Film: Delhi In a Day
Director: Prashant Nair
Cast: Lee Williams, Anjali Patil, Lillete Dubey, Victor Banerjee, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Prashant Nair has a good thing going on in Delhi In a Day. A film that could have just been a bunch of generalizations about the people of Delhi, bordering on cliché, is instead a bang on portrayal of an upper-class south Delhi household.
Eager to please their guest from London, the Gambhir family does everything short of rolling out the red carpet to welcome Jasper (Lee Williams) to Delhi. Mukund Gambhir (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) is the loud yet lovable Punjabi uncle who likes his whisky and jokes that stopped being funny decades ago. His wife Kalpana (Lillete Dubey) is very like the neighborhood Pammi aunty you will run into in the streets of Patel Nagar, “posh” and shiny. She runs the palatial farmhouse they call home with a contingent of four servants Udai Singh, Chhotu, Rohini and Raghu and two drivers. The family is completed by two spoilt teenagers who are way too wrapped up in their own lives and the grandfather, played by Victor Banerjee, who has a quiet intelligence about him and keeps to his room most of time.
Jasper, who is eager to discover the mystic India he has read about in books, is overwhelmed by Delhi. Instead of spiritual epiphanies, he encounters traffic, cheating taxi-wallahs, and a hierarchy he finds uncomfortable. Taken by the maid Rohini (Anjali Patil), he cannot quite understand why she is so terrified to talk to him.
The real mess starts when Jasper finds all his money missing from his backpack. The blame is obviously dumped on the servants who are given 24 hours by their mistress to put the money back or face a police enquiry. What follows is a desperate attempt on the servants’ part to prove their innocence and the Gambhirs trying to save their reputation by fixing this very uncomfortable situation.
The situations in the film have been created beautifully and the moments instead of heavy and emotional are subtle. Delhi in… raises questions not just about Delhi but the society in general; the rich vs poor, master vs servant, the vulnerability of the help who have no idea about their legal rights etc.
Nair manages to juxtapose, within the same household, two very different worlds, one that of the wealthy and loud and the other that of the poor and muted. The party sequence especially is very telling where on one hand we see women wearing gaudy clothes trying to make themselves prominent and obvious while in another part of the same city, Rohini, tries to make herself small and invisible so as to not draw any male attention. The men drink and talk about Italian politics while Udai, Chhotu and Raghu serve food and think of ways to keep their jobs.
Delhi in a Day has a tight and entertaining script which is bettered by good performances. Kharbanda is hilarious and together he and Dubey make a picture-perfect high-society couple. Williams plays the part of Jasper just right as the uncomfortable and disturbed outsider who is completely baffled and little disappointed with his trip to India. Banerjee hardly has any screen time but his graceful presence in the film provides the much needed normalcy and balance required. It is Patil though who steals the show. Her gorgeous Indian looks and portrayal of a maid is touching and leaves a strong impression.
Being a born and raised Delhi-ite I was curious in terms of how the film would feature Delhi, but I was left disappointed as the shots of the city were uninspired, but that seems to be the only bit that fell short.
Though it’s not “mainstream cinema”, Delhi In a Day has all the ingredients for an entertaining flick. It's a must watch.
Delhi In a Day is being released as part of PVR's Director's Rare Initiative. Show timings in Mumbai:
PVR Mulund- 8:30 pm
PVR Juhu- 9:00 pm
PVR Phoenix (Lower Parel)- 8:50 pm
PVR Oberoi (Goregaon East)- 8:30 pm
BIG Cinemas(Ghatkopar)- 10:15 pm