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♫ Chalo chalo chalo chalo dilli... 
7th-Jul-2011 04:20 am
Title: Chalo Dilli
Year: 2011
Director: Shashant Shah
Producer: Krishika Lulla, Kavita Bhupathi Chadda, Ram Mirchandani
Written By: Arshad Syed
Cast: Vinay Pathak, Lara Dutta
Director of Photography: Nikos Andritsakis
Production Design: Teddy Maurya
Art Director: Ravikant Bhakre
Music: Gourov Dasgupta, Anand Raj Anand, Sachin Gupta, Rohit Kulkarni, Roshan Balu
Lyrics: Manthan Anand, Raj Anand, Krishika Lulla, Shabbir Ahmed, Nisha Mascarenhas
Singers: Raja Hasan, Sukhwinder Singh, June Banerjee, Neeraj Shridhar, Kamal Heer, Natalie Di Luccio
Costume: Manoshi Nath, Rushi Sharma

"Kaunsi badi baat ho gayi?" exclaims Karol Bagh mein "Ladies Dress Material Aur Saris" bechne wale Manu bhaisahab, baat baar par. It's the kind of funda that we could all benefit from embracing in situations that seem troublesome but matter little in the big scheme of things. In Chalo Dilli Mihika Banerjee is about to learn how to shrug and say "big deal" or "kya farak padta hai" to situations that would earlier have elicited explosive expletives. Actually, that's unfair, madamji is probably too high class for gaali galoch (woh tou Manu bhaisahab ka kaam hai) but the next time something doesn't go Mihika's way people will likely be spared her icy sarcasm and irritable remarks. While Mihika's trek from Mumbai to Dilli results in an internal journey where she travels "a much bigger distance than on a roadmap", we come out of the journey being thoroughly entertained. Chalo Dilli will either remind you of all the trips full of mishaps and oddball characters you've survived in India or make you wish you could set out on just such an adventure!

As Lara Dutta noted in one of the press conferences for the movie, there is a dearth in Bollywood of interesting female roles - our heroines are unfortunately often relegated to the kirdaar of a wife or a girlfriend. Chalo Dilli is neither a romance like Jab We Met, nor a movie with a female-oriented theme like Dor, but it's still given us a strong and interesting female character with an engaging story and of that I am grateful. One can only hope movies like Chalo Dilli and Aaja Nachle, where the heroine is the protagonist but her being female is entirely incidental to the narrative, are made more often. Lara plays the role of Mihika, the head of a successful multinational bank, with poise and grace and the wonderful thing about her character is that it is not one-dimensional. Mihika is not just a corporate head honcho who is dedicated to her profession, uncompromising about both work and her standard of living, and a bit spoilt by her life of luxury. She is not just someone who seems to have forgotten how to enjoy the little moments of life in her bhaag daud ki zindagi. She has a very affectionate relationship with her husband, she is insightful, she knows when to admit she is wrong and though she finds certain mannerisms distasteful and has a cleanliness fetish she is definitely not a mere caricature of a snob.

Vinay Pathak is wonderfully convincing with Manu Gupta's mannerisms and dialogue delivery - he plays the part of the bumbling Dilliwala perfectly. Chandni Chowk ke rehne wale Guptaji, who is clearly a foil for the sophisticated Mihika, may appear to be in the movie solely for the purposes of being loud and boisterous, spout fundas of life, and get Mihika and himself in and out of trouble constantly but he has a certain degree of charm and the kind of friendly demeanour that can penetrate through the most cynical of hearts. Guptaji may be thode se crass but he never descends into vulgarity. Though we don't find out till much later, you can tell that bhaisahab must be a family man. Woh "dil ke bade saaf hain" wali line hoti hai na - it is applicable to Guptaji so completely. His anecdotes, the way he always makes sure he calls people by their names, his tendency to chatter away incessantly is all so endearing. His only problem is that he seems to think he can handle anything and that he is very cunning, which often tends to land him into precarious situations.

Being a road movie, Chalo Dilli features plenty of detours, a host of quirky characters and various modes of transportation. As Manu and Mihika make their way across the rustic northern hinterland and towards the capital they find themselves in situations that range from the credible to the absurd. What strikes one when watching the movie is how true to life the numerous characters they encounter during those situations are. Take the sleepy tourist taxi driver Shivratan urf Babloo, for instance. He reminded me of a trip to Vaishno Devi that my family and our friends took one summer when I was a child where we had bilkul aise hi driver uncle - I distinctly recall us deciding to stop by a dhaba in the middle of the night so he could get some sleep instead of dozing off while driving! My personal favourite in this movie was definitely the sweet truck driver Dharampalji who felt a bit shy around "beautiful madamji" and put on angrezi gaane on the radio for her sake, but the Bengali couple, the motley dhabba crew, the slightly dense outlaws, the maalik of a low-class "hotel" and many other characters are also entertaining in their own right.

The attention to detail in this movie is worth commenting on. I am a big fan of having things happen in the background even as the attention of the audience is on the characters in the foreground and this movie ticks that box rather admirably. Manu bumping into the magazine stand while Mihika is purchasing one at the counter, dhaabewale mamaji and Sunny waving in the background as Mihika and Manu get on an oonth savaari, the TC enjoying the singing on the train along with everyone else and Manu trying to hand back item song wali the skirt she stripped off are just some examples. I also enjoyed catching little details like Manu's various references to daughters or the "tolet" sign in the dhabba instead of the "toilet" sign which corroborate what we are about to find out in the story.

Chalo Dilli is as visually appealing as you'd hope for from a movie that wants take its audience on an expedition of the rustic and charming India that they know exists, and probably pass by often, but never stop to take notice of. I loved how unexpected the camera angles were sometimes, how dusty, expansive or closed in the shots were depending on the situation, and how rich the colours in each frame were. Nikos Andritsakis is definitely a name to keep an eye out for in the future. Also to be commended are Teddy Maurya (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal) and Ravikant Bhakre (Love Aaj Kal) for the production design and art direction respectively. I was reminded several times of Jab We Met when watching Chalo Dilli, in terms of the sheer amount of detail in the setting, how well the settings captured the kind of places the movie wanted to depict and how everything looked like it belonged there. I was so delighted when I realised that my instinct wasn't incorrect and that Teddy Maurya who worked on JWM also worked on this movie!

I've already talked at length about what is so charming about Chalo Dilli but the soul of the movie is undoubtedly Arshad Syed's dialogues. I can't sing enough praises about how wonderfully he has managed to capture the bol-chaal of the nation: from taxi driver Shivratan bhaiya's duhaaiyan ("saari duniya ne theka le rakha hai gareeb ki dhulaai ka!") to truck driver Dharampalji's modest demeanour ("rehne dijiye maydamji, kyun sharminda kar rahi hain"), from dhabbewale maamaji's practical acceptance of what he has to live with ("abhi tou maine parson dekha - yeh lamba saanp idhar se nikal ke gaya ji"), to Bengali uncleji launching into his pet topics about "the level of corruption in this country" ("Bharatvarsh ka na kuch nahin ho sakta"), from the corrupt police officer busy earning a dishonest living ("500 rupe se kya hoga hain? Poora office maintain karna hota hai hum logon ko!") to the local thug's colourful and inventive Haryanavi swearing ("o teri, bataao saala silaai machine ki najaayas aulad, uski sui itni theeki ho gayi ke mahre hi chubha raha hai?") ...it's all the kind of  conversations anyone in India would be oh so familiar with. As for Manu Gupta and Mihika Banerjee's dialogues, if I were to start squeeing about how fun and witty their interactions are, how hilariously endearing Guptaji's chatter is, how you can't help but smirk when Mihika delivers one of her sarcastic rebuttals or smile when she teases bhaisahab ...we'd be here a while.

This refreshingly romance-free tale with a journey full of familiar characters, ridiculous situations, and rustic places easily won over at least  my family's heart. Ab aap kis baat ka intezaar kar rahe ho? Chalo Dilli!

Other Reviews:

[+] From TOI:
The good thing is that the writer and director Shashant Shah know precisely what not to do with the rather rare genre. Though the makers replace Steve Martin's character from the original with a female protagonist, there is no additional effort to link Mihika and Manu romantically, which would have been a common tendency in the love-struck Bollywood. So there is no unnecessary burden on the writer to chalk out chemistry between the two, which would ultimately culminate into them falling in love.

Secondly, though the journey traverses through countryside, the film doesn't get into the sermon mode on sarso-ke-khet or desh-ki-mitti . And thirdly, despite the class-divide between the two protagonists, the narrative never falls into the trap of belittling the higher-class or taming the rich girl, another ideal inclination.
I included this review because the last two points hadn't occurred to me but I definitely agree with them!
BW | JWM | sikhdi hoon main Bhatinda ki
16th-Jul-2011 10:48 am (UTC)
Sinnead O'Connor released an album once called "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got". For this to be true in my case, I really should not watch a movie called "Chalo Dilli", ESPECIALLY when it turns out to be a truly excellent film!

This movie joins Salaam-e-Ishq and Malamaal Weekly in a select of group of Bollywood remakes of Anglo films that I prefer to their originals, despite having seen and really liked the originals first. As with all successful BW adaptations, it's the characterisation that makes this one a winner. There's a softness and warm empathy to both the leads in this that I don't remember from Planes, Trains and Automobiles I did not sense a jarring note anywhere.

I was especially delighted to see a non-romantic, mature role for a mature adult actress. And "mature" is NOT a euphemism for "old", it's a compliment. Lara Dutta did so well with this film, I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. Vinay Pathak was fantastic - I've been watching RNBDJ a lot recently, and I honestly didn't even recognise him! I did recognise Teddy Maurya instantly from "Hotel Decent", and loved his small role.

I was also impressed with Akshay's cameo. Nothing self-consciously meta, like some of a certain Dilliwala's cameos, just a low-key, sensible part that fitted with the story and the tone of the film. The end was pitch-perfect too - no filmi happy ending for Manu Gupta & his wife, that's one more BW temptation the TOI review should have credited the film for avoiding.

So, overall, the only flaw I can find in this film is that I liked it too much, yet another film of several I've seen in the last year that piled on still more pressure for me to do as instructed in the title. 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got", but movies like this one make that very hard. :)
17th-Jul-2011 06:10 am (UTC)
I hear you! It made me want to pack my bags and up and leave to India and get myself lost on an equally bizarre roadtrip.

Of the three you mention I have only seen Love Actually. I like your point about the "softness and warm empathy" of the leads - that's exactly it. They are so likeable even if one may seem snobbish and the other obnoxiously loud on first glance. I couldn't dislike Mihika even if I wanted to after that scene where she asks the truck driver if he listens to English songs and then is so touched when she realises he was playing them for her.

I was especially delighted to see a non-romantic, mature role for a mature adult actress. And "mature" is NOT a euphemism for "old", it's a compliment.
WORD. We need more roles for women in Bollywood where they have a well established identity of their own beyond the hero.

I am hoping Lara continues to make interesting movies like this with her production house.

Woah I forgot Vinay was in RNBDJ. But he was one of the fun things about it now that I remember.

I didn't recognise Teddy till much later though when I was hunting down who the production designer was and then clicked.

Interesting that you liked Akshay's cameo. My brother is a big fan of his since his Khiladi days but has been disappointed in his choice of movies lately. When he turned up here he was pleased but I was discussing the cameo with him and we agreed that there was something ever-so-slightly...off about it. We couldn't put our finger on it but if I was pressed to point out a discordant note in the movie it would be Akshay. He just didn't seem too fit in with the rest of the ambience. I'm puzzled why this is the case though - certainly he's more instantly likeable compared to Mihika but...yeah no idea.

Some people thought that the reveal about Manu was unnecessarily manipulative but I didn't find anything to be offended by in it. What would have been eyerollworthy would have been Mihika saying she could take his wife to the best hospitals and get her treated and then the wife wakes up from a coma. I was almost expecting it but I am glad the movie ended where it did.

Also just another mention about the sets - Manu's house struck the exact right note as well: the peeling walls, the photos & Winnie The Pooh stickers stuck on it et al.

Hehe yes the title is an imperative that we must obey now :D

17th-Jul-2011 06:42 am (UTC)
My brother is a big fan of his since his Khiladi days but has been disappointed in his choice of movies lately

Most of his Khiladi fans are, it seems. Typecasting kutti hai!
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