If you’re a fan of Abishek, if you miss random scenes of Delhi, if you love Rahman’s music, if you don’t care too much about plot and structure, if you’re interested in checking out Sonam, then it’s worth your sitting through Delhi-6.
if you’re going because Rang De Basanti heralded the arrival of a promising new director, fresh with ideas and style, then be prepared to enjoy the first half of the movie and despair through the second.
Delhi-6 definitely has style going for it in the first half. It seems to have now become standard operating procedure for most young Bollywood directors to produce a peppy and stylish beginning to their films, only to droop as the movie enters its second lap. The early songs, soft lighting on the rooftops, standard local jokes, a restrained Abhishek Bacchan, and a joyful beautiful Sonam give the film a lot of lustre. And expectation.
But by the second half, you can already see the movie begin to pant under the weight of its own expectation, and Rakeysh Omprakash Mishra turns from story telling to moral preaching. The plot begins to break down, logic and reason get laid off, and no amount of bailout saves the film from going under.
Besides the fact that Rakeysh has a Manmohan Desai tendency to explain everything at the end (“He is your mother’s son, therefore he is your brother. Let me also now provide you with the plot synopsis so far in case you fell asleep during the movie”), especially on the preachy bits, he can’t seem to end movies properly. Vidhu Vinod Chopra-itis (of Parineeta and 1942 A Love Story) is a contagious disease.
There’s a whole bunch of gaping plot holes, that become larger as the movie unfolds. But the most interesting (read: disturbing) part is that there’s a severe imbalance in the caricaturing of religion. The Hindu majority is caricatured all through the movie while the Muslim minority is treated with a lot more care and respect. Examples
– The chaotic Ram Leela
– The Sushma Swaraj politician
– “Ram” taking money on stage and “Shiva” doing the tandava for entertainment
– The cow giving birth scene
– The two brothers having a bhajan face-off
– The charlatan tantrik starting the “yahaan mandir tha” issue
– The father and astrologer taking money despite the horoscope mismatch
– The hindu majority being responsible for starting the communal problem.
In contrast, the namaaz scenes are depicted beautifully, with wonderful songs and an air of peace and calm. The mullah Haji Mian is a moderate man. The spiritual person in the movie is the pir with the mirror. Mamdu, a muslim who is unjustly victimized, prays to Hanuman and is the epitome of religious integration.
Some the caricatures are funny and obviously based on fact, but is Rakeysh trying to sublimate his own “silent guilt of the majority”, or is he too scared to paint Muslims with the same brush? If his goal is to make the Hindu majority rethink their responsibility for events like Godhra, he is certainly not going to engage them by consistently poking fun at Hindus. Similiarly, by painting the Muslim community as a victimized community does not do them any favours either.
Abhishek is woefully miscast in the movie. Sonam is a wonderful find. She lights up her scenes. Some of the supporting cast do a great job. And the music, especially the background interludes are wonderful. Much more can be said about the soundtrack, especially the pairing of Bade Ghulam Ali saab and Shreya Ghoshal, but it deserves its own posting.
The Kaala Bandhar, while not necessarily a new concept, was a brave and bold idea as a backdrop to the overall story. It is unfortunate that Kaala Bandhar ends up as a gimmick for overblown harangues.
And Kaala Bandhar’s mother board had more lights lit up and working than Delhi does in most summers.