For a film that can boast of its cinematic technique and which that aspires to be a satirical portrayal of the upper class in Delhi, this one turned out to be quite predictable. Considering that I’m yet relatively new to reviewing and still have a long list (that only increases daily) of films to catch up on, spotting flaws and predicting the twists in a film isn’t exactly second nature to me. Despite that, I found myself frequently checking the time during the film which is anything but a good sign!
To be fair there is nothing glaringly wrong with the film. It even has a message for which most of urban India must be coerced to watch it. The film essentially depicts how the upper class in Delhi treat their domestic help who have predominantly come from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu and work as chauffuers, maid servants, cooks, caretakers in huge, sprawling bungalows.
Jasper (Lee Williams) has come to India for the first time and is staying at his father’s friend Mukund Bhatia’s (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) house. This artistic foreigner has precisely a day in the national capital after which he plans to explore “India’s mystical, spiritual and less worldly side”. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it? But then again India is a diverse country and is known for its religious diversity and heritage). Jasper then plans to head to Varanasi the next day. Before we know it, his journey to ‘Incredible India’ begins on a bumpy note and the ones who get pulled up for this incident include none other than the mini army of household staff that Kalpana Bhatia (Lillete Dubey) runs.
The general outline of the plot maybe a very creative one but unfortunately it’s screenplay doesn’t adequately support it and leaves the viewer feeling like they were part of the scripting team. To make matters worse, the filmmaker even inserts a romantic portion between Jasper and Rohini, (Anjali Patil), the maid servant of the house.
While this is done subtly, this portion could have been done away with, considering the film’s theme. But then again as Indians, we’re so accustomed to seeing romance in our films that this leaves us hungry for other themes to be wholly explored, resulting in us frowning upon love stories in international and parallel films, regardless of how subtly and unconventionally they could have been portrayed.
Delhi in a Day’ still manages to entertain, has its hilarious moments and will make a ‘Delhiite’ nostalgic! Yes, despite the film’s loopholes, it is most definitely worth a watch. That is thanks to the film’s cinematography which is seamless. The film begins on a moving note that reminds you of the disparity between the classes by showing a poor man, brushing his teeth on a terrace. The film’s background score is minimalistic and varied, adapting itself according to the various scenes. One of the odd two songs in the film, include a scene where Rohini dances to an old Hindi number.
The film’s brand of humor also contributes in taking the film a few notches up and includes scenes where one of the domestic staff refer to the guests at a house party as “Diwali lights”. Other scenes that are funny include Kalpana, smilingly, scolding her staff in Hindi in front of Jasper. Similar candid scenes undoubtedly make you giggle but more importantly act as a sharp reminder of how most of the rich elite across India treat their staff and expect them to be geniuses at running their homes despite their illiteracy.
Some of the film’s other highlights also include the performances, all of which stand out. The film also stars Victor Banerjee who plays a retired theater actor and Kalpana’s father. His brief presence in the film is refreshing. Lee William’s acting skills and looks are at par but his character has been portrayed too idealistically. A special mention for Vidya Bhushan who very convincingly plays a sober and worried caretaker of the house who’s been around for 20 years. Lillete Dubey and Kulbhushan Kharbandai as usual succeed in making their mark but then we’ve seen Lillete Dubey pulling off a similar character in ‘Monsoon Wedding’.
You can certainly include this film in your list of films to watch this week. Just don’t go in with too many expectations.
Verdict: This film certainly attempts to stand out and almost succeeds in doing so. So do yourself a favor and don’t judge it on the basis of its trailer, if you manage that, you’re guaranteed to have your paisa vasool.
Director: Prashant Nair
Cast: Anjali Patil, Lee Williams, Lillete Dubey, Kulbhushan Kharbandai, Victor Banerjee, Vidya Bhushan.
Writer: Billy Fox, Prashant Nair
Running Time: 1 hour 28 minutes