Sunday, May 10, 2009

Billu Barber/Delhi 6

Billu Barber

I look for something remarkable in every movie that I see. Something novel or something different. I don’t always succeed. However, if I do, I am happy with the filmmaker, even if the movie in entirety is a big let down. That little thing can compensate for the overall disappointment with the film.

In Billu Barber, for example, apart from the last scene where Shah Rukh Khan gives his speech in school (very emotional, like Al Pacino’s in The Scent of A Woman), there is this scene in the beginning of the movie when Billu applies for a government grant to refurbish his barber shop. Great way to introduce and reveal the main character. Of course, the government grant is never made. Billu has no money to grease the palm of the bureaucrats to get his loan sanctioned. Later on, we learn from an angry Om Puri (the rich moneylender in Billu's town) that Billu was the only one who had refused a loan from him and hence his shop was in a bad shape.

This is a micro level example of the debt trap that Billu perhaps was aware of. This brings me to the subject of debt-led growth model. India was not growing at a blazing rate before the economy's liberalization in 1990. Reason? Capital was not available for borrowing. Then everyone got access to easy credit. Since fiat money is created out of thin air, there is no dearth of it. But is this model of growth sustainable? Even before the Wall Street crisis and global recession that we are witnessing today, I knew something was wrong with this model. At that time, I didn't know about finance, fiat money, the inverse pyramid model of debt-based growth.

Will the whole of humanity be enslaved by the financial institutions (Master/Visa/bank mortgages for individuals and WB/IMF for countries)? That's what Billu's little act of defiance reminds me. Any way, in the old Hindi movies, the villains were the village moneylenders.

Delhi 6

God is you…he lives in your heart. Tujh me rab basta hai. I think that was one of the messages of the film, Delhi 6. And it was made brilliantly obvious by the shots in the closing credits. In the temple, there is a mirror. All characters (actors) come to the temple and see their image reflected in the mirror, in the temple’s sanctum sanctorum. Great message!

I think the film did not work because of the principal character. There was not much background provided on him, nor was there a transformation in him--creating less empathy with him. We never see how his childhood was. What formed his thoughts and beliefs? The film did not convey that.

When I discussed the film with scriptwriting guru Syd Field, who had advised Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra on the script, he said that the main character was passive. Too many cooks (three writers in this case) spoil the broth and despite good intentions, this is what happened with Delhi 6.