It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
Karan Anshuman (Filmmaker/movie critic),
Karan Anshuman is a film critic for Mumbai Mirror. He's worked on a bunch of movie projects, none of which you've ever seen...yet! He's a history, photography, squash, web 2.0, food, and gaming enthusiast who would trade his soul to travel the world.
DELHI IN A DAY: Undignified Delhi
Director: Prashant Nair; Cast: Victor Banerjee, Lillete Dubey
Nowhere in India does the divide between classes coexist in such glaring contrast as Delhi. Delhi can cocoon you from its other truths simply by its blinding size. It’s different from Bombay where you overlook tens of square kilometers of shanties and slums from a 30th story penthouse. If you’re rich in Delhi, a sweltering summer is easily skipped by hopping from an AC’d room to an AC’d car to an AC’d airport for a month in the Alps without ever running into reality. If you’re rich and will it, you can make of Delhi whatever you want it to be.
It is in such a setting we’re introduced to Mukund (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and Kalpana (Lillete Dubey). He’s a super rich exporter (“I want a Jaguar. Now. Now. Now.”), she’s an erstwhile trophy wife. Their sprawling farm also houses their two kids and – critical to the story – their retinue of house help. The farmhousers host a young Brit traveler (Lee Williams) whose entire life savings gets flicked from his bag on the first day he is here. Kalpana’s suspicion (she appoints herself detective) obviously falls upon the help, specifically Rohini (Anjali Patil), who dreams of becoming an actress someday, and her adopted grandfather.
In a word, the theme of the screenplay is ignorance. The UK lad -- grown up respecting the dignity of labor -- finds it hard to come to terms with the treatment meted out to the help. A nice touch is that the lad himself is a greenhorn: not the wisest of travelers; he expected India to be a lot more “spiritual”. He turns to Kalpana’s father (Victor Bannerjee) who plays a know-it-all ready-to-preach intellectual who hates socializing. This character, attempting to bring balance by keeping his head when all others are losing theirs, misfires terribly and doesn’t work at any level. The stereotyping cuts across classes. When angry, the cook calls the driver a ‘Madrasi’; the owner addresses all of China as ‘chinki’.
While you may enjoy the sprinkling of humor (what does a Brit do when the bathroom’s run out of toilet paper?), the drama is less palatable. In an attempt to replace the money and keep out of trouble, Rohini visits a shady neighborhood (home to a circus act it seems) to meet a moneylender. Director Prashant Nair leaves the meeting open to interpretation by showing nothing of it and she comes back empty-handed. Extended tableaus of the housekeepers dancing to old Hindi tunes in the kitchen is interesting at first, but it drags on and repeats to transform the idea into too much of a good thing.
Lillete Dubey reprises her spunky Monsoon Wedding act. Kharbanda gives the one-dimensional role all he has to offer. But it’s Williams and Patil who steal the show.
Delhi in a Day would’ve been a more relevant a decade ago when the idea of a ‘crossover’ idea prevailed on the indie film scene. If you really need a lesson in humanity on a similar theme, I recommend watching Tate Taylor’s The Help.
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