Friday, April 29, 2011

Chalo Dilli 

Jab They Met

It’s the classic chalk-and-cheese situation.  A sophisticated investment banker with borderline obsessive compulsive disorder, a raffish Karol Bagh shopkeeper,  manage, with some contrivance to embark on a road trip together from Jaipur to Delhi.

The plot has its roots in road movies like Due Date,  Planes Trains and Automobiles and many others, not to mention Jab We Met (with the genders reversed), but director Shahshant Shah has done without one typical element—the opposites in Chalo Dilli do  not attract each other.  It is established early on that both are married, so the nightmarish adventure they share, does not end in romance. She calls him Bhaisaheb, and he calls her Behenji, and that’s that. The audience does not even discover their names till the very end.

Manu Gupta (Vinay Pathak) is the loud, chatty, annoying co-passenger everyone dreads on a journey. But he is also friendly, helpful and intrusive in an innocent but irritating way.  He is not the kind of guy Mihika (Lara Dutta) would ever share space with, if it weren’t for bad weather landing her Delhi flight in Jaipur. She rents a car and is saddled with a creepy driver, which is when Manu hops in, ostensibly to aid a “solitary helpless woman.” 

He ends up driving the jalopy, gets lost on the way and Mihika’s troubles begin. But, the plot intends to humble her—as all uppity women must be—by cutting her down to size literally (as her designer heels give way) and then showing her a side of India, she is unaware of.  Eating oily food in a cockroach-infested dhaba, losing her luggage, sleeping in the open on a charpoy, seeing the sun rise, losing all her money, ending up in a cheap hotel, encountering rural thugs – everything awful happens to her, while Manu enjoys it all saying, “To kaunsi badi baat hai.”

Of course, clichés fly all through, but since the pace is zippy and Vinay Pathak is in overdrive, his Manu doubly aggravating than the character in Bheja Fry (his best to date),  but also the kind of guy you’d like to have around when the car breaks down, the pocket is picked and the train missed.  Lara Dutta, just can’t keep up. What the film could have done without is the Yana Gupta item number (in Jhunjuhu of all places), the overextended climax and the explanations for Manu’s crazy behavior.  All in all, good for a few laughs.


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