{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Delhi 6

Few things about Delhi 6.

1. If an artist wants - a confident and cocksure artist, the type we all know - he can make a miniature painting with bold strokes and still feel good about it. Similarly, for the directors who cant help but think big, everything becomes mini-India, so we have standard Hindu-Muslim characters, standard dadima, standard sweet-bitter relatives (large hearted ones have big breasts or big smiles), standard kids (two types - with glasses, without glasses) and other associated clichés but remember that the mini-India of our serious and good-hearted directors is not quite complete without the holy grail of goodness and that can only come from an NRI (preferably man, preferred age 25-27, must be good at heart and good looking too - as they go hand in hand - , must be doing quite well in US, preferably a software engineer, scientist or son of an Indian male, who is doing very good in US, preferably a doctor and married, - as they go hand in hand). He comes, he sees and he reforms us. Whether he stays back or carry on his journey is quite immaterial (or rather depends on whether he gets a girl here. The girl should be fair, preferably long hair. She should be of a kind which should make India look cool - now coolness really depends on director's definition of it. There are basically two types of coolness - Traditional coolness and hip-coolness. Typically girl adjusts to whatever NRI wants. The romance between NRI and girl must follow normal Bollywood standards. The first encounter must be little rough (The only tussle they have is whether they should kiss Bollywood style or Hollywood style, here the guy loses usually), rest goes smoothly. I repeat girl should be fair or become so in due course of romance). We all know and understand that an NRI is the closest approximation to a white man you can find in our family, so it is nothing but natural for us and our film makers to be drawn to them. They are as white as we can ever get. "Son of an NRI" is even cleaner than the NRI, in moralistic terms. Technically he never left the country. He is godlike- if I may say so - with no Original sin. He is a kid, he observes with a zeal of a teenager. He is so young, innocent and beautiful that the whole theatre must feel bad if someone slaps him tight. His voice of reason, his ok-ok Hindi (like the dubbed Tamil and Telugu of South Indian heroines exported from Bombay), his untainted ideals and his open-minded feminism (and he will definitely get chance to show it few times in the film), his goggles, cell phone, laptop and a wiser and purer (if not cleaner) brain. No wonder, he becomes friends only with Dadima and kids, he is beyond (or out of) his time, just like god. His inability to express hints to his innocence, his childlike gaze becomes his purity of observation and his smile becomes the mirror of his pure white soul. NRI (or son of an NRI) is at once, pristine and philistine - a godsend for Bollywood.

2. Nothing irritated me more than the use of Ramlila sketches to push the tick-mark narrative points forward. The worst abuse was made of Sabri's story. Its was like watching a low-intellect children story where references to an age old saga are so badly needed to validate the point that it does not fear from trivializing the story itself. The last best use of Ramleela was done in Rajkumar Santoshi's Lajja where drunk Sita (Madhuri Dixit) refuses to go to Agni Pareeksha and argues onstage with both Ram and Lakshman. It was one of the last instances of feminism in commercial Bollywood. It was much better than when ramlila was used to extreme ends to bring director's point across like in Deepa Mehta's Fire. Attempts like Fire or Delhi 6, use the epic for their narrow ends, but efforts like Lajja's ramleela scene flip-flops it to make us think.

3. Surprisingly, I was alright with the Kala-bandar theme. I know its more or less like Panchtantra, that we all have a kala-bandar inside (Banality of evil for kids and toddlers), but it was done with some humor so it works in parts. But I was most embarrassed by Amitabh's role. Do Bachachan's come in a package. ek ke saath ek free. One can not help but think of Abhishek's reply when the director/producer asked him to work in this film, "Papa ke saath", he would have replied. Amitabh and his tribe (who so ever calls him Amitji, Amit Uncle or Papa) are in so many films now-a-days that one can safely say that there is a Kala-bandar inside every film.