There's something immensely charming and instantly likeable about Prashant Nair's Delhi In A Day that makes you settle into the plot rather comfortably, quite early on in the film.
Despite stray scenes of deja vu (as always, the fish-out-of-water foreigner gets ripped off by a taxi driver after discovering the great Indian traffic and sees touristy exotic frames of the country... you know the ones that don't miss the eye of the foreigner), this is a film that makes a conscious effort to duck the cliche and shows remarkable restraint in its sense of drama, at least for most of its running time.
What's surprising is the depth debutant director manages to mine in a film with a setting as simple and ordinary as this. You connect to the characters almost immediately, the makers steering the archetypes that make India away from stereotypes, with subtle sensitive touches that reveal character.
Jasper (Lee Williams) is a young British traveller visiting his Dad's childhood Indian friend in Delhi but before he gets a taste of the real India (Like most European tourists, he has Varanasi on his itinerary), he finds his money gone. From his room.
Delhi In A Day is a curious mix of a Whodunit and a character study of people who make the country what it is — the business-savvy upper class that's quick to let the poor take the blame, the low income working class who may crib about their masters but are loyal and hardworking, the rich kids who are increasingly getting alienated from the family unit, the older generation that finds it hard to connect to the idea of socialising, the spirited migrant workers who live an adventure everyday fighting the language barrier, etc.
It's a fascinating expose of the economic divide, one that resists the temptation to go all out dark and keeps the proceedings mostly light-hearted, despite the stakes.
This ensemble works magic and this is a film that makes your heart beat and root for every single character. Characters are never completely black or white. They are real people as we know them. While the ever-reliable veterans Khulbushan Kharbanda, Lillette Dubey and Victor Banerjee turn in supremely refined performances, the surprise package is the young cast. Lee Williams and Anjali Patil especially are promising actors to look out for.
Delhi In A Day is a film guaranteed to keep you chuckling all through.
It hits the right notes, without the slightest compromise.
It takes a bitter pill and makes it taste like candy. Go watch.