'Delhi-6' team tackles tough topics

Rakeysh Mehra's drama a microcosm of the region's troubles

Rakeysh Mehra, director of 2006's smash hit "Paint It Yellow," joined stars Abishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor on Sunday at the Dubai International Film Festival to promote "Delhi-6," their new drama set against the chaos of India's capital.

The film, which takes its title from the postal code for the old part of the city, follows Bachchan's character Roshan and his ailing grandmother — played by Waheeda Rehman — from the U.S. back to India on what becomes a search for the country's identity as it struggles with development and religious conflict. It's set to open in February.

"How the hell does this country work?" asked Mehra, three weeks after India's commercial capital Mumbai was hit by deadly terrorist attacks that killed 172 and sparked mass anti-government protests in the run-up to next year's elections. "These days the wheel is not turning."

Bachchan, who recently finished the Miami-set romantic comedy "Dostana," said he felt lucky to be able to act in two such distinct films in the same year.

"I like to think that the audience will come out of 'Delhi-6' questioning the way they lead their lives, asking why they do what they do and if it serves any good purpose," Bachchan said from behind dark sunglasses.

The glamorous Kapoor, who plays Bittu in the film, a character she said represents the ordinary youth of India, said she feels a responsibility to her fans. "If young girls are looking at me, I cannot shirk my responsibility to conduct myself in a certain way."

Written by Mehra and Prasoon Joshi, "Delhi-6" was produced for about $8.25 million "so far" by Mehra and Mumbai-based UTV Motion Pictures, UTVMP CEO Siddharth Kapur said.

"Delhi-6" is not the only film this year to take a good look at the big
issues facing modern India, the world's largest democracy. Another film, "Firaaq," by director Nandita Das, portrays sectarian violence through the eyes of ordinary people after deadly riots in India's Gujarat in 2002. "Firaaq" is featured at DIFF.

Mehra's award-winning "Paint it Yellow" (Rang De Basanti), a politically charged epic about a group of disillusioned Indian youths who become nationalist freedom fighters united against British rule in the 1920s, starred Rehman and Aamir Khan. It was India's second highest-grossing film in the last decade, taking in about $30 million.