Rakesh Omprakash Mehra had a vision and the problem is that it only remained in his mind and was not put down on paper. Delhi 6 for most part of the movie remains unclear about its motive. Is it about good vs bad? or about coming back to your roots? or hysteria and mob mentality? or a love story?, is not understandable for a long time. It was only after the interval that I realised that the story may have been about Dilli 6 from the perspective of an NRI who doesn’t understand the intricacies of caste and religion bias, blindly unaware of the culture that exists at the place and his journey in the Chandni Chow area of the national capital. There are half baked sub plots about estranged relationships between two brothers, the Kala Bandar phenomenon that had temporarily engulfed the capital in 2001 and an Indian idol aspirant with wedding bells ringing on her head among others.
What kills me, however is that the director was so stuck up on getting the flavour of Chandni Chowk right in this movie that he forgot that the characters don’t make a movie but the storyline does. Even though the movie has a short running time of 2 hrs and 20 min I believe the movie could have been easily made as a 30 min documentary – including the songs and would have turned out better that way. There are, according to me, only 10 engaging minutes in the movie towards the end which are again spoiled and turned into a complete joke by the succeeding scene between Abhishek and Amitabh Bachan (his grandfather) in heaven after which Abhishek comes back to life. How compelling!!!
I can’t describe the story because there is none. There is no script, only an idea of the script which shows all too clearly during the length of the movie. Abhishek Bachan plays Roshan, an American who brings his dying grandmother, played by Waheeda Rehman, home to Chandni Chowk in her last days. He’s welcomed by the huge extended family and neighbours and for the next 45 min you keep seeing him either ,running around, clicking photographs or standing on the terrace taking everything in. What is missing is the discomfort that an American would feel with such a change in surroundings. Roshan appears to be all accepting and happy during his time in India, the only thing pointing out his foreign descent being his ridiculous accent.
I guess what Rakesh Mehra was trying to do was draw a parallelism between Ramayana and instances from Roshan’s trip to India, while trying to showcase how fear (Kala Bandar) and disbelief can be used and exploited, making people kill and turn against the ones they love. What he ends up doing is showing some scenes from Ramleela which bore us to death whilst feeling no need to build the tension required which would lead to the climax.
Abhishek Bachan is incompetent as the NRI Roshan, failing to bring out the depth that the character demanded all the while trying too hard to make his accent do the job. It’s not even remotely enough. I am still not able to make up my mind about Sonam Kapoor because of the screen time and number of dialogues given to her. Her character Bittu, an Indian Idol aspirant is likable but there is no growth in her character. She is mostly shown either travelling in the metro or in Cyrus Sahukar’s company, getting her photographs clicked. Her relationship with him is never really explained and neither is her decision to run away to Mumbai with him, in spite of being sent a ticket to Mumbai after being selected. Her relationship with Roshan is never explored beyond a few glances and you never realise when is it that they fall in love. And could someone tell me why was Cyrus Sahukar taken for that role? Really? Why? The movie belongs to the character actors and them only. Om Puri, Pawan Mahlotra, Deepak Dobriyal, Divya Dutta (fantastic is the word for her), Sheeba Chaadha, Atul Kulkarni, Aditi Rao, Vijay Razz, Prem Chopra and Supriya Pathak are perfect as the neighbours and the community that form a part of Roshan’s world in Delhi and gave the movie its charm. As does Rishi Kapoor, who is perfect as the charming flamboyant nawab, who was once in love with Roshan’s mom. Waheeda Rehman is wasted to the core, her only dialogues being “yahan se meri arthi hi jayegi”. It’s a travesty to waste a talent like her and she still has as much screen presence as she did decades back.
A.R. Rehman’s score is thoroughly wasted and used at the most inappropriate times. A glaring example is the song “rehna tu” used as a backdrop for a scene between Abhishek Bachan and Rishi Kapoor. Same is the case with the background score which is so inappropriate, that in a particular scene I was confused whether a potential Hindu-Muslim riot situation was supposed to be a funny one in the movie because Hip hop music that was playing the backdrop did sure imply that. Binod Pradhan has done a good job with the cinematography, capturing Delhi as it is though it was all restricted to Chandni Chowk and purani dilli due to the script requirements. Prasoon Joshi, Kamlesh Pandey and Rakesh Mehra …What were they thinking? Sure, Prasoon Joshi made a lot of people cry with his Maa song in Taare Zameen Pe, but if he continues like this, a lot more people will be crying for a lot different reasons. I don’t understand the need of having three writers if they end up with no script at all. I thought Chandni Chowk to China had a more solid storyline than this specimen. If the director had to revisit his roots, couldn’t he just have taken a long vacation in Delhi and saved us moviegoers the pain that is Delhi 6.
My verdict: Save yourself the money and time by avoiding this one.