April Issue 2009
Failure to Launch
After watching Delhi-6, one wants to ask director-producer Rakesh Omprakash Mehra: What happened? After raising the bar with Rang deBasanti, he has caused all expectations for another good movie to plunge and hit rock bottom.
The movie tries to do too much and attempts to tackle too many issues. The movie starts with Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), escorting his sick grandmother (Waheeda Rahman) back from the US to her hometown, Delhi 6 (Chandni Chowk).
Delhi 6 is projected as the epitome of India, a community which houses Hindus and Muslims. It is the window through which Roshan and the audience are able to glimpse the larger India. Packed into this larger scheme of things are a people driven by superstition, power relations between the common man and the political or financial bigwigs, caste and religious prejudices, youth who dream of making it big in Mumbai, patriarchal oppression of women within the family structure and a family feud, without the exception of the necessary love plot. The list sounds impressive, but working with so many themes requires expert projection to weave them all into a coherent whole, and that is where the movie fails.
The kala bandar episodes at first seem childish. Whenever something untoward happens, people blame the kalabandar. Through these episodes the filmmakers imply how such superstitious beliefs among the people are taken advantage of by agents of mischief, using them as a convenient cover to escape the consequences of their own actions. When the Hindu-Muslim riots erupt in Delhi 6, eventually, the blame is attributed to the kala bandar. Roshan, seeing through the hypocrisies inherent in a community which earlier boasted of unity and harmony, resolves to end the conflict by donning the costume of the kala bandar.
Why he cares enough to stake his life to teach the people that it is the kala bandar within us which causes conflict, his character’s development does not reveal. Sonam Kapoor’s character is lost in the movie, shown as a girl who dreams of Mumbai and aspires to win Indian Idol. Why and what is her motivation is not explored. And how the Bittu-Roshan love story develops is not clear either. The only developed characters are the minor ones — that of Atul Kulkarni and Divya Dutta, who play the keeper of a mandir and a sweeper, respectively. They are the only two realistic and identifiable characters and only theirs is a story which is convincing in its culmination.
Delhi-6 only tells us what we already know. The treatment of all the issues is nothing different from what we have seen in multiple other movies and the viewer comes away with nothing after the movie, as no character leaves a lasting impact. The movie neither relaxes, nor intellectually stimulates, nor has an emotional appeal. It is a world we are all too familiar with and have moved on from, in terms of thinking of what next or how to better it.
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.