By MovieTalkies.com, 29 April 2011
The epic road trip is hardly a new concept in B'Town. It started with Jab We Met, then we saw glimpses of it in Anjaana Anjaani and we now await a Spanish cross country extravaganza in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. But until that happens, Chalo Dilli offers audiences ample entertainment presented in a simple yet meaningful way.
There have been murmurs about the film being a rip off of the Steve Martin and John Candy starrer, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Director Shashant Shah has admitted that his original story was also about two men from very different worlds, and while the basic premise and idea behind the films is pretty much the same, Chalo Dilli has a completely distinct flavour, a very North Indian touch, which sets it apart from most other films of the genre.
A prim and proper investment banker prone to excessive bouts of OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) misses her flight, thanks to Mumbai's trademark traffic jam and a bumpkin whose suitcase opens up right in the middle of the road. Enter the loud, brash, gutka chewing saree salesman who ends up bumping into the damsel in distress time and again and soon appoints himself as her travel companion, much to the chagrin of the memsaab. A proper adventure follows as the mis matched duo of Mihika Banerjee aka behenji and Manu Gupta aka bhaisaab make their way across the desert from Jaipur to Delhi, using all possible means of transport.
The film aims to lead the viewers into rediscovering the Northern territory through the eyes of the city bred woman, and it certainly succeeds for most part. There are no sweeping shots of the picture perfect landscape or colourful montage sequences highlighting the exotic aspects of the country. We see a glimpse of the country through the rich variety of quirky characters right from the sleep deprived taxi driver and shy truck driver to the Bengali babu who blames the system for everything and the hot blooded gangster.
Many sequences are reminiscent of Jab We Met, especially since Hotel Decent's manager also makes an appearance as a local gangster at Hotel Red Tomato in this film. The actor, Teddy Maurya, is also the production designer of both films and this could explain a few things.
Arshad Syed, who had also penned the dialogues for director Shashant Shah's debut, Dasvidaniya shines yet again. The dialogues, especially Pathak's, don't sound forced, and might even remind audiences of their own interactions. For example, the taxi sequence in which Manu enquires about Mihika's husband's address in Delhi. "Where in Delhi?" he asks. "Chanakyapuri", she replies. "Where in Chanakyapuri?" he prods further and so on before revealing in the end that he has no knowledge about the place.
Syed's story and screenplay is ably supported by Shah's direction. Simple, yet humourous sequences and some interesting camera angles and frames stand out. The film is well paced for most part and the pair's bumpy ride across the rough terrain and their many misadventures manage to hold your attention.
One grouse however is that Lara's character transforms overnight, quite literally! One night she's the la di dah madam wiping the "face of the roti" with a tissue to soak in excess oil and the next morning, post a spectacular sunrise, she's gobbling up deep fried puris and aloo bhaji! Though she attributes her rudeness to a terrible migraine, the change in her demeanor towards Manu seems all too sudden.
Also, though the former beauty queen looks the part of a hoity investment banker in her pencil skirt, satin blouse and black heels, her performance doesn't exactly pack a punch. Lara Dutta gets the arrogant bits down pat, but she seems to struggle in the slightly sentimental sequences.
Akshay Kumar's special appearance is thankfully just that and contrary to rumours, Mahesh Bhupati does not have a cameo. In fact, there's nothing in the film that even remotely reminds one of the tennis ace except for the 'Big Daddy' logo right in the beginning.
It is Vinay Pathak's stellar act as the crude, portly salesman who doesn't seem to take anything in life too seriously that takes the film up by a few notches. The funnyman manages to disgust you with his burping habits, crack you up with his witty one liners and tug at your heartstrings, all within the span of a few minutes.
The end might seem like a bit of a let down to some, but it gets across the message that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. And Shashant Shah manages to do this without being too preachy. The film is interspersed with social messages, for example when Vinay Pathak's character urges the child at the dhaba to go to school. He also speaks about the girl child a couple of times during the course of the journey.
Mostly background numbers, except for Yana Gupta's zingy re worked item number Laila O Laila, the soundtrack is an amalgamation of tunes, most of which work well with the theme and tone of the film. Though slightly slow, kaun si badi baat encapsulates the spirit of Vinay's character, while the title track has a catchy ring to it.
Apart from the fact that it's highly refreshing to see that the leading lady and man aren't forced to 'fall in love', the filmmaker deserves a pat on the back for presenting to us a slice of life movie with a huge heart and an important message, which can be enjoyed by the entire family. Jump on board and head to Dilli!