Chalo Dilli is a reworking of John Hughes? 1987 comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles, in which Steve Martin and John Candy played mismatched strangers who take a life-altering trip together. Instead of New York to Chicago, the journey is made from Mumbai to Delhi via Rajasthan and director Shashant Shah also throws in camel carts and trucks.
Lara Dutta plays Mihika Banerjee, an uptight investment banker who is the senior VP of a 200-crore company, drinks Evian water and is obsessively clean. This is the type of woman who never cracks a smile, who after five years after marriage doesn?t have a child because she doesn?t want the responsibility and who is willing to travel on her own birthday because she doesn?t care about spending it with her husband. In other words, a woman in urgent need of a life-lesson on getting her priorities right. The perfect man to deliver this is the zarda-chewing Manu Gupta, played by Vinay Pathak, a shop owner from Karol Bagh, who is loud, talkative and relentlessly crass. But unlike Mihika, Manu has his heart in the right place and over the course of a long, unexpected journey, he teaches her what?s important.
Like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, this could have been reasonably good fun if the characters and situations were even half-way interesting. But Shashant, working from a screenplay by Arshad Sayed, doesn?t give us much to go on. The characters are strictly stereotype. A woman with a career must be the stiletto-heeled, multi-tasking boss from hell. And a man from Karol Bagh must wear loud shirts, chew with his mouth open and fart while he?s eating. It?s painfully predictable and not particularly amusing. At one point, Mihika is even given a lecture on the importance of having children. But by then, I was too bored to be offended. There isn?t much that actors can do with such paper-thin characters. Vinay attempts to give Manu some texture but there is a sense of d?j? vu in watching him play the bumbling, large-hearted Everyman yet again.
Chalo Dilli strains hard to be uplifting and poignant but it doesn?t quite make it. I?m going with two stars.