‘Delhi 6’ is the Most Underrated Hindi Film of This Century. Here’s Why.

‘Nothing’ happens in the film for the first 100 minutes or so. That’s right Mr. Mehra, you just lost the Indian audiences right then and there. We don’t care about movies being a ‘collection of moments’, doesn’t matter how meticulously honest they are, or how deeply they cut through. Moments don’t make a film, a coherent narrative does and we just don’t have the patience to sit through the never-ending boredom! A ‘Ready’ or a ‘Golmaal’ will win because even if the story is practically nonexistent, the characters are loud enough to entertain us and they fill our mouth stuffing spoonful of information, more than what we can chew and then more and further more. And yes, we won’t gag or feel breathless, and we won’t even spit it out, because what we are chewing on is delicious, and not raw and bitter like Delhi 6. And what’s more, it won’t even give you indigestion, because no matter how stale and way past its expiry date it is, the taste counts, just that! And our digestion system, well, who cares, we Indians are all mostly bloated anyways, in our head, and what, sensibilities?

You made a film called Delhi 6 and let me tell you sir, it tastes like a damn old peg of Chivas Regal, it’s bitter and burns our insides, but the aftertaste is highly addictive which takes the senses on a wild ride and don’t even let me start on the hangover, that refuses to subside until you let your taste buds have a taste of, yes you got it right, fried stale plate of hot delicious curry that makes our taste-buds dance into the rain once again, or around the lush valleys of the European countryside.  We Indians are shamelessly habitual of downright rejecting the films that strip us naked right to our souls and show us the mirrors, and quite literally in case of Delhi 6, am I right sir? You followed a mega success like Rang De Basanti with this ‘boredom’ of a film, and thought you’d get away with it! How lazy of you, damn! And again, how dare you overestimate us Indians by giving such a soulful, masterfully crafted film?

I know all about ‘Aks’. Have seen it twice, and shall I dare say, it kicked me right into my guts, repeatedly with each viewing. The tattooed Vijay Raaz in the bath tub, an insane Manoj Bajpayee, a brilliant Amitabh sir and the hottest I have seen of my childhood crush, Raveena Tandon! That film wasn’t worth watching and yet, I couldn’t stop obsessing over it for weeks! Why you do that to me? Rang De Basanti was different, it was colourful, had a fine storyline, had ample doses of humour, pretty faces, and to top it all, it had Aamir Khan! It had to work! But now, let’s imagine having an Abhishek, or an Abhay Deol in place of Mr. Khan. How would that have gone? Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine. We love our (super)stars, sir. We do!

What haunts me to this date is the image of Mamdu, a small time halwai sobbing in Roshan’s arms, shouting in fury at Pavan Malhotra’s Jaigopal, right after the riots claim the warmth they shared with each other.

‘Mamdu ki dukaan, Jaigopal ki dukaan’!

That sequence, not only establishes how criminally underrated an actor Deepak Dobriyal is, but explains the whole point of the film. But who had the patience to sit through the puzzling amount of side characters, which don’t even matter. We don’t want to see Om Puri, or Atul Kulkarni, or Vijay Raaz, for that matter, for longer stretches of time! We want a pretty face, and what you did to the only pretty thing about the film, Sonam Kapoor, is just not done! She was just one among the side characters. And hey, so was Junior Bachchhan! So guess, I can’t complain. Like I said, ‘moments’ make this film what it is, not the starpower or the loud dance music, or bhangra, or the pretty faces. Am I right, sir? The essence of the film lies in the ‘sajan re jhooth mat bolo’ song which blares out of a broken radio, when a brick hits it. The context is brilliant, the emotion is right and for a moment, the film belongs to the brothers’ track. The essence of the film then shifts to the crying echoes of Mamdu which are less the result of fury, more of the heartbreak!

The heart of the film lies in the moment towards the end, where Inspector Ranvijay let’s go off the handcuff! The heart lies in Gobar holding hands with Jalebi, or Jaigopal silently mourning the tough luck of his elder brother, gulping down the whisky, with whom he isn’t on the talking terms since, we don’t know how many years. And most of all, soul of the film is the line- ‘Par Mamdu to Bajrang Bali Kabhakthai’.

Roshan, the American-Indian moves to the rusty lanes of Old Delhi to adhere to his grandmother’s last wishes. The silently brooding lad’s first introduction to the mad city happens at the airport where the television reporter eccentrically reports a news story about how a ‘monkey’ has started a dialogue… err… menace in the city. I am a Delhiite, sir, have been all my life, and after 25 years here, I can see what you meant to do! You told the world- ‘Well, welcome to the mad city! My City! Yes I can be chaotic at times, but underneath all that, there lies a beating heart, of the size of QutubMinar.’ The city New Delhi, where you wake up in the car to the incessant chatter, and dirt, and blocked traffic, right in front of Red Fort, swarms of people strolling around here and there. No traffic rules, no sense, nothing. Everyone’s in a hurry, it’s scary and Roshan wakes up amidst that; probably for the first time in his life has he witnessed such madness. His confusion is quickly replaced with a smile! Welcome to Delhi!

Enter the characters, the backbone of any film, yes? But this time around, what you, sir, must have told loudly that the film isn’t about Roshan really, or about anything that we have come to know about through Hindi films. And yes, one word I need to get off off my chest- Never have I ever witnessed such a fine ensemble working together to spell magic on me and oh so beautifully. So, when Roshan jumps heroically from roof to roof in pursuit of a ‘monkey’, which he clearly knows is just an urban myth, the lines that are playing in the background go something like this- ‘Saareritiriwaazbhulakar, dekhoapnegharkeandar, shayadkahikisikone me, ghoomrahahaikaalabandar’. Once again, the entire idea of the film is contained within these two lines of lyrics, beautifully penned by the magical poet Prasoon Joshi. And don’t even let me mention the fact that AR Rahman is at his divine best form here.

Abhishek is a fine talented young man and you, of all, had the guts to see it! So did Maniratnam sir. And no, a Rohit Shetty or a Farah Khan wouldn’t know that! And then, who says the film always must be seen from a narrative point of view. You didn’t want us to follow a narrative, because there isn’t any. I get it that you want us to feel the connection, the connection Jalebi shares with Gobar, the pre-riot warmth between Mamdu and Jaigopal or maybe, between Bittu and that pretty white dove. And yes don’t even dare thinking we missed your symbolic wink, when the TV shifts from ‘Monkey Menace’ to ‘Chandrayaan Launch’. *Wink*

The film deals with raw emotions, and just like that Fakir with his little mirror, asking everyone to have a good look at themselves, you sneaky genius. Anymore ‘in your face’ would have you yourself Mr. Mehra, holding that mirror in our faces. But you missed the mark sir; you thought we were ready for this! We weren’t! And we still aren’t. And don’t even think that you can fool us by inserting those small moments of greatness in between your mediocre films ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ and ‘Mirzya’. We get you every single time sir. C’mon, you gave us ‘Delhi 6’, an entire film with every single moment dripping off greatness and you think we wouldn’t know that you have that incessant itch of a true artist, to have something ‘true’ of him in all his artworks, no matter how stale it tastes.

Let me now head to another peg of Chivas Regal. Anurag Kashyap wants me to. I really wish that you had provided me with the bottle again, but sadly you haven’t!