“In a way, Delhi 6 was my attempt to remake Aks,” [Rakeysh Omprakash] Mehra said during our phone chat. It was a casual remark, we had to quickly move on to other topics and he never got a chance to elaborate, but for me it tied in with some striking similarities between the two films. Both use masks and reflections as ways of concealing or revealing things about their protagonists – and by extension, about people in general. Both also contain extensive Ramayana imagery, with Rama and Ravana presented as mirror images. Aks (which means “reflection”) is very obviously a story about good and evil defining and complementing each other, but this theme recurs in Delhi 6 too. An idiot savant literally holds a mirror up to society, but everyone ignores or makes fun of him – until the end, when communal discord brings unpleasant things to the surface. An elaborate Ram Leela performance spread over days runs parallel to the film’s main narrative, a rampaging monkey man is used as a symbol for fear and paranoia in a divided community, and at the end the hero dons a monkey mask to try to make people see reason.
An aha moment. This similarity had never occurred to me.
I might be repeating myself here, but Roger Ebert and Jai Arjun Singh are the only two film writers you will ever need. Beauty, humility, simplicity; even their criticism is nice. At times I follow links and recommendations to movie reviews by film critics who are not the above two. I regret reading them within the first few sentences.
This is perhaps a matter of taste and I know everyone has their favourite film critic. But if you’re up for it, try this experiment: For a month, take a break from your usual film critics and only read Ebert and Jai Arjun Singh. Tell me if it made a difference to the way you look at movies.