Monkey business in the old city! Delhi 6 review

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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 Roshan (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 Roshan, 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 Roshan (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 Roshan? Does Roshan love Bittu?), and really only leaves a teeming city as the leading star in the story.

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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

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9 Responses

  1. A very fair review. The film was great at the concept level. and had he managed to pull it off, it would have been a masterpiece. But the execution is woefully short. If it would have been done right It would have given us the correct social concern and charm of Swades with the energy and contemporary
    styling of Rang De Basanti. as it stands, both the earlier films, with their few faults, delivered so much more and were very lovable and well-loved films. This one made me cringe, good intentions and lofty ambitions notwithstanding.

  2. I probably liked it more. It has flaws with simplistic ending, but the bar it sets itself is very high.

    1. I would have personally trimmed few songs in first part which were hampering the narrative and replaced with small subplots.
    2. Black Monkey was overplayed in the movie, but the movie was about that. I think they could have trimmed little bit of Ramayan song part instead I would have liked voice over/narrator for Ramayan which were similar to RDB in juxtaposing the context.

  3. thanx for the review . i expect u to completely hate the film but am surprised u thought it was decent . 😀

  4. I agree the movie had the potential of being better than RDB, but it squanders its opportunity. For all his undeniable talent, I do not think that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has the ability to see the whole forest because he is so focused on the leaves. The details, independent of the whole movie, are brilliant even in DK6, unfortunately they do not come together in a satisfying or even a coherent manner. In this regard, Amir “Obama” Khan is missed, who is the single actor/filmmaker in Bollywood who could have stitched up this mess and made it into a “complete” movie capable of grabbing the audience by their collar. Simplifying a complex narrative into a palatable but interesting spoonful is Amir Obama’s forte. I think a ROM/Amir combo would have better organized the Raamleela/Kala Bander within the narrative, they would have made the movie into a qualified contender.

    In its present format, the pitch of DK6 is aimed at the NRIs. I do not think those that live within the system can critique or even evaluate it objectively; personal experience is bound to interfere. Alas this opportunity is also wasted thanks to DK6’s zero hero, Lil C (son of Big B). Note how Lil C is incapable of breaking loose of the ensemble around him in the manner that Amir Obama did in a similar situation in RDB. Very few movies can recover from its lead hero’s inability to rise up and shine. In DK6, from Om Puri to Pawan Malhotra to Vijay Raaz to Sonam Kapoor, everyone and everybody outperforms Lil C. Throughout his career, Lil C has shown no ability to go toe to toe with any decent actor. Almost anyone can pull the rug from under his feet. DK6 suffers on account of Lil C poor acting talent. An ensemble movie can ill afford a weak link like Lil C. Nonetheless what kills DK6 is Lil C bad accent; perhaps he grew up in Queens, NY in a Desi Ghetto along with the transient computer jocks.

    I never believed that I would live to say that I liked Swades. I liked SRK in that movie. I liked quite a few things about Swades, but AG and his preachy tone turned me off. It could have been a super hit, but for the peachiness and its stalker heroine. Fortunately it earned enough to qualify for an above average status at the BO. BUT, after watching DK6, I think I appreciate Swades a lot more. DK6 makes Swades seem like an all time classic.

  5. Nice review once again…

    I am fascinated by the headers you put for your reviews..But this time you have disappointed me…expected much more innovative title 😦

  6. Pakhi it is Roshan (notRohan).

  7. I happened to check NG and SB today and someone was telling you that I am some Karbie who I think has been annoying you. I swear upon anything I am NOT Karbie.

    Also, I tried to find Paul Theraux’s book in Borders book store but could not find it. I will hunt in down sooner or later.

    Anyway, take care.

    By the way, thanks for your review. D6 definitely had its flaws but I still liked it for the message and some very nice Delhi shots. I think Abhi was fine in the movie but I loved Sonam as she was so cute and bubbly.

  8. Thanks Bond ji! Koi shaq that I know you are not that person? I did like D 6 for many small things that were charming, but in the end it is a missed opportunity for both Abhi and ROM.

  9. I watched D6 yesterday and found it little entertaining in parts only.Overall it was boring.Anyway it is an honest review and hope you will continue it in future also.

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