Delhi-6 Represents the Enigmatic India of Today


Addressing the crowd gathered for the world premiere of Delhi-6 at MOMA, Indian actor Abhishek Bachchan announced that the film we were about to see “truly represents the India of today and the youth of today.” “The India of today” (and spurious representations thereof) is a concept currently under review; by the time a grudging consensus is reached, the India of next week will have crowded in. But in his claim, Bachchan (nicknamed “Little B”—he is the son of “Big B,” Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, whom my seatmates, aisle-mates, and adjacent row-mates concurrently agreed is the greatest actor in history, an assertion supported by a certain sewage-covered, autograph-seeking boy early in Slumdog Millionaire) had posed an intriguing question: Could a true-blue Bollywood film ever represent something other than the highly referent, tightly clockworked chaos of Bollywood cinema? While Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi-6—the story of an American-born Indian who accompanies his ailing grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) to Delhi and, duly appalled and enchanted by what he sees, undergoes a cultural conversion and rather brutal baptism—attempts to address the generational, economic, and religious problems dividing modern India, it does so in an unapologetically broad, whacked-out way, with each of Bollywood’s four food groups (corn, cheese, treacle, and nuts) present and accounted for. Which is to say, of course, that it’s pretty much irresistible and, in that sense, represents the enigmatic India of today as well as anything ever could.

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