Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chalo Dilli

Chalo Dilli (2011, India, Shashant Shah)

The past few years have produced some engaging Indian films shot exclusively in New Delhi. Films such as Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Band Baaja Baaraat, Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, Do Dooni Chaar and No One Killed Jessica portrayed interesting stories that were superior in quality to the average Bollywood film and were still accessible to a multiplex crowd. These films proved that audience do not have to “leave their brains at the door” to enjoy a film. Although these six films varied in quality and style, the only thing they had in common was their New Delhi setting. Now Shashant Shah’s Chalo Dilli shows that a good film does not have to be set in Delhi but just needs to have Delhi mentioned in the title. As per the title which translates to "Let’s go Delhi", the film is about a journey to the Nation’s capital. The film takes the familiar comedic framework of pairing two opposite personalities on a road journey shown in Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Due Date to elicit laughs. However, Chalo Dilli is also infused with the charm and energy of Jab We Met but reverses the male-female characters from Imtiaz Ali’s film and eliminates any romantic angle between the duo. The real driving force of Chalo Dilli is Vinay Pathak’s brilliant performance. Pathak is a delight in any film he does and brings plenty of energy and charm to his roles. He steals the show when he is given main roles such as in Dasvidaniya (also directed by Shashant Shah) or Bheja Fry and even manages to liven a film despite having a small role. Pathak’s character of Bobby was the best thing about an awful film like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Pathak is at his best in Chalo Dilli with a character that is equally charming and annoying. His positive upbeat character is a perfect ploy to the negative attitude of Mihika, played by Lara Dutta. The differences between the two characters is as diverse as that between Poppy (Sally Hawkins) and Scott (Eddie Marsan) in Happy-Go-Lucky.

Chalo Dilli is a predictable film that navigates within a familiar framework used in many commercial Bollywood films but Shashant Shah shows that it is still possible to make a smart film within that confined framework. In that regard, Chalo Dilli is an essential film in helping to draw indian audience away from the commercial junk of Bollywood. There is nothing difficult about Chalo Dilli and it is a film that can appeal to anyone used to a multiplex feature but it is without the vulgarity or substandard qualities seen in majority of Bollywood comedies, such as those that populate any Anees Bazmee or Sajid Khan feature. For safe measure, Chalo Dilli has a completely needless item number featuring Yana Gupta just to ensure that audience who need a song to digest their film can have no excuse to stay away. Also, film lovers used to seeing only “big stars” in their Indian films cannot complain either as Chalo Dilli does indeed have a “big star” whose character makes an appearance late on to save the day. However, despite being an accessible enjoyable film, it is a safe bet to assume that audience will causally pass over Chalo Dilli or treat it with a shrug of the shoulder and say that the film "theek hai" (ok) and is nothing to get excited about while eagerly rushing to watch substandard Bollywood fare.

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