Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Chalo Dilli

Directed by: Shashant Shah
Starring: Lara Dutta, Vinay Pathak
Released: 2011
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

One of the better films of the first half of 2011, and at the time I watched it (spring 2011) after 7 Khoon Maaf also the first which I watched at one go without looking at the timeline (which actually seems quite rare these days). It is a small film about small people who encounter trouble – that as we learn near the end are either big or small depending on your experience and view of life. Quite unusual for a Bollywood film it doesn´t have a love twist and the leading pair is not romantically involved at all (though they share a wonderful chemistry).

We have two characters who could not be more different – and I mean that to the extreme. Mihika is a drop dead gorgeous Senior Vice President of a top multinational Financial Institution in Mumbai. She is highly ambitious, extremely professional and confident and strictly demands the same level of professionalism not only from her employees, but apparently also from the whole world. Her own world works the way she likes it. Everything is organized, planned, punctual and most importantly clean. She is nothing less but outraged when she misses her flight to Delhi and is compelled to board another, where sadly there is no first class and she is forced to sit beside people from that other world which disgusts her so much. And what more – right next to her is the seemingly worst speciment of that world!
Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam.....
Manu is a chubby, moustached, loud, paan-chewing, gutkaa juice-spitting and sweaty individual who has no qualms of keeping his money notes in the front part of his pants. A rather exaggarated portrayal of a „common Indian“ perhaps? I wouldn´t know. He definitely seemed at times like a caricature, then again I just completely can imagine people like him. Mihika, drinking her important paani, is honestly terrified of his manners. But fate apparently wants to play with her nerves, resistance and even life, because after a series of unfortunate happenings Mihika and Manu find themselves stuck with each other throughout increasingly bizzare situations. And while Manu is trying to cheer his companion up, Mihika only prays the journey will be over soon....

The movie in itself is what I would call a typical road story, where everything is going wrong. In fact, I was just wondering what more can actually go wrong, and I was always showed that the more wrong is actually possible. Only the ending makes the film what it is though, and it is one of the reasons why a viewer shouldn´t ask questions while watching. All will fall into place eventually. The film can get a bit lengthy, especially during the first 40 minutes, but once our two main protagonists board a train there is not one boring minute. Overally predictable i guess, but it is one of those cases you don´t really mind. It definitely doesn´t take anything away from the movie´s charm.
Example of the movie´s BEAUTIFUL cinematography.
I am a huge Vinay Pathak fan. His ordinary, down to earth and unpretentious character of Manu is endearing despite all the habits which may seem purely disgusting. He never overdoes anything, be it the humour or emotions and his timing is flawless. This was the first film in which I´ve seen Lara Dutta in the lead. Previously I´ve only seen her blink and miss cameo in Fanaa and her short role in Billu. She is definitely underrated! She is not only gorgeous, but has a good comic timing and both her anger and her tears are believable. Plus this was definitely not an easy role and she simply nailed it. Mihika could have easily turned out to be a “reformed bitch”, but instead one takes an immediate liking for her in spite of her prejudices. By making a film like Challo Dilli she also took a risk hardly any of the A-list star actresses ever would. And she succeeds. And I can already know she will not get a single award....
WHY is this woman not getting roles opposite the Khans?
Akshay Kumar´s cameo is one of the best ones this year. It comes definitely as a surprise, and though his first appearance has (intentionally which is obvious) the „Khiladi“ feel, he does not become a caricature of himself, as it seems to be so popular in the films these days, but acquires his own identity. His character is highly likeable and Akshay, not trying too hard, as well.

Music doesn´t really stay in mind, but both songs and background score follow the story nicely. From the technical aspects however the best is cinematography. The makers managed to show various faces of both cosmopolitan and rural India in a short span of 2 hours beautifully. Challo Dilli is colourful, but not in the rather eye-soaring way Yashraj sometimes make their films, it really breaths both the hectic life of big cities and peacefulness of the rather deserted areas where time does not move ahead too quickly. True, one would wish the script was more tight, the first 40 minutes more funny, the sickly looking Yana Gupta´s item number was not there and other little things. The film is not perfect, but something tells me that was not even the intention in the first place.

I really enjoyed this one for all its differences from the „usual“ mainstream Bollywood films. Here is a film without a love plot, with a an unattractive elderly (though still brilliant) „hero“, making you think but not preaching. Charming to the core.
Welcome to the Red Tomato hotel.

Why don´t  you just kill me now?


  1. I agreed with all of this. While the movie dragged for me in parts, I felt it was not only well-acted, but well filmed. The script needed a little tightening up in areas, but I agree that it was underrated and under-recognized. Vinay is a brilliant actor who isn't recognized enough...ever.

  2. Thank you for commenting! It certainly had weak moments, but it also had a heart. Vinay is awesome, but like many "supporting" actors he is often unjustly forgotten.

  3. Hi
    Lara has been paired with Salman in Partner & Shahrukh in Don 2. She is an extremely talented beauty. Her comic timing is really good. Watch Housefull and you'll see that she can carry of a better comic role than the lead males. Also, her movies such as No Entry, Andaaz & Partner are also good.