“.. Zarre-Zarre me uska noor hai, jhankh khud me, wo na tujhse door hai….” and so begins in Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s semi – autobiographical tribute to the life in the walled city, Delhi-6. Coincidentally the same couplet remains the crux of the film around which he weaves this social commentary.
Seemingly continuing from where he left in Rang De Basanti, Mehra gives us a kaleidoscopic view of life as it exists, in a wonderful diverse and yet beautifully amalgamated form in the narrow by-lanes Of Chandini Chowk through the eyes of his protagonist Roshan (portrayed commendably by Abhishek Bachchan) who has come here with his grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) to fulfil her last wish. It is through Roshan, born and brought up in America and excited to be visiting his parents’ childhood place. It is in this set up that Mehra tells us the story of this locality and its trysts with religion, faith, love and hatred and how life is woven so intricately around these very threads that it becomes an inseparable part of the daily norm all but consciously. But not so much for Roshan for whom every day is a new way of life and perhaps a soul searching eye opener.
Mehra smartly and in a carefully restrained manner touches upon the myths, superstitions, trials, tribulations and pathos of the average middle-class family and how it sub consciously imbibes the myth in its actions, words and deeds. Coupled with this is the analogy of the same drawn with the Ramayana portrayed through the staging of the Ramlila, scripted and rendered in equal brilliance by the seasoned Raghubir Yadav. The masterstroke however remains his usage of “The Monkey Man” episode that rocked Delhi a few years back to portray that the “Kaala Bandar” is just a phenomenon, a mask and a veil beneath which all of us hide our weaknesses, fears, prejudices and hatred.
Mehra is able to extract excellent performances from all his actors. Sonam Kapoor looks breathtakingly beautiful. All his characters are well defined and completely believable, without ever being over the top and over – assertive. Special mention has to be made of Vijay Raaz as Inspector Ranvijay and Divya Dutta as the untouchable sweeper, Jalebi both of whom deliver stellar performances.
The problems lie however on the technical front. Even with such a good story to tell, the narrative style leaves a lot to be desired. The screenplay seems a bit distorted and has loose ends. It is evident that Mehra and his co-writers were constantly finding it difficult to put their wonderful but entire palette of colours on the canvas within the cinematic constraint of time. However, this blip is more than made up for by Binod Pradhans’ breathtaking cinematography. Minimal experimentation with angles helps in maintaining the raw and virgin appeal of the walled city. (The damp squib being that the second half of the movie was shot in Sambhar, Rajasthan).Certain scenes shot in candlelight, and the light of the diyas during the Aarti bring a rare aesthetic sense of beauty on to the celluloid.
A.R. Rehman seems to be on a roll after his Oscar winning score in “Slumdog Millionaire”, delivering perhaps one of his finest albums containing a myriad of songs all hummable and put to words brilliantly by Prasoon Joshi who seems to be at his poetic best here.
Delhi 6 comes across as a intelligent social commentary. Through the carefully restrained references to the Babri Masjid, “The Babas” and the “The Sadhus”, Rakeysh Mehra smartly tackles the societal and inner conflicts he himself is comfortable with, leaving the complex questions for his audience to answer, leaving them with food for thought.
And though the whole “Kaala Bandar” is overdone in the end and the film ends in the most clichéd manner possible, the film more than manages to convey the message of love, hope, self-discovery and finding your inner god in a subtle but sure manner and strikes a chord with its audience because it essentially remains a film which has its heart in the right place.