Monkey business in the old city! review of Delhi 6

Rang De Basanti has to be a huge monkey riding on the shoulder of Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra.  After making a film that supposedly became an anthem or sorts for energizing the youth, expectations were riding very high for Delhi 6.  The film had a good amount of hype and buzz and the music was already a winner.  So it was shocking to see the initial reviews that were mostly average.  It did help to reduce my expectations as I watched Delhi 6.

Delhi 6 is so much but could have been so much more.  Front and center in the casting is the city of old Delhi, Delhi – Postal code 6.  Living there is a microcosm of characters that could represent India – the warring brothers (Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra) with a wall down the middle of their house (I have cousins who live like that  ☺ ), a rich old seth (Prem Chopra) with his young wife, a muslim jalebi waala who is a Hanuman bhakt (Deepak Dobriyal), a benign rich man who plays pool and dishes out advice (Rishi Kapoor), a corrupt and swaggering policeman (Vijay Raaz), a simple minded fool who speaks profound words on occasion (Atul Kulkarni), a lower caste woman with a heart of gold (Divya Dutta), a sleazy photographer (Cyrus Sahukar), a fakir who goes around showing people their faces in a mirror, the women who do not war (Sonam Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Aditi Rao, Sheeba Chaddha), the usual rabble rousing politicians, maulanas and other “holy” men, and kids who want to hurry up and grow up.  Into this mix is thrown the NRI Rohan (Abhishek Bachchan), when he brings his grandma (Waheeda Rahman) to her home so she can die happy!

The city teems and seethes around this mass of humanity, and each character is etched with enough back-story to make it interesting.  And it is all shown to us through the eyes of Rohan, as he uses his cell phone to capture everything from the namaaz at Jama Masjid, to cows undergoing parturition in the middle of the city street, to bells on the local temple.  There is a Ramlila running parallel to the story, at times introducing us to the NRI Rohan (Dadi, the golden DEEER!), introducing the politician who will later foment trouble, the warring brothers, the hypocrisy of revering Shabri while abusing Jalebi!   This Ramlila runs throughout the film at regular intervals and when the film cuts from the riots to the epic battle, the parallel is almost too obvious, although the most mesmerizing scenes of the Ramlila are in the soaring figures in this sequence.  The urban legend of Kaala Bandar – the mythical monkey man that terrorized Delhi in 2001 – is used by Mehra to set up a hokey McGuffin, representing at the same time the evil that resides within us all, and also the cause around which Hindus and Muslims will eventually rally and set aside their differences.  The film raises an issue a minute and takes on female choice in marriage, religious bigotry, casteism, superstitions, police corruption, and political machinations (Babri Masjid type scenario also raises its head)!  This plethora of issues obfuscates the already thin plot (does Bittu love Rohan?  Does Rohan love Bittu?), and really only leaves a teeming city as the leading star in the story.

The performances are excellent by the ensemble cast of veterans, led by Waheeda Rahman.  Deepak Dobriyal, Divya Dutta, Rishi Kapoor and Vijay Raaz deserve special mention for outstanding well etched performances.  Sonam Kapoor looks luminous, but does not have much opportunity to show off her acting skills.  Abhishek is a bewildered NRI with a confused accent.  He has his moments, but they are few and far in between, and more often than not he is a mere presence.  Mehra is to be faulted here for stripping his lead of the considerable charm the man possesses, and making him a mere onlooker and a bystander in the city.  When he does spring into action, it is in a King Kong suit (do not ask why or even HOW) with a motherboard and blinking LEDs, and by then it is too little too late.  This is followed by a heavenly jalebi eating episode with his grandfather (played by Amitabh), but by then it is verging on purgatory for this viewer.

Delhi 6 could have been a worthy successor of RDB, and even a better film (because I am not overly fond of the politics of RDB), but it ends up as a too-sincere and ultimately un-engaging exercise.   RDB entertained and did it very well until the final moments, but D 6 is too scattered, cloyingly sincere, and quite hokey in parts.  It is a smorgasbord of issues and characters that in the end never come together to make a satisfying feast.  2.5/5

http://pakhipakhi.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/monkey-business-in-the-old-city-delhi-6-review/

20 Comments

  1. Som
    Som
    February 23, 2009 at 1:18 AM

    Thanks for your thoughts Neelu!

  2. rudresh
    rudresh
    February 23, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    Thanks Neelu

  3. utkal
    utkal
    February 23, 2009 at 1:27 AM

    A very fair review. The concept was great. would have yielded a masterpiece , if done right. A combination of sort, of RDNB and Swades. But right now, thanks to bad execution, it is quite a let down.

  4. cticize
    cticize
    February 23, 2009 at 1:34 AM

    Nice take on the movie :).

  5. Som
    Som
    February 23, 2009 at 1:53 AM

    Two things which Mehra had expertly executed in RDB, has terribly messed up in Delhi 6.

    1-The placement of songs.We had a RDB where each and every song was beautifully integrated to the narrative,where as in Delhi 6 we see songs loosely weaved into the screenplay.

    2- Interweaving Ramleela in the screenplay comes up as an impudent imitation of a concept which Mehra had masterly
    executed in RDB.

  6. Aarkayne
    Aarkayne
    February 23, 2009 at 3:57 AM

    Nice review. when a movie has to be watched a second time to simply understand all the devices employed, it has certainly engaged in a heavy and laborious narrative style. Sometimes it is like (pardon the poor analogy) reading a book that expects you to have some background before getting to the story on hand. That is where audiences are lost. In the theater I saw it, some people attempted to applaud at the end, while the couple of rows in front of me were clearly frustrated.

    Disappointing fare to say the least, however I did feel AB Jr. was competent in whatever material he was handed over by his director.

    The difference between D-6 and RDB is imho a chap called AK. His overall script sense and ability to bring quality to projects(notwithstanding MELA or MANGAL PANDEY or RAJA HINDUSTANI or FANAA or GHAJINI even) is unmistakable. More often than not, he is able to marry a good story with BO success.

  7. Aarohi
    Aarohi
    February 23, 2009 at 4:07 AM

    Thanks for the review, Neelu.

  8. Tango
    Tango
    February 23, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    great and balanced review Neelu.

    Extremely well written and phrased.

  9. Arun
    Arun
    February 23, 2009 at 9:34 AM

    Thanks Neelu!

  10. manoj16_391
    manoj16_391
    February 24, 2009 at 1:31 AM

    Neelu,
    Excellent review!
    However, you have not talked much about the climax,I have heard that it is ridiculous and ends up ruining the movie.

  11. 3 Belds
    3 Belds
    April 14, 2009 at 12:05 PM

    finally saw this movie on DVD. had heard so much about Kala bandar and the fact that the movie is bad and so on. Bottom line – one has to watch this movie for Sonam. She is totally and absolutely WOW! She is one hell of a beauty i must say and i think the abhishek sonam chemistry is crackling.

    movie has lot of issues even while watching it on DVD. first half is just a hotch potch of incidents. I think the characters are way too many and in a sense trying to fit them all in makes it a very broken narrative. I think the songs make u yearn for more but i think it fits well into the narrative (except that awful song where new york and delhi are superimposed)
    the ending is pathetic. IMO – this movie would have been a great hit if the central theme had been the romance between abhishek and sonam instead of the kaala bandar

  12. rks
    rks
    April 14, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    “except that awful song where new york and delhi are superimposed”
    That was the best song for me..especially on big screen.

  13. NyKavi
    NyKavi
    April 14, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    I second you on that RKS. Experiencing the visuals of Dil Gira Dafatan was the only satisfaction that I got from seeing this movie on the big screen. Of all the movies which have flopped this year, D6 was the most dissapointing. The awesome music keeps the glass half full till the very end, and its the half empty part which makes me wonder what it cudve been had he just tightened the script.

    This year seems to be the regular 3-4 yr hiccup that bwood experiences after a massive high. Just like the market always drops back to Fibonacci support, it looks like bwood may drop to those levels as well, though I have no quantification of where “Fibonacci” exists in the context of the Bwood BO.

  14. Kunal
    Kunal
    April 14, 2009 at 7:25 PM

    I guess Nykavi is talking about the Fibonacci sequence, also known as Rabbit sequence, or golden series, its a series of 0s and 1s I guess. I do not know the sequence, but its like bits, 0110011010…..

    I guess what Nykavi wants to say is that after every few hits, read 1s in the series, you are bound to encounter flops, read 0s.

    Or may be I am rambling about totally different thing altogether, which won’t actually be a surprise to me :D

  15. rks
    rks
    April 14, 2009 at 7:38 PM

    The Basics On Fibonacci Ratios

    “For example, if the Nasdaq rallies 100 points and then corrects, it will often correct 61.8%. Right at, or close to the 61.8% retracement (you have heard us use this term many, many times) the Nasdaq is likely to reverse and start advancing again. Of course it is not this simple. Fibonacci support and resistance levels can fail. There are other Fibonacci levels which may turn the markets (78.6%, 127.2%, 161.8%, etc.). But the fact that it does happen is what is called a trader’s “edge.”

    A trader has an edge when he knows the probabilities of a particular action are greater than normal. Trading strategies are built around this information, or multiple similar probabilities.”

    Applying Fibonacci to the Market

  16. Kunal
    Kunal
    April 14, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    I am pretty sure that there is a golden series of Fibanacci as well, though I guess RKS is closer to the point

    You are talking about Fibonacci series, but I guess that dude worked on more than one series :D

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