May 1, 2011

Delhi 6 - The Bell Tree

I had been eagerly anticipating Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 after the cinematic maelstrom that had been Rang de Basanti. The reference to ‘6’ in the film title is to the postal code of Old Delhi, where the film was set and I looked forward to seeing what Mehra would make of the story possibilities contained with contemporary Old Delhi. The trailers looked promising and A R Rahman’s music was superlative, especially the playful Masakali and the haunting Maula Mere Maula. Yet, I experienced a lingering disappointment and even bewilderment as the film credits concluded with the film's eccentric coterie of characters (indeed, the characters do much to transfuse much needed life into film) peering into film's all important symbol of the mirror. Perhaps, the dissection of the film awaits another post.

In the meantime, what with this blog dealing with all things visual, there is lots to take away from Delhi 6 on that front: the vivid portrayal of the mohalla (neighborhood) ethos, the courtyarded old homes (yes, including havelis), mohalla inhabitants' interactions on the roofs, the roofs being crucial spaces of play and action in the film, temples, mosques, and dargahs, and jalebi shops and Ram Leela performances, and more.

This was Sonam Kapoor's second venture post Saawariya, where Anuradha Vakil had dressed her in a more subtly dramatic interpretation of traditional Indian wear, keeping in tune with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's operatic sensibilities; here, Anamika Khanna dons the costume designer's hat and I loved Sonam's earthy-hued outfits, especially the kurta she wears in opening shots of Masakali ** (plus, Abhishek's preppy look suited him a lot better here than his earlier sartorial outings as in Dhoom 2, for example).

Without giving away too many details, there is also that wonderful sequence in the film where characters and haunts of Old Delhi suddenly arrive in and colonise Times Square in New York, telling us of the extent to which spaces or more specifically, spaces we call homes can blur in our minds without us even realising it. The French writer, Anais Nin's quote (which happens to be one of my favorites) perhaps best encapsulates this: 'We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.'

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the one depicting a bell tree, where you tie a bell around the branch to have your wish fulfilled; as one can see above in the picture, the tree is weighted down with bunches of bells. It reminded me of the fascinating concept of tree shrines in India (although by no means restricted to merely India for it appears to be a global phenomenon) and this bell tree in particular inspired this short story of mine.

** Sonam Kapoor stars in another film set in Delhi, Aisha (2010), which is a radically different cultural universe to that of Delhi 6's Old Delhi - and as evidenced by Sonam's Blair from Gossip Girl meets vintage wardrobe in the film.

Image courtesy Bollywood Hungama

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