Review: Delhi 6 – Monkey business

‘There is Mani Ratnam and then there are the rest’. A friend quoted my very words while ranking current directors from second position onwards. Raykesh Omprakash Mehra was one such name that came up, but with our minimum criteria of 3-4 films we decided to wait till Delhi 6 was out. I often argue with my buddies that the plot is the main ingredient in a movie much like baking a cake without flour. You may compromise on eggs or coloring, but without flour you don’t have anything. A few ridicule me by asking me to wake up and smell the air as story is not always important these days and even a set of conversations make a memorable movie. Well for me atleast that only ranks alongside a salad, though some salads are sublime. You may gorge on salads to argue with me, but nothing makes up for the main course. A more simpler metaphor from back home is making biryani without rice, you may go ahead but it’s only a salad then! This excessive food talk is only because I’m hungry after watching the movie and in spite of trying hard, food somehow finds it way into this post in the form of metaphors.

Raykesh Omprakash Mehra has
fetish for
social messages
Mehra has a fetish for social messages which is clearly evident from his past two outings and this time he tries to deliver one as well. ‘Aks‘ was about the victory of good over evil and how defeating the enemy within was upto will power and metaphored by an eclipse. ‘Rang de basanti‘ focused on the awakening of the youth and raising their voice in protest which was metaphored as the souls of Bhagat Singh and team. Delhi 6 however tries to deal with a lot of topics like untouchability, superstitious beliefs, communal harmony, middle class dreams, urban legends, lost love, sibling rivalry and finally the discovery of oneself. Looking at this exhaustive list may entice you into believing that it is going to be a curry of human emotions. The way it stands is that the makers have bitten of more than what they could chew. Amongst all the sub plots, the ones that stand out are that of the imaginary monkey-man creating havoc and Abhishek’s discovery and later falling in love with his roots. Lets step away and go to our art class in school, what happens when you mix red and yellow? You get a bright orange but what if you mix all the colours in your paint box? Delhi 6, falls for the same thing where the makers try to talk of a lot of things while managing to lose focus of the story they set out to narrate.

The movie has numerous flashes of brilliancenumerous flashes of brilliance though like how they use the Ram-leela as a story telling vehicle. It begins with a pointer of how even Ramji has to wait and dance to the whims of our politicians before embarking to find Sita. They use the Shabari tale to illustrate how untouchability is still an issue and since Ramji is god ‘unko sab allowed hain‘. Lalaji’s wife rolls in bed with her illicit lover as the hapless remote switches channels each time their feet go over it, with suggestive lines playing on TV as the channels keep changing. The highlight being when they climaxing coincides with the Chandrayan launch and hence phallic references to the rocket! There is also the smart reference of Hanuman burning Lanka and connecting that to the urban legend of the monkey-man creating havoc in Delhi. There are many such flashes of brilliance that when put together don’t fit like the pieces of a jigsaw but seem more like a collage. Such flashes make for intelligent viewing but one has to remember how the rain is more loved and worshiped than its more powerful cousin,lighting. If flashes of directorial brilliance were good enough to make a good film then Ram Gopal Varma would be at the Kodak Theatre each year.

Abhishek plays the NRI accompanying his granny back to the desh and finds solace in the small pleasures of life. He doesn’t carry the film on his shoulders but is reduced to a mere character amongst others, probably on purpose. Sonam is a small town girl aspiring to be the next Indian Idol and a conservative middle class ladki serving chai to her obese suitor. She is symbolised by a dove whose wings are tied and Abhishek goads her to set the bird free. You know he is talking of the free spirit inside her, caged in her fathers wishes. The problem with Delhi 6 is that there are too many characters who all seem to get equal screen time heck even the dove gets a full song. A.R.Rahman would be the most pained to see only two songs of his mind blowing soundtrack being picturized and one of them was on a dove fluttering on a girls head. The other was handed over to an intern in a SFX lab as Chandni Chowk met New York. Cycle rickshaws, horses and a cow with its calf grace Times Square but you are lost in the only full song to spot the jarring inconsistencies. When the Abhishek is welcomed to India by the news of the kala-bandar you get the hint that the real focus isn’t going to be our leading man. The sub-plots are beautifully woven though as Mehra points questions at our beliefs, roads are blocked when a cow gives birth, people are terrorized by a non-existent monkey-man with a circuit board on its chest and springs attached to its feet. God-men try to gain some mileage by justifying the attack on a shop with claims that a temple once stood where a mosque stands now. The ugly side of thngs are revealed when communal groups begin to clash against each other and yesterdays friends are todays foes. Mehra holds it all very tightly till this point with some brilliant writing, how we wish what followed was in the same vein.

Mehra has a knack of leaving a bad tasteknack of leaving a bad taste in the mouth at the very end. If Aks had the BigB miraculously fight his inner demon as the moon eclipsed the sun and Rang De basanti had the police gun down a bunch of guys holed up in a radio station. In Delhi 6, Abhishek decides to stay back because of the very people that make this nation so endearing to him who later almost pound him to death. The very man who accuses that people abroad were only living in a shadow of their past, puts to use those very same values to fight superstitions and religion. Pardon me for being too cynical but holding a mirror to someone’s face and telling them that a part of the almighty resides in all of us, is like pushing the ‘aham bramhasmi‘ concept a bit too far. You sense that the train is coming of the rails when the man who was ready to give up everything for the people he began to love, has to pay for their ignorance with his life. The part where he briefly travels to heaven and shares a jalebi with his grandfather in the ecstasy of lament may seem too far fetched. However one may seem to forgive Mehra for the closing sequences as an aberration and just look towards the other parts. If you can look past the wobbling camera that signifies an attacking monkey, you may see the terrifically talented ensemble who put up a good show. Despite having a central plot and lack of screen time for the lead pair, Delhi 6 is worth watching for its holds a mirror to you and forces you to get rid of the monkey in you and get on with life!

(Images courtesy: Delhi 6)

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30 Comments + Add Comment

  • nicely done.. will watch it.. even if just for masakkalli..

    me: Go ahead you won’t feel disappointed then!

  • brillantly written !! i luv ur comaprisons with flour & rice

    yes indeed the movie tried to throw light upon different faces but it still had a moral carried out in the end.

    Movie is indeed worth watching!!!!

    me: moral yes, but then the last 30mins were difficult to endure!

  • Abhishek Bachchan is in it. I dont need any other reason to watch it :D

    me: you will like it then

  • Ok, here goes. We are amazingly lucky to have Luck By Chance, Dev.D, Delhi 6 release in consecutive weeks and this is only February. What good films!!

    A series of conversations can make a very good watch, even if there is only a wafer thin/simple storyline. Before Sunrise comes to my mind. A more brilliant effort is probably Pulp Fiction which trademarked non-linear screenplay. (Tarantino is a big inspiration behind Mani Sir) A series of events seen through an eye of an individual can also make a good watch. Delhi 6 can come under either of these. I liked how every seemingly serious sequence ended with humor. I loved the dialogs. I didn’t like the in your face preachy last 45 minutes. The love story was spineless. The Dafatan song was probably picturized by someone even worse than an intern. It made Dasavatharam special effects look world class. But I liked the intention of the song. I liked how the other songs were used. Especially Arziyan and each part of lyrics complimenting the sequence.

    You liked Vaaranam Aayiram. That had no story. The simple “story” of random events happening to an individual from ages 15-40. You liked it because you connected and it touched you somewhere. The sequences were made interesting(which is required when it is a non-story). And this can be seen as events happening to an NRI over a few weeks of his stay. And the sequences were just more interesting.

    RGV is too overrated. At least from your part. There are people ahead of him in the queue to Kodak Theater(though it is doesn’t signify or justify their talents anyway).

    I should have probably blogged this.

    • You just like to disagree on RGV, it was only an example! If you read it once again you notice that despite my accusations of not having a story, I still use the words ‘Brilliant writing‘. Since you refuse to look beyond the first paragraph, I’ll paste the last three lines for your reading pleasure.

      However one may seem to forgive Mehra for the closing sequences as an aberration and just look towards the other parts. If you can look past the wobbling camera that signifies an attacking monkey, you may see the terrifically talented ensemble who put up a good show. Despite having a central plot and lack of screen time for the lead pair, Delhi 6 is worth watching for its holds a mirror to you and forces you to get rid of the monkey in you and get on with life!

      Since you have yourself agreed to the last 45 mins, the dafatan song, I fail to understand what you seem to be differing with.


      • The thing is I don’t like the cat on the wall stand you take. Like you, I saw the last part flaw, the dafatan crappy video but where I disagreed with you is saying non-story being a flaw. I did not see it as a flaw. So the movie is a notch above where it is for you.

        And yes, RGV comment was just to incite you :D

        • I’m taking a proper stance and stating the lack of the story which still made it watchable. It’s a nice movie but could have been great if not for the ending and deluge of sub plots. You may love to disagree with me here, but I don’t see anyone talking about this movie a few years from now. You just want to conform with public opinion, while I choose to hold my own. Not once have I called it a disaster, but I feel bad when you have set-pieces and not going for the checkmate but resigning to a draw.

          • And I’ve always felt you only like to be different from the crowd. You still did not justify how you oversaw flaws in Vaaranam Aayiram and liked it. I felt the same with this movie, because it was engaging with it’s characters as it went till almost the very end. And since we felt the same way about VA, I expected you to see it with that perspective. That is why this to me feels like a disappointment because of expectations. To each his own, in the end.

            • Vaaranam Aayiram struck a chord, but didn’t leave you in your seat in disbelief. I acknowledge that it wasn’t great either but they didn’t serve mango thokku with gulab jamun! That’s my only gripe, I don’t hold the lack of story as a handicap, just pointed it out. There were no expectations as such but just that the handling seemed like a train went off the rails just before reaching the station.

              Like you say, to each his own…

  • There is a story. Of a man caught between worlds, of the monkey as a metaphor to which all ills are attributed. Not a very conventional one, there are also dozens of related sub-stories all woven together. Maybe it jars at places. Maybe it doesn’t.

    me: oh I loved the metaphors like I’ve already said in the post. But the preachy and shocking ending took me by surprise.

  • I was expecting to see a very, very different picturisation of ‘Rehna Tu’ and ‘Dil Gira Dafatan’. I was disappointed there. And yes, the black monkey was a very intelligent metaphor for all the vices that we possess. I loved these lines in the ‘kaala bandar’ song ‘Ghonghat ki gehrai mein
    Phan Phailaae kaun hai, Jhak Safed Libason mein, kaala sa sach maun hai’. How introspective!!

    me: Yup intelligent metaphor indeed!

  • Thanks for your insight!

    me: Tell me what you think after watching it!

  • :) will watch it and let you know!

    me: yes, do come back and comment!

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  • I am having a romantic dinner with the husband …and his friends tonight (:P) and then watching this movie. I’m sure I’ll remember a few lines you ve put here ;)

    Well done and congrats. Autograph. Courier. Mind it.

    • Not my idea of a romantic dessert but then what ever works for you! More like someone slapping you repeatedly with a moral science textbook from school.

      I hope you aren’t the ‘yek gaav mein yek kisssan raghu tata’ types…

      thnx a lot though, autograph all thoda over wonly….

  • Fantastic Film! Great way of handling sensitive topics.
    I have long wondered as to how do you explain the logic behind the act of brutal violence people indulge in inspite of being so loving and good at heart. Kaala Bandar seems to be the most apt explanation.
    Three Cheers………for such a fantastic movie.

    me: thnx and welcome to this space!

  • I liked dillii six for the songs, the picturization, and the acting…but i second you on almost everything you said in this blog. i just liked how ROM touched upon a lot of minor issue — divya dutta’s being my favorite…but yea, it could have been better…in any case i surely liked this more than billu barber that i saw the previous week :)

    as always, clap clap clap for a nice post :)

    me: thnx but don’t insult D6 by mentioning Billu in the same sentence. D6 isn’t that bad as this post may seem.

  • Good review… Lemme check this out, hopefully this week!

    me: lemme know if you liked it!

  • I am visiting ur blog site after a longtime and was struck by the new look. I also read the heat generated by this review of DL6. So I decided to see the movie today with my better half. I saw a strange similarity between DL6 and Jai ho(SD Milare). While DL6 captures the ethos and culture of Mughal Dilli, SD Milare does the same of Amchi Mumbai. While one highlights the religious bigotry of the Lalas and Mias; the other realistically depicts the sleaze and power of the Bhais. Both the movies are seen from the eyes of a phirangi, to phir kyai ke liye story chaieyahe? Does a Woody Allen or James Schlesinger movie have story line. But I felt proud of Mehrabhai for the technical finesse he has presented. Picturisation of the song Masakalli and the Id sequences was on par with Mani Sar’s standard. I asked my better half as to how she felt about the movie and she replied “not bad”.

    me: Thats more like my view as well, ‘not bad but could have been great’. Too many morals I guess.

  • Shoot me, but I wasn’t too impressed with the movie. Loved the songs. And parts of it. Not the whole thing, unfortunately. I did try to look it, but it was an effort :(

    me: Neither was I!

  • I liked the movie for the real cool desi-feel of it! Almost started missing home…
    Good concept, but Mehra could’ve done a much better job of it… too long, too many things stuffed in an otherwise interesting collage! The songs are ammaazzing. In retrospection, listening to them over and over while driving, I think their picturization was good too.. they didnt jump out of the movie, but were just there.. its up to us to reimagine them, I guess. But thumbs up for the spirit of the movie!

    me: It’s nice to see a new genre of multiplex movies roll out that don’t stick to the old formulae. The movie did no justice tot he songs though!

  • Oh, btw I forgot.. very apt header.. where didya get it.. did the Indian movie board hand it over to you! Hehe.. I like it!

    • I gakked it form some movie I was watching over the weekend. Prnt Scrn is very handy you see!

  • Me likey new header…
    The length of your blog is 134 minutes? :P

    • Depends on how long you wanna spend reading my posts!

  • I saw the first 30 minutes of this movie and that was about all I could take…way too much going on…Abhishek Bacchan is just an overrated fat famous actor’s son who can’t emote to save his life (sorry if I sound mean!)…so disappointing, I had high expectations. The music score is phenomenal, but the tracks play for barely 30 seconds…I am so glad I didn’t pay a cent to watch this movie!

    me: and this coming from a dilli wali!

  • Actually I am quite impressed with Ranjani -what intellect!!
    Your review was fair enough; but reading your rejoinders to the reader’s comments one feels that you are almost aplauding those who didn’t like the movie.
    About the movie..i liked it for what its was conveying sublty or not so subtly(??) towards the end..khair my (bad?)choice!!!
    My 60+ mom & teenage son who don’t understand metaphors so much or for that matter like or dislike a movie mostly based on the “story” part of it..seemed to enjoy it
    Btw am from Delhi..& a few couples (in fifties maybe) sitting next to me were actually relishing it..

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