Saturday, February 21, 2009

Delhi-6

My ability to write anything fair or intelligent about this movie is seriously impaired by my apparent inability to read an email announcing that the movie was starting at 3:00, not 3:30. So I missed the beginning of the film - nahiiiiiin! I knew something was fishy when I pulled up to the theater and not a soul was outside or in the lobby. I'm not sure how much of the set-up of the story I missed and how that impacted my understanding of the rest of it. For example, I have no idea what the problem was between the two families who shared the brick wall. Anyway.

As with Rang De Basanti, many of the messages of Delhi-6 were moving, but the symbolism and delivery were a bit much for me. The police officer was so slimy, the village idiot and garbage cleaner were treated so badly, that it was hard to get on board with the "people of Delhi are so big-hearted" idea, as much as I may want to believe such a thing, or to take them as anything other agents of broad, stock ideas. Overall, the whole thing was just too much like being hit on the head with a brick - and no, I can't explain why sometimes I don't mind being hit on the head with a brick (especially by Desai) and sometimes it annoys me and leaves me wishing for something a little more complex or thoughtful.

There was much I loved in Delhi-6, though. Cities as characters provide rich context and meaning in every lane or building or view. The sort of jumbly plot and big cast, with things just happening here and there and not always cohering very well, running into each other, crowding around, echoed my small-town self's feeling of what it's like to navigate a big city. And it works well to meet that character through an outsider's arrival and process of orientation. I appreciated Roshan's genial confusion and awestruck-wonder-out-of-nowhere as he explored and tried to understand how life happens in that remarkable city; I had some of those same expressions on my face when I went to Delhi and first saw kites swirling over rooftops or was instructed by a brave friend that the only way to cross the street was to say a prayer and just boldly step off the curb. (This last experience was quickly followed by sheer panic when she grabbed my hand and pulled us into the path of at least three autos). I also really liked that some of the characters were allowed to disagree, criticize, and be confused by each other and were given room to change their minds and reconnect. They learned from their Black Monkeys. That's a nice life lesson.

I'd really like to see this again, from the beginning, not only so I can be sure I've given the movie a fair shake but also so I can try to take in more of the story. I got distracted by being amazed at the overall look and trying to soak up all of the beautiful details of sets and streets and scenery - and yes, alright, by an ever-growing soft spot for dear Roshan, whom Abhishek filled with wonder and thinking and responsiveness. Maybe I was just snowed by the visual spectacle and music and Abhishek, but I get the feeling something vaguely noble was being attempted, and I liked enough of the raw materials that I'm willing to try again with the finished product.

For discussion:

  • It's kind of ironic that Abhishek's character here is so much more heroic than poor Drona ever managed to be, eh?
  • If one fused Roshan with Bunty aur Babli's Rakesh and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom's Rakesh from the teleporting/growing old love song, would one have the perfect fake-pretend filmi man? (Beth Loves Bollywood answer: yes, and I am working on that technology right this minute.)
  • Does the Black Monkey owe a cinematic conceptual debt to KANK's Black Beast (in addition to the Monkey Man of Delhi)?
  • What does the Taj Mahal usually represent in films? Does it tend to signal the same thing as it did here and The Namesake and Jhoom Barbar Jhoom - that is, a character recognizing or having an epiphany about love and/or beauty?
  • Did anyone else's grip on filmi reality lapse momentarily when Bittu was clearly lip-synching her Indian Idol audition? Shouldn't characters who are singers be even more convincing at selling playback as their own?
  • Should Suresh have followed Coco Chanel's advice about his too-cool-for-school wardrobe and removed one item before he left the house? (BLB position: yes, preferably the belt buckle.)
  • Should Amitabh Bachchan embrace letting his hair match his beard?
  • Will 2009 go down in filmi history as the Year of Heart-Tugging Use of Mirror Symbolism?
  • Will screenwriters keep creating female characters who do little but shriek and giggle?
  • Should Sonam Kapoor keep getting work? (BLB answer: quite possibly not, especially if the answer to the previous question is yes.)
  • How many times can I hit repeat on"Genda Phool" before I get sick of it? (At least eight, and that's just today.) Related: should whoever choreographed "Genda Phool" do all of Abhishek's songs henceforward? (BLB answer: clearly!)
  • How fantastic is it to see Atul Kulkarni? (BLB answer: very!)
  • What would an anthropologist make of the fact that the only time I've ever experienced the much-ballyhooed report of Bollywood audiences dancing in the aisles of the cinema hall was in Leroy, Illinois, population approximately 3,300? There were a few young men in the house who really liked "Masakali." It was fabulous.
  • Should Abhishek and Rishi be cast together again? (BLB answer: yes! The world needs more Bachchan + Kapoor! Plus a heartfelt vah vah to the intergenerational twist on the jodi!)

9 comments:

rossywar said...

"They learned from their Black Monkeys." I don't understand this bit!

But I think I shall honour Delhi 6 with a cinema viewing. :)

houseinrlyeh said...

It's kind of ironic that Abhishek's character here is so much more heroic than poor Drona ever managed to be, eh?
Could it have something to do with the fact that he actually has to work at being good, instead of being born a hero? (See also, totally un-Bollywood, but I don't care, why people mostly prefer Han Solo to Luke Skywalker)

sudipto said...

Mostly agree with ur views...quite liked the movie...but dunno wat happens to Mr. Mehra everytime his movies reach the climax - he screwed it up both in Rang de basanti and here (More so here).One small correction - Abhishek's character in B&B was not named Roy, it was in bluffmaster

Tiffany Yelitza said...

I hope Delhi-6 comes to Trinidad soon. Sadly I doubt, and I will have to wait for the DVD. But! I love the soundtrack so much, it is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever listened to.

Pitu said...

Awesome review! I haven't seen it yet but need to!

Beth said...

rossywar - You will :) Do see it! I will be eager to know what you think, especially if you manage to arrive on time. I forget your feelings on Abhishek; my Abhipyaar may have blinded me a bit here.

house - Yes, that's totally it. Which spells some distress for the hero myth.

sudipto - Ha! Agreed. And thank you for the B&B note - duly corrected. Not sure how I messed that up - it's one of my favorite movies!

Tiffany - I hope so too! Usually I can't get to new things in the theater, and I'll go see ANYTHING that comes to my area, whether or not it looks good.

This soundtrack is amazing, isn't it!

Pitu - Yes pls do!!! And then we must discuss Abhi - I forget your feelings for him as well, but I found both the actor and the character (even more than the actor, amazingly!) delectable here.

bollyviewer said...

Watched this yesterday and felt all nostalgic about Delhi. I did not live in Chandni Chowk but some of those older neighbourhoods in New Delhi (mohallas) kind of felt like that.

After watching Rang De Basanti and this, I'd say Rakesh Omprakash Mehra is very skillful at creating the right atmosphere (RDB reminded me of my university days in Delhi) and characters that fit the story, but isnt much of a story-writer! This one just lurches from one idea to the next with no focus anywhere. The Abhishek-Sonam story could have been developed a bit more - it was really interesting - and some of the other stories chopped off. As PPCC said, it was too wide a canvas.

Still, I am always glad to see Delhi in films. :-) I just wish the film had given us more reason to believe its statement that Delhi people are "good at heart"!

Nida said...

Tee hee...can you make more than one of the Rakesh-Roshan-Rakesh combo?;) I'd like to have my own!

I feel like I still want to give Sonam one more chance...for some odd reason, though I wasn't overly impressed with her in Saawariya, either (and have yet to see this one)

soph said...

I loved this film! Ok, there were a few bits that were a bit overly cheesy morals and what not, but even so, for me it was one of the best films I've seen in a while. I want to go see it again too. Oh and yes the soundtrack is so good too.