Saturday, June 2, 2007

"Delhii Heights" - Frustrating Aim at Mediocrity

I had my "Crap-o-meter" on as soon as I saw Shivaji Ganesan - of all - offering prayers to Tirupati and a batch of South Indian Deities at the front title of the movie. Was not this supposed to be a film on Delhi, where God takes a backseat unless He is driving a Bentley? Then, the narrator goes on (thankfully, not Amitabh Bachchan) - "Phir bhi meri Dilli meri shaan. Aur aaiye aab milte hai Delhi heights mein rehnewalon se.."

That's the last the city "Dilli" we would experience. Except a shot or two -- including one stock shot overwritten 'Bombay" -- all take place in cool comforts of the studio. One may have hoped this movie to continue the legacy of the foggily romantic Delhi winter (Ahista Ahista), or the Old Delhi cobweb of mystery (Dil Se). But finished watching, the biggest question that lingers on mind is not what exactly was Om Puri doing here, but why so many (I counted at least 7) travel agencies were thanked at the end title when the entire movie - barring may be 3 minutes - were shot within four walls!

Bengali literature is exceptionally strong with stories that touch the lives of people -- of similar background, but with different problems -- living within the same compound. Jyotirindro Nandy's "Baro Ghar, Ek Uthan" (Twelve Homes. Same Backyard)comes to the mind as the prime work in this genre. In the visual media, a tele-serial called "Kolkata" -- based on residents of a certain 'Kolkata Apartments' -- was highly popular in mid-80s. Lately, "Pran Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye" was cliched but was a relatively enjoyable film from Bollywood on the same premise, literally. Success of these stories mostly lie on two factors - (a) different story in each family - if one family deals with a teenage criminal, the other does with a pedophile who is next door neighbor to a high-class prostitute; and (b) complete lack of predictability.

In "Delhi Heights" two neighboring couples of similar age and background both deal with spousal issues! At no point during the movie one would not be able to tell what is going to happen fifteeen minutes since. Except that Jimmy Shergill would indeed be thanked for getting discount on soft drinks for Om Puri's daughter's wedding where premium scotch flows scot-free!

Back to the front-end narrator, on Delhi he says - "Dariyagunge mein dariya ki, aur PahaDgunj mein pahar ki ek photo tak najar nahin aati". Ironically, the same can be said about "Delhi Heights" and "Delhi".

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