Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra thinks out of the box and it's more than evident now. First AKS, then RANG DE BASANTI, now DELHI 6. A two-liner of the story may give you an impression that it's similar to UTV's earlier outing SWADES, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker: An American of Indian origin returns to his roots and decides to stay back in India. But DELHI 6 bites more than it can chew.
Set in old Delhi, the screenplay [Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Prasoon Joshi, Kamlesh Pandey] takes its own sweet time to come to the point. In fact, the entire first half is dedicated to the sundry characters in the bylanes of old Delhi, where several stories run parallel with the main plot... The two warring brothers [Om Puri, Pawan Malhotra] and the wall that divides the two; the daughter of the house [Sonam Kapoor] aspires to be an 'Indian Idol' contestant; a moneylender's [Prem Chopra] wife has an illicit relationship with one of his lecherous debtors [Cyrus Sahukar]; an 'untouchable' [Divya Dutta] makes more sense than the so-called thekedaars of samaj; a friend of the family [Rishi Kapoor] has still not forgotten his first love [Tanvi Azmi]. Oh yes, there's also a 'Kaala Bandar' who spreads havoc in the locality. Really, Rakeysh tries to pack in multiple stories in those 2.18 hours.
But, alas, the problem is that barring a few individualistic sequences, you don't carry the film home. The film is engaging in bits and spurts. Worse, it tends to get monotonous, preachy and boring and the end is so bizarre, you actually want to ask the writers, 'Hey guys, you okay?'
Let's cut a long story short: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra misses the bus this time.
DELHI 6 tells the story of a young American boy Roshan [Abhishek Bachchan] of Indian origin, who comes to India for the first time, to drop his ailing grandmother [Waheeda Rehman]. She wants to retire and spend the last leg of her life back home; dissolving into the soil she was born in.
In America, having led a very western lifestyle, Roshan is not familiar with the sites and smells, the food and culture, the religion and beliefs, this huge melting pot that India is. He believes that Dadi had left her family and loved ones back in America, only to realize that how wrong he was.
The warmth and affection of the neighbourhood embraces him with open arms. Amidst all this he meets the beautiful Bittu [Sonam Kapoor], who wants to break free from the typical Indian social structure, to whom Roshan is destined to lose his heart.
That Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is an accomplished storyteller is evident in several individualistic scenes. Note the scene when Vijay Raaz slaps Abhishek and Abhishek slaps him back. Also, portions in the second hour, when a Baba [Akhilendra Mishra] triggers off the Mandir-Masjid talk and divides the two communities, is very well structured. The sequences are disturbing and the writers and director succeed in exposing the fickle-minded people residing in the locality.
But the screenplay isn't foolproof. The romantic track is the weakest link in the enterprise. The love story falls flat. Also, the ending is so abstract that an average moviegoer would find it difficult to comprehend what the actual culmination is. The sequence in the end, when Amitabh and Abhishek have a conversation, looks weird. In fact, ridiculous. What was the need to have this sequence? It makes no sense. Even the Ram Leela sequences, interspersed at regular intervals, are forced in the screenplay.
Rakeysh's handling of the subject is exemplary at places. But the writing [faulty at times] as also the execution of the material isn't the type that would appeal to all sections of moviegoers. A.R. Rahman's music is outstanding; it's easily amongst his finest works. 'Masakali', 'Ye Dilli Hai Mere Yaar', 'Rehna Tu', 'Maula' and 'Genda Phool' are amazing tracks. Ditto for Prasoon Joshi's lyrics; they're gems. Binod Pradhan's cinematography is brilliant. Watch the Jama Masjid sequence [breath-taking] or the camera movements in the bylanes of old Delhi. Just one word to describe the output: Incredible!
Abhishek doesn't work. Also, his American accent looks fake. Sonam is likable. Waheeda Rahman enacts her part well. Rishi Kapoor is wasted. He deserved a better role. Amongst supporting actors, Om Puri [powerful], Pawan Malhotra [flawless], Vijay Raaz [tremendous], Deepak Dobriyal [genuine], Divya Dutta [admirable] and Cyrus Sahukar [likable] leave a mark.
Prem Chopra is alright. Atul Kulkarni looks like a buffoon. And what is Raghvir Yadav doing in this film? Supriya Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, K.K. Raina, Akhilendra Mishra and Dayashanker Pandey are passable. Amitabh Bachchan's presence in the penultimate minutes fails to evoke any reaction.
On the whole, DELHI 6 has a terribly boring beginning [first hour], an absorbing middle [second half] and a weak end [climax]. At the box-office, the business is bound to be divided. The film may record bountiful collections at multiplexes in its opening weekend. The popular music as also the fact that there's no major opposition will benefit the film in the initial days. But the business at single screens as also the mass belt will be a shocking contrast. However, the cracks will start appearing sooner than expected, even at plexes. Thumbs down!