I know there are a lot of negative reviews on Delhi 6 already, so I’ll try not to just add on those. Most of what those reviews say are fairly true. At the same time, my taste in movies tends to be very different from the mainstream and I look for different things, so I don’t really trust these reviews. Let me tell you instead what worked and didn’t work for me in Delhi 6.
*I loved the character development. That has received much criticism…the first half does seem extremely draggy because of how long it takes to develop each character. I also don’t like the pace at which this was done, but I do like the characters and the fact that Mehra made the effort to give us a peek into each of their lives. And the city comes to life with that. I’ve lived in Delhi, but never been to these alleys and walled parts of the city, so it was like a whole new world to me. It was especially interesting to me the way they developed the connections between the religious groups prior to the insanity.
*I hated the way Mehra uses Rahman’s music. I mean, seriously, WTH. You have an amazing soundtrack but Mehra messes it up big time. The background score stops randomly. The songs come at the strangest time and stop suddenly. They come at inappropriate times (except maybe the Ramleela and Arziyan). The songs could have really added to the story and if used well could have made a huge impact. But , just like Rang De Basanti, I felt like the songs were grossly misused. And he just puts pieces of music wherever he feels. A scene that should be serious suddenly gets a funny tune to it (and I get it, he wanted the music to seem sarcastic, but why don’t you let the audience decide if its ironic/stupid or not? We don’t need music to tell us ‘hey, the proceedings in this scene are kind of ridiculous in a subtle way, so make sure you get it’), and a good scene with the right music flowing through it will suddenly change its mind. He could have also made much better use of the natural sounds of Delhi.
*The cinematography I can find no fault with, really. It was gorgeous. It really captured Old Delhi. It captured its alleys and the close houses and just the hustle and the bustle of daily life. Loved it.
*Now to the story. I actually think the script was great. It was innovative and really creative. I felt the same with RDB…I didn’t like RDB because of its eventual message (freedom fighters against the British and youth protesting against their own government: NOT THE SAME THING. The solution shown to fight the power: DRAMATIC AND USELESS!). But the story was very neat because of the way it intertwined real events and real people with fiction and added twists and turns to the whole mix to fit Bollywood.
That said, I think Mehra made some mistakes. First, he went really, really slow in the first half. Secondly, he could have really made use of some plot twists in an excellent way, but he never did. For example, the fact that Roshan is a product of two religions…I would have liked to see how that was able to happen with his religious grandma and how that impacted him, but let alone that this wasn’t even used well till much later in the movie (and then, too, in a bad way). Or the untouchable storyline…its like Mehra introduced it, dangled it, and then took it back in a rush. Thirdly, he gets so abstract that its a real impediment to the pace of the stroy. I mean, I know this sequence wasn’t important, but the Dil Gira Dafatan scene is really a great example of how Mehra took his abstractness too far and unnecessarily, and it just harmed the movie.
*Characters. I’ve already said the small characters were really unique in themselves and I appreciated that. But the main actors: um…big mistake? Abhishek Bachchan is not a bad actor, I respect him and I’ve really appreciated certain roles he’s been in. But dude, he did not fit the bill. He was too cool, too suave, too relaxed to fit in. I don’t have an issue with his attempts to pull of being American (which he was fine with, with his past, he may as well be!), but just the fact that he seemed terribly miscast as Roshan, from a to z. RDB was a success because each of the actors had an intensity…even Aamir despite his established screen presence managed to have a rawness/freshness to him. Abhishek was very Abhishek. He seemed to work up his intensity as Roshan to a point…and then suddenly, he caught himself, as if a voice inside him said, okay dude, that’s enough, lets back off. The ‘parvachan’ part is a great example: it just didn’t work because Abhishek couldn’t make it work. On the other hand, a similar kind of didactic message by Atul Kulkarni in the end: WOW. That was immensely powerful. Abhishek couldn’t convey the pain, confusion, anxiety, anger that his character should be feeling at any point. A great contrast is the very powerful scene with Deepak Dobriyal (Mandu) in the second half, where Deepak does such an amazing job in conveying Mandu’s emotions and angst…and Abhishek fails. Part of that blame goes to the the script and the direction. Mehra only let Roshan’s character go so far, and then reigned him back in. That wasn’t fair. You get a sense that this is a guy who grew up abroad but is trying to balance his traditional values with his upbringing, and he has this strong sense of justice and what’s sensible and what’s not. But then, right when that was put to the test, he backed off. Right when he was about to say “this achoot business is nonsense,” he just huffed and walked away. Right when he was should have said “let’s stop this religious nonsense” he played billiards. Even when he eventually does find his balls, it just seems off. I feel like the script writer’s Roshan and the Roshan we saw were completely different…
Sonam Kapoor didn’t really get much meat except looking pretty and spunky, which she did fine. I don’t really have much to say for her, which also means that she didn’t really leave an impact. Divya Dutta left a stronger impact, but then the woman is naturally a finer actress anyway. I wish she was cast more…
*Another problem with the direction is the choppiness. I felt the same way with RDB. This is like several times worse. Scenes are separate entities glued together with Fevicol. They jump and only rarely flow into each other. Thus, some scenes are awesome and you’re totally into it, and then you get this crappy, poorly acted/directed scene and its all huh again. I thought the Ramleela interspersion was a great idea: POORLY used. I mean, he could have done so much with that, and it was really brilliant, but I almost feel like he felt exhausted after just coming up with the idea and just let it be fit in willy nilly.
*The dialogue’s okay, and some does stay with me so I guess those must be good The main scenes were lacking in strong dialogue, and I found myself thinking back to some great films that deal with a similar issue with such amazing acting/lines (Nana Patekar: yeh dekh uska khoon, yeh dekh mera khoon, rang ek hai ke nahin? bol?)
*The ending: I won’t give a spoiler, but I’ll just say, it didn’t bother me that much. Its been generally disliked, but since the story was already so zany I guess at that point I just wanted them to wrap it up, and I didn’t care how. It was pretty Bollywood-ish though, after all the abstractness Mehra tried to throw around. And um, not okay how you just tried to squeeze Big B in. That bit was GRATING. Slash that out and the movie redeems itself 10%. Part of that is my dislike of Amitabh speaking.
*I didn’t know much about the Monkey Man when it happened, and I’d read up on it when trying to decipher Hey Kala Bandar (side note: who else thinks its hilarious that Abhishek actually resembles this creature? I don’t mean it in a bad way, but you have to admit it! Was that purposeful? ) I thought the use of this recent, very famous news item was really neat. I liked how Mehra took this real life item, and then took other issues that are very real and true in present day India, and fit everything in. Really, that was impressive, and hats off to Prasoon and Mehra. To bring in issues of religion, caste, superstition, and middle class structure/beliefs all in one story…wow, what an undertaking, and it was too difficult to be done well. Everything was brought up, and it made me think, and then it wasn’t followed through well enough, leaving me wanting more. It was unsatisfactory.
And two more points. Firstly, I appreciated that the movie made a very real point about India that while things have changed for the better in many areas, in other areas they’ve really remained stuck in a time capsule. And, at fault to a large degree are the people, who are holding on to idiotic superstitions, who are stupid to swallow any thing the media and the politicians tell them, and who are generally apathetic but rush blindly to pick up their bats and axes as soon as there’s a good ol’ riot in the makin! At the same time, it also captured the qualities that make India beautiful…the sense of family in the community, the culture, the nuances of daily life, the sights, the smells, the relationships, all of which Indians abroad always miss and ache for. For me, the fact that Waheeda wanted to stay and die in her home land and in her house makes perfect sense. Theoretically, it should also make sense to me why Abhishek would fall in love with this place…except, I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy his argument (or lack thereof), and especially when he said “its the people who make it work” at some point in the movie (hasn’t someone said this before? somewhere?), I was extremely irritated. Um, the same people who are rioting and just [SPOILER] tore down a friendly neighborhood sweet shop that they had frequented for decades over a completely farcical/nonsensical issue [/SPOILER]? I could have bought this with better dialogue, acting, and argument, but as it stands it just made me all annoyed. Especially because I view this movie as someone living abroad who has similar experiences when I return home, and I feel the same anger/frustration and also time, the same nostalgia/happiness/the same pull. Fighting for sanity and justice should be a reason to stay back, not ‘because, like, generally, these people are pretty cool, and like, they make it work.’ And the romantic thread/reason, also sucks because it was SO NOT working.
Secondly, I appreciate that Mehra makes an effort to make me really think, and he pushes the envelope in trying to expose for all to see the farce that is being played out at various levels in the country. The political games and the cunning, shrewd and selfish politicians behind them, the naive, superstitious and downright idiotic public and the simple ways in which of them can be swayed, the sad truth that for all our growth, we still sell our daughters and purify our bodies if they touch an untouchable. He really does do that, and for that Mehra deserves his accolades. But maybe its because its too many things in one show, or that he hasn’t really figured out how to string everything together, or he hasn’t been able to get the actors to give their best, or perhaps he’s a little arrogant and thinks it’ll be easier to pull it off than it is…but it doesn’t stir up any emotions in me as the audience. I mean, with RDB, maybe it did do that with some people, but I felt more stirred up and passionate and had my eyes wide open after Ratnam’s Yuva. He doesn’t make me feel empowered, or involves me in the movie to a degree that makes me want to just start shaking things up and learning more and changing the world because of what I’ve seen/felt. Is that too much to ask from a movie? Maybe, but its an important art form, and good art should move you. Movies like Mr and Mrs Iyer, Bombay, Zakhm…have all moved me and have actually affected my perception of the world. Mehra brings up issues that should do that, but somehow his finished work doesn’t manage to actually do that. As an example, Zakhm also does the job of exposing politicians for feeding on public furor, on incensing the public for their own gain and revealing how we all fall for it…and in the movie Ashutosh Rana and Ajay Devgan and everyone else do an amazing job of carrying that through, and the story and the direction flows so well that you really buy it and feel wronged along with the characters. That’s what I wanted from Delhi 6.
Whoa what a long review. I must feel like writing after all that movie watchin’! Despite the negative elements, I still recommend it: its not a heavy movie, in case anyone fears that, and its definitely watchable if only for the storyline behind it all.