Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art served as the glamorous venue for last night's world premiere of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's much anticipated Bollywood spectacular Delhi 6
, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor. In addition to the director and composer A.R. Rahman (who is currently being showered with awards for his score for Slumdog Millionaire
), the luminous stars were on hand to greet the crowd
Though the film is a love letter to the Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi, New York City was chosen for the premiere because Delhi 6 opens on the Brooklyn Bridge, and one of its best sequences is set in a Delhi-fied Times Square of the mind.
Sonam Kapoor at the New York premiere for Delhi 6Jürgen Fauth
But the story of Delhi 6
moves east swiftly: when his beloved Grandma (veteran actress Waheeda Rehman) resolves to return to India, the amiable Rochan (Bachchan) decides to go with her. His homecoming to Delhi's zip code 6 is an opportunity for a colorful portrait of both the area and its inhabitants: Rochan discovers an extended family with competitive uncles and prankster kids, neighbors separated by thin walls, the local town idiot, the money lender, the lower-caste prostitute, the abusive police chef, the mad fakir -- and a mysterious threat known only as "the black monkey."
And of course, there's the girl. Lovely Bittu is played by newcomer Sonam Kapoor, daughter of Anil Kapoor (whom you may know as the game show host in Slumdog Millionaire.) With dreams of appearing on Indian Idol and an arranged marriage in the works, Bittu likes to escape to the roof, where she occasionally performs song-and-dance numbers with the pigeons. All ten songs by Golden Globe and BAFTA winner and Oscar nominee A.R. Rahman are joyful and diverse, partaking from a wider number of styles than his Slumdog soundtrack.
Whimsy and a generally warm mood inform most of the character sketches and handsomely shot vignettes of local life during Delhi 6's
first half: reverse-culture-shock jokes, a lavish production of the story of Ram and Sita, a visit to the Taj Mahal, and a cow giving birth in the street. In the film's final hour, more serious themes -- unwelcome traditions and smoldering religious hatred -- come bubbling to the surface and erupt into a Do the Right Thing
climax that took me by surprise.
Maybe the runaway success of Slumdog Millionaire will inspire western audiences to sample more authentic Bollywood fare; with its first-rate music, world-class stars, and postcard-ready views of India (not to mention the relatively reasonable running time), Delhi 6 presents an especially welcoming option.
Check out our photo gallery from the Delhi 6 premiere.
Delhi 6 (2009)
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Om Puri, and Rishi Kapoor
Directed by: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Produced by:Alan G. Glazer, Ryan Kavanaugh, Chuck Roven
Music: A.R. Rahman
Language: Hindi and English with English subtitles
Running Time: 2 hrs. 20 min.
Release Pattern: 90 theaters across North America
Manhattan Theaters: AMC Village 7 and ImaginAsian