Heightened anticipation. Yup, that about describes it. Waiting for Rakesh Om Prakash Mehraâ€™s upcoming film with heightened anticipation and wondering â€śWill he do a Rang De Basanti once again?â€ťThe answer to that is - Yes, he does. And how! The two films are sort of in the same genre, in that they both deal with angst and anger at the state of the country, and a sort of self-awakening. In RDB the characters were home-wrought, in D6 itâ€™s an import (an American born hero). While RDB was more â€śmotivationalâ€ť so to speak, D6 is introspective and a tad preachy. The title tells you where itâ€™s at â€“ Delhi, Chandni Chowk to be precise. So you thought the streets of old Delhi were crowded and grimy? Not really, not in this film. Yes, the gallis are narrow and you canâ€™t bring a car in, and have to walk or resort to cycle-rickshaws. And yes, mithai shops jostle along-side old homes for space, but this is home to the filmâ€™s heroine, feisty Bittu (a stunning Sonam Kapoor), and her neighbor Roshan Mehra (Bachhan) whoâ€™s come to drop off his grand-mother (a stately looking Waheeda Rehman) in India, because she wants to spend her last days â€śat homeâ€ť. OmPrakash Mehra portrays a languorous Delhi. Itâ€™s a Delhi of close-knit friends and neighbors, of warm, sunny terraces, of afternoons spent kite-flying. And because itâ€™s delicious Delhi, Roshan whoâ€™s come for a few days decides to spend a little more time, getting sucked in , firstly as a wary spectator, and then as an energized participant, in the humdrum life of Delhi-6. And itâ€™s not like everything is hunky-dory. Mehra spends his time and his script detailing little atrocities â€“ the untouchable Jalebi (a magnificent Divya Dutta) whoâ€™s looked down upon publicly but considered fit enough to use sexually, the town dullard Gobar derided, the unmarried bua (aunt) caught in the crossfire between two brothers. Even the heroine Bittu is caught in a quandary because she does not wish to marry but is forced to put on a show in the marriage market, to, as she says â€śwalk a little, sing a little, and then pass off Buaâ€™s samosas as my ownâ€ť, because willy-nilly, she is the bearer of her fatherâ€™s honor (or izzat).
The beginning of the film is light and breezy, finding humor in everyday situations. We see Roshan and his grand-mother welcomed by their neighbors and settling into their central courtyard-ed home, getting accustomed to the dry water-taps and the 8 oâ€™clock power cut. Mehra pays Delhi his respects; it appears vibrant and luscious and colorful, veritably glistening as it is shot artistically. The visual appeal is heightened by Rehmanâ€™s melodious numbers â€“ Genda phool is superb, as is the catchy Masakali. It might be that I have a prejudiced eye, but to me every frame in the first half of the film had that . . . that visual oomph; that classy quality feel â€“ the kind that made me at once nostalgic and appreciative of the directorâ€™s deft handling of his subject.The filmâ€™s story is peppered with instances of things gone wrong â€“ of little slights, and large social problems, so you sort of gather where this film is going, even though it does not have a very active plot. It is towards the later half of the film that the director actually gets down to business, with the theme of distrust and hate. Mehra centers the filmâ€™s around two main ideas â€“ the first is the Ramayana, and the second is the â€śBlack Monkeyâ€ť which is supposedly harassing the citizens of Delhi. Both of these ideas help the film move towards itâ€™s more prosaic and preachy message. While the film has a larger social message, Mehra manages to flesh in little details and believable characters. His Bittu and Roshan, while from different worlds manage to connect against all odds. The screenplay is astounding â€“ in a film which was more of a touristy snapshot of Delhi (at least in the beginning), I did not discern a lag in pace, or a need for editing (or maybe I was so busy being grateful that this piece of art had come my way that I didnâ€™t notice). As lovely as the film itself is, it couldnâ€™t have been what it was had it not been for the excellent cast. Sonam Kapoor is young and fresh and a very good actress. Waheeda Rehman and Om Puri are immaculate â€“ they arenâ€™t veterans for nothing. Tanvi Azmi (as Roshanâ€™s mother), Supriya Pathak , Deepak Dobriyal (as Mamdu the halwai), Atul Kulkarni (as Gobar), Divya Dutta (as Jalebi), Rishi Kapoor (as the charming Ali Baig), Pawan Malhotra, K.K.Raina, Vijay Raaz (as the corrupt inspector) â€“ I could go on and on â€“ are exquisitely cast and excel in their performances. Even Raghuvir Yadav comes in in a tiny role, and Prem Chopra portrays the greedy money-lender. MTV VJ Cyrus Sahukar shows up as the seedy small-town-ish photographer and does fairly well. And now for the hero Abhishek Bachchan. He does OK, he isnâ€™t superlative. I would have wished for a protagonist with a little more fire in him, a hero who could show that he felt what he was saying. Bachchan, mouthed the preachy dialogues all right, but I didnâ€™t get that he felt them, with any intensity. The film thus is effective, although not as passionate as it could have been. The other flaw in the film was the lack of subtlety. Mehra is pushing a message in the film â€“ we get it â€“ no need to spell it out. But he does, and loses some of the impact. All said and done, I must say that I loved the film. It is not as good as â€śRang de Basantiâ€ť but a pretty close second. I highly recommend it.