Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman
Storyline: A second generation Indian returns to his roots and discovers who the bogeyman really is.
Bottomline: An RDB sequel in spirit
Dear Mr. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra,
I loved your film enough to want to buy the ticket for the very next show.
I would like to apologise to you on behalf of my tribe or the many who have misunderstood your film to be a ‘message movie’ about national integration and Hindu-Muslim unity. That has to be the most insulting simplification of the idea behind the film and I am sorry they have accused you of spelling out the message even without understanding what it is that you are trying to say.
But I also see why it is being perceived that way.
Most of us don’t like to be told what to do and when we suspect we’re being lectured, we switch off. Many of my critic friends do believe that your film is an ode to Delhi that’s slapped with a moral science lesson towards the end just so that you don’t disappoint your RDB fans.
I would’ve loved to write a review explaining your film to them but then nobody likes being talked down upon. Hence this fan-mail.
Proximity to the problem often turns out to be a disadvantage and we sometimes, get a better perspective from a rank outsider who can be objective and would see something we have got so used to. But then, we don’t want a firangi telling us what’s wrong with us.
Which is why I love the fact that you have chosen a protagonist who’s not one of us and yet one of us. He’s American, as he admits himself and I love the way you make him fall in love and belong here.
You make even a realistic Swades look like a simplified fairytale. Especially since you give Roshan a reality check quite early into the film. That scene where he slaps the sub-inspector after being slapped by the cop and is put behind bars. You just can’t change this country taking on the system.
Unfortunately, a lot of people saw your previous film as a glorification of counter-violence to fight the system instead of just seeing it as what it was – a nightmare of youth having to sacrifice their lives designed as a wake-up call.
You were just telling the youth to care enough to do something about what’s wrong but people merely interpreted it literally as: take the law into your own hands to set things right.
Hence, I understand that Delhi 6 is your way of making amends and addressing the same problem again, almost like a sequel in spirit.
Modern youth discover home and want to set things right but there’s the ubiquitous monkey (or mischief maker/s) wreaking havoc in our everyday lives.
We take our mythology way too seriously and have always felt the need to protect ourselves from the bogeyman. I like the way you’ve derived out of our age-old epics and modern day myths – the man-made media-promoted Monkey-man and the parallels you’ve drawn with mischief-maker Hanuman who set all of Lanka on fire single-handedly.
We sometimes do make mountains out of mole-hills and over the years, we have seen Ganesha idols drink milk and have also claimed to have seen the Monkey Man who is supposed to have a motherboard under its fur. I thought you were exaggerating until I read up stories that were reported at the turn of the century.
Educated mediapersons actually considered this to be newsworthy. But then, the Monkey Man as the bogeyman does sum up one of the many paradoxes our country is famous for. We believe in God as much as we believe in Science and Technology. We would call God-men but keep buckets of water ready to create kill him by electrocution.
To be honest, I was getting a little restless during the first half of the film as you leisurely rolled out a series of paradoxes one scene after another. Like how some of us still are still caste conscious but when it comes to sex, we exploit even the outcasts. Like how a girl needs to audition whether she’s participating in Indian Idol or getting a groom. Or like how you flip channels between our dual specialisation in science and religion – the Chandrayaan launch to the Sadhu doing a breathing exercise – in a sexually suggestive comic scene that intends to show us the consequence of an arranged marriage.
Having said that, I also like the light-hearted matter-of-factness with which you have addressed serious issues – like how our children are growing up too early and sexually aware.
Through the story of Roshan’s parents, we understand that we in the past have been so intolerant that couples who want inter-caste wedding have had no choice but to elope.
Through Bittu, we understand nothing has changed. Thanks to the ensemble, we understand how volatile we are, how stubborn we can be and vulnerable given our deep-rooted belief system that it is always the other person’s fault because we can do no wrong.
We are always looking at the person to blame, create our own bogeyman, make him stronger by giving him credit for all things that go wrong and finally take out our pent-up frustration upon him. I read that a four-foot tall Sadhu was beaten up by a mob that mistook him for Monkey-Man and a van-driver was set on fire.
The root of this mass hysteria and fear psychosis can be only be traced back only to blind faith, superstition, need for mythology and Hubris.
I like how you end the film with a near-death ending for the harbinger of change. Because, that’s what we are. We want to celebrate the death of a villain so much that we end up creating them. We want our villains so bad.
But because you decided to spell out through the protagonist that the monkey exists in all of us, we have, as always, decided that we don’t need moral science lessons. We hate message movies. Because we know everything there is to know.
When Mani Ratnam makes a movie where Hindus and Muslims magically join hands and form a chain, we rave about it. We unanimously love it. Simply because he makes us look good. You on the other hand Mr. Mehra are telling us that the monkey resides in us? How dare you?
I truly salute the guts you’ve had to keep it real. I am glad you didn’t kill the man who wants to change things this time around because I know you are trying to say we can still change things around and that all is not lost.
Thank you for making Delhi 6.
P.S: I love how you’ve used Rahman’s soundtrack but I will save that for another letter.