up to its cast; the names alone are enough to make me want to watch it when it comes out on DVD despite lackluster reviews.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

FilmiGirl: so true. We have all seen tons of movies where the leads fall in love for no reason at all- but then those movies are intended to be braindead. If the director chooses to make "thinking" movies, he should at teast be able to make the romance convincing. [sigh]

Ajnabi: It almost makes me angry- the cast speaks great dialogues, it has all the right gestures, everything- and yet somewhere the movie unravels! it was just sad :)

Bhargav Saikia said...

Despite all the bad reviews and mixed reactions, I loved every bit of Delhi 6. I think a film should be viewed as a standalone product and not be compared to the director's previous works. This has really hampered Delhi6's box office reactions.

Waheeda Rehman's character as Dadi also reminded me of my grandmom. I was really emotional watching her.

Out of all the cast, I felt Divya Dutta was the best. No other actress in today's times can dare enact that character (except maybe Seema Biswas). She was brilliant to the core.

I guess it's upto individuals to interpret the ending. For me, it showed hope and optimism. I wouldn't have wanted Abhishek to die at all.

Also, I felt each and every character were extremely well written. Having lived in Delhi for some years, I could identify with each one of them.

Anyway, it was very nice reading your reactions on the movie :)

Cheers!
Bhargav.

Bhargav Saikia said...

Hey, thanks a lot for adding me to your blog list :)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Bhargav: Yes we so disagree on this one! :D But I do completely agree w/ u on waheedaji and divya- spectacular is the word. Divya still isnt appreciated as much as she should be- I think we can expect a lot more great work from her in the future. Btw- I finally got u on my blogroll- sorry it took awhile!

Beth said...

I'm so glad you said something about Abhishek's accents - obviously I don't really know all the variations of what natural Hindi can sound like, but I was pretty sure his English did not sound like someone born and bred on this side of the pond.

I didn't mind the romance - it was just sort of pleasant and convenient rather than moving, though. I give it a "enh" on the chemistry scale. I don't like Sonam Kapoor, though, based on the two things I've seen her in, and we all know I'm super biased towards Abhishek and think he can be dynamite with the right person. They're not a good match at all.

I also would have started my own riot if Abhishek had died - I really was expecting this to go all RDB crazy at the end and was so grateful it didn't. But instead it was ridiculous in its own way.

One question that floated around my head while watching was whether Abhishek's American character was some sort of statement about or allusion to American foreign policy - he liked to go in and meddle and try to solve things. On a less specific thread, I'm wondering why he happened to be American as opposed to Kenyan or Canadian or whatever else - that is, was there anything specifically American about his character.

If I had been drinking anything while I read this, it would have come out my nose when I got to "couldn't he just have spoken with her during the day, wearing a regular outfit?" THAT is a question for the ages!

That's so cool to get that unexpected connection to your memories of your grandma!

One more and then I'm done, I promise: I too found Rishi adorable in this, but in the week this came out I also read the chapter about him in the Kapoor bio and was filled with rage towards him. It was a frustrating juxtaposition of real life and characters (fortunately no such reaction surfaced in the Shashi chapter).

My word verification term is "bless"! An actual, real word!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Beth: I have a need to know- do you mean "The Kapoors" by Madhu Jain? I cant imagine you angry, and that too w/ rishi- there must be real provocation, and I absolutely need to read and find out- I so need to buy Bollybooks!

Abhishek's accent was the strangest ever- it came and went, sometimes turning aussie, then brit, then near-perfect Urdu- ugh. I love him, honestly i do, but i just couldnt buy into it- if actors can spend months building muscles for roles, surely they could invest some time working on characters as well :) I guess the inconsistency was just v distracting.

You have compelled me to wonder about the possiblity of comment on American foreign policy- it could be, since he is also has the good "American" traits- outspokenness and equality (I know that can be arguable, but its all relative anyway) :D
Now I am getting political, and must stop :D

Beth said...

Yep, that's the book. The chapter on him is pretty short (as for all the generations after Raj/Shammi/Shashi), and I get the sense there is quite a lot the author isn't saying. From what I understand, his alcoholism had a very nasty, very ugly streak to it, and he abused Neetu, and there's even mention of poor Ranbir trying to stand up for his mom. It just breaks my heart that anyone could be horrible to Neetu Singh, no matter the medical condition. And that society lets people like him get away with it and makes it difficult for victims to be safe and to get the help they need. The book has a lot of discussion of alcoholism among the Kapoors, but the impression I get from reading is that Rishi's was (is?) the most violent and most outward-turning.

Also, in my opinion the chapter should just be called "Why Bobby Was Awesome," because there's not much discussion of any of his other films.

Agreed re: preparing accents.

Agreed re: stereotypical American traits - fairly blunt and straightforward, trying to sort out our roots, for example - as well as some we like to think we have, like sticking up for the little guy, defending a baseline of equality among everyone in a society, exploiting "modern" ideas....

bollyviewer said...

I am with Beth on the RDB comparison. After the RDB experience I fully expected the movie to go all crazy half way through and was super-grateful that it didnt! That and the way it captured what I remember about Delhi - the extremely sociable and charming people with their prejudices and unknowing cruelties all in place, is why I liked it more than the movie deserved.

Sonam Kapoor was lovely but I thought she looked about 16 and just not upto Abhishek's weight at all! She should be in one of those teenage romances with Shahid as her romantic lead. The romance could definitely have done with more work - it was almost like it was added on as a crowd pleaser. And Divya Dutta was the best part of the film. The lady could do with more of her Welcome To Sajjanpur kind of roles.

mimi said...

I loved Delhi-6 I feel so weird about it, but I really did.

And about Abhi's accent...he wasn't happy with it, but ROM didn't really want him to have a thick accent so the audiences could understand him.

Divya Dutta is always excellent.

I hated Rang De Basanti & Aks so this one really surprised me.

And your first point...yeah...mum, sis & I exclaimed 'Nani ki tarah' Made me tear up for a sec there.

Anuj said...

The film did work in few aspects but was a letdown eventually.I guess its difficult to follow up

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Beth: Thanks- ordered a copy :) Cant wait till it come thru....

Bollyviewer: Lol- my husband commented that abhishek-sonam looked like cousins/brither-sister- just very tame. Divya is amazing- I've really begun to look forward to her work.

Anuj: I just think a person has to be able to stand up to their own resume- that at least is a yardstick they may be measured by (provided we dont compare them to other peopel's works)!

Bhargav Saikia said...

Not a problem at all.

About Delhi6, I would say "to each his own"! There are many different views from different people!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Mimi: You felt like it was Nani in the first scene too!!!!!!!! yay! even down to the hair- it was Nani all over again- I miss her man.
I like parts of this movie- which is sad, cos I was really set on loving it- ah well.

yves said...

Hello Shweta,
Just saw Delhi 6, and allowed myself to borrow a little extract from your appreciation to make my difference clear - hope you won't mind!
I enjoyed the movie a great deal, in fact. Perhaps because of the perspective which was not the same as yours. Whatever!
thanks in advance anyway.
yves

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Yves: That is fine: don't we almost always disagree anyways? makes it more fun if anything :)