Cast: Lee Williams, Lillete Dubey, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anjali Patil
Director: Prashant Nair
The strength of independent filmmaking lies in its ability of deviating from the set patterns determined by dominant market forces. Director Prashant Nair’s ‘Delhi in a Day’ is a fresh take on India’s mystical spirituality and class structure.
The basic story line of the film can remind you of ‘Rang De Basanti’ or ‘Patang’ but there are not many things similar to these films in ‘Delhi in a Day’, apart from a foreigner who, like several others, is overwhelmed by the oriental brand of philosophy. Jasper (Lee Williams) is a young Englishman who wants to explore the country of snake-charmers and vermillion wearing women (he uses the word ‘real India’), and thus decides to stay at Mukund Bhatia’s (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) house. Mukund needs to oblige Jasper due to his business needs, besides he is a wealthy man who likes to show-off. Mukund’s wife Kalpana (Lillete Dubey) is a highly social and sharp tongued lady and her prime duty is to cover up her husband’s absurd Punjabi antics. Retired grandfather (Victor Banerjee) occupies a small space in the villa.
There are two children in the mansion (the nouveau-riche family lives in a huge house) as well, but they do nothing apart from looking disinterested. The major chunk of the population inside the house is formed by the servants. Raghu (Vidya Bhushan) is an old family loyal while Udai (Dinesh Yadav) and Chottu (Arun Mallick) look after the kitchen. Rohini (Anjali Patil) takes care of cleanliness and two South Indian drivers maintain Mercedes and other vehicles that the family owns. In short, a small army has been deployed to run the house smoothly.
The twist in the tale comes when Jasper discovers that his entire saving has been stolen.
The length of the film doesn’t allow the feeling of ‘being inside a flashy family’ to sink in naturally, it seems forced. The servants mocking Kalpana in the initial sequence appears plastic but somehow Lillete Dubey saves the scene by underplaying the reactions. She hasn’t done anything extraordinary but she has done it effortlessly. Dubey hasn’t copied her ‘Monsoon Wedding’ act despite doing a similar role. She looks more mature and at ease with fellow actors, subtle emotional transitions take place on her face during the climax.
Kulbhushan Kharbanda excels in the scenes where he is required to portray the absurdities of a Punjabi family but he hasn’t got much chance to showcase his range due to unidirectional nature of his character.
Dinesh Yadav has done justice to his role of a sulking cook but Arun Mallick fails to carry the ‘bechara’ expression for long. He is good in comic scenes but expressing fear is not his cup of tea.
The script lacks coherence at times. For example, the scene where Rohini goes to a local don for some money. The entire sequence has been shot with a certain kind of gloominess but the characters never talk about it again. It restricts the tempo from rising above a certain level. There is another scene where Jasper tries to console Rohini and she runs away, it’s understandable that the storyteller is just chronicling the proceedings of a day but on screen characters get established by simple gestures too.
Actually too many things happen simultaneously in the story which enhances the chaos quotient. The script would have been more uncomplicated if Prashant Nair could have cut on some characters and their screen space. The tent guys, the son and one driver don’t contribute anything substantial to the story.
Not using a loud background score pays well for the film, it gives authenticity to the basic premise. Camera work is average but editing has been done with imagination.
The second best thing about the film is director’s strict no to spoon feeding. ‘Delhi in a Day’ leaves you wondering about the class struggle and different permutations and combinations to find a proper finish to a story which is driven by random characters.
The best thing is Anjali Patil. She has displayed all the moods in ‘Delhi in a Day’. Her eyes and movements are more expressive than a mirror. Patil gives the film a new dimension; half of the illusions in ‘Delhi In A Day’ are her creations. I am calling them illusions because Patil’s each gesture leads to a different meaning. Don’t get surprised if her first encounter with Jasper in the film finds a place in the syllabus of acting schools after some years.
Overall, ‘Delhi in a Day’ is a simple film which is not made with a preoccupied mind. It largely remains sweet but conveys the point strongly. It deserves 3 out of 5.
Rating: 3 out of 5.