The 'Chalo Dilli' Review

Chalo Dilli‘ defies the notion that December is the only time for ridiculous Hindi movies that make you believe every studio head in Bollywood is engaging in Rahul Mahajan levels of drug use.

The best way to describe this Vinay Pathak-Lara Dutta joyride is as an emotional stream of senselessness.  In his sophomore feature, director Shashant Shah (Dasvidania) has a solid lead in Vinay Pathak, whose goofy goodness somehow never becomes cloying. ‘Chalo Dilli’ surprisingly opens with wildly unintended farce, but its second half is a meditative chewing on the unconventional – it is a tremendously constricting example of how we as humans are supposed to watch Hindi movies. Whether you ingest Akshay Kumar’s mind numbing extended cameo or spit it out is largely dependent on your predetermined emotional attitude about the actor. 

So here we have Fortune 500 company head honcho Mihika (Lara Dutta), a punctual, precise woman who has a terrific career. She makes plans to travel to Delhi to visit her husband, but alas, inclement weather disrupts her schedule, and she finds herself in Jaipur along with her co-passenger, the exasperating, loquacious, overweight, gassy Manu (Vinay Pathak). She's desperately in need of an operational vehicle, and since Manu is more than willing to oblige, he saddles himself with driving her to Delhi. As expected, their trip goes in fits and starts. They're waylaid by sleepy drivers, fuel leakage, the peculiarities of the Indian railways, gangsters, and her failure to see eye to eye on sundry trivial matters that are dismissed eloquently by Manu with his ‘ab isme kya badi baat hai’.

Unfortunately, the deliberately mismatched pair’s screwball template gets mangled, simply because both of them come off as infantile nitwits, undercutting any comic rapport.   Dutta is a snooty, neurotic woman who wears six-inch stilettos as she makes her way across the Jaipur desert sand, while Pathak is a salt of the earth commoner. Now here’s the problem - Dutta is shrill and repugnant instead achieving the desired quirky charm her character calls for. She drowns out the light from every scene she is in, and consistently fails to surprise; it’s a miraculous performance, really.  The very uptight Dutta (she wears makeup and has a Blackberry, you see) can't handle Pathak’s openness and is more than a little jealous of how casually he takes life. Shots of Dutta's high-heels sinking into mud passes for visual humor, and Pathak’s loud farts are made to suffice as verbal wit. There's only so long that a Hindi film that is this shallow can keep interest alive in this happily unconventional couple snoozing in a remote dhaba though - and so a tragic illness is introduced, presumably to ensure that tears will flow now matter what.  Whatever reservoir of good will Shashant Shah builds during the first hour is exhausted by the laughable climatic melodrama.

Of course let’s not think of the nonsense about how ridiculously impossible it could be for someone to have her plane diverted to Jaipur because of weather, and to end up alone at an airport taxi stand and then not receive any help from the other 100-odd Delhi-bound passengers from the flight. That kind of logic and geographical knowledge is so unBollywood. You simply must agree that this sequence of events is utterly flawless and logically sound. And just when the story seems to arrive to a welcome climax, Mr Shah pulls the rug from under your feet by offering Akshay Kumar and an extra half hour of butt-numbathon. And the film keeps droning on without producing any laughs whatsoever.   

Watch ‘Chalo Dilli’ for its mildly interesting first half, but leave during the interval. If your company forces you to stay on post interval, don’t be surprised if you find yourself praying for the sweet release of death.

First published in DNA

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