Delhi 6 Review

'Try to realise it's all about within you,
And only you can make you change'
The Beatles
The music of the movie has had me hoooked for a while now, be it the atmospheric 'Yeh Dilli hai meri jaan' or the traditional romantic song, 'Saiyyan cheed deve' and of course the completely joyous 'Masakalli'. I even wound up coming up with a chaat-ey salad dressing to celebrate the movie. I think Delhi 6 is one of Rahman's best scores, with an astounding range of music, from a qawwali to a traditional bhajan, a jazzy-bluesy title song that riffs mellowly on the streets of Delhi. And the picturising of Dil gira Dafatan is amongst the best visual renderings of a song I've ever seen, seamlessly moving between Dilli and New York...
The movie was...interesting. I have to start out by admiring the way Abhishek Bachchan inhabits the characters he plays in whichever movie, and Delhi 6 was no exception. He was Roshan Mehra to the core, and one could feel every nuance of bewilderment, culture shock and eventual belongingness that he went through. I could really relate to that, having faced a similar culture shock when we returned to India after 5 years abroad - much more of a shock than the foreign culture was to us, to be honest. The camerawork was brilliantly executed to help the viewer get inside the film, the jerky, fast movements imitating those of one walking around in Chandni Chowk, the extreme close-ups of people and places conveying the impact of in-your-face-ness that India often creates in newcomers. The atmosphere of Chandni Chowk and the jovial bonhomie and family-feeling of the characters was very natural and as a Dilli-wali it felt just right about this city.
The first half of the film meandered gently through Roshan's days of adjustment and exposure to the city, its people and way of life. The Ram Leela was a brilliant sutradhar throughout the movie, its many incidents serving to punch home the message without punching one in the face with it. The second half of the movie was where it got seriously down to the business of what it was all about, tying together many threads. One point that hit home very hard, in view of our own family construct, is how quickly the simplest thing was turned into a Hindu-Muslim conflict and how fast bonds and friendships forged over a lifetime turned into us versus them. That is something I am scared about on a daily basis for my children and to see it in such a believable context just heightened my fear.
There were a few weak points, for instance the pow-wow between Abhishek and Amitabh which was unnecessary, the conflicted ending ( spoiler alert) where one thought Roshan was going after his girl but he turned out to be trying to sort out the communcal tension in his neighbourhood. I thought the last sermonising voice-over was unnecessary since the movie had already made its point. But thankfully after all the tension, the movie did have a happy ending so one could go home happy for the moment.
The ensemble cast was amazing, so true to life...from Jalebi, the low-caste cleaning woman to the Punjabi wheeler-dealer beautifully played by Pawan Malhotra - friendly one moment, out to corner his monent of glory the next, insensitive to the core and willing to take advantage of anyone weaker. Rishi Kapoor - like vintage wine, with a smooth, complex finish. Sonam was just right as the girl with wings clipped who longs to fly but is held back by the bogie of 'family honour'.
It's a movie that makes you think, at least, if you have any semblance of intelligence. Not so much with the family in front of us who laughed their way through, which really makes me wonder. I mean, you can dislike the film but the message is scary and yet empowering all at the same time. How can you not get that? But, unlike RDB, it's not a film that I think I'll be watching again. Maybe I'm too scared by the 'best within us'.


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