Dilli 6 yesterday. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, it is confirmed, cannot hold a steady tone. Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan) comes to Delhi to drop off his grandmother and discovers old Delhi. We see the scenes over his shoulder, sometimes unnecessarily explicated by his narration, and the film team manages to build considerable ambience. How authentic I cannot tell, but it holds. The vignettes are excellent; there are nice characterisations and some rather intuitive actors. Waheeda Rehman is a stalwart; Pavan Malhotra, Sheeba Chadda (who’s doing some nice work – I loved her performance in Luck by Chance) and Divya Dutta all etch their presence. Sonam Kapoor too fits in, even if her animation is much too filmi. [Incidentally, how long do we worship this Mani Ratnam creation, the carefree young girl who dances in the rain and breaks into abandoned jigs on railway stations? She’s getting very boring]. I liked the colour and the vibrancy of Ramlila leitmotif, the dynamics of these small characters, their stories… most of it, most of it. There is no reason why all this couldn’t have been left that way—filmmakers do feel able, even within Bollywood, to observe to no specific end. The Roshan character could’ve gone back to America, wiping off possibly a manly tear, and that would have been that.
Mehra of course isn’t happy with that. He must have an Ending, a bit of a shoo-sha—he must attempt to force-weave his threads, such as they are. Suddenly happy-happy people turn into unreasonable monsters and we get riots, what the film calls ‘pravachans’ on Aham Brahmasmi, that are, in the event, ineffectual. Then we get a slice of Amitabh Bachchan playing Dumbledore. By now it is clear that the storyteller has indeed run out of ideas on how to END this thing. The audience doesn’t care one way or the other—if they’re still seated it’s out of sheer manners.
I’m glad I did though, because the end credits were good. Underscoring ‘the god is in us’ idea, the temple now has a small grubby mirror hung up by a tree. Each character comes up and reacts to his or her reflection, and some of these were very well done. Everyone precedes poor Abhishek Bachchan in this sequence, setting some rather good standards. So he doesn’t even try—he smirks, pretty much like he always does, does a small ‘Me dude, You dude’ type thingy and fades away. He cannot act, paapa.
Links to previous posts: my reaction to Rang de Basanti and its music.