Delhi Belly, Imran Khan

<Review by: Tushar A Amin>

Directed by Abhinay Deo. Starring Imran Khan, Vir Das, Kunal Roy Kapur, Vijay Raaz, Poorna Jagannath, Shenaz Treasury.

Should I say it? Shouldn’t I? What the fuck… here it goes. Delhi Belly just might become the Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro or Andaaz Apna Apna of the current generation. There, I said it!

Every once in a while, there comes a film that shatters the norms of established cinematic language in Bollywood, redefines the voice and tone of film narrative and enthuses hope in the future of movies in the country. In the process, it succeeds in endearing the world’s most prolific film industry to the next generation of movie buffs. It is this in-built evolutionary defense mechanism that has seen Bollywood go from crappy to cool in the last two decades. Be it Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai or Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D, each of these movies are a milestone simply because they captured the zeitgeist through the voices and choices of their characters… Each pushed the envelope a little farther just by tuning itself into the evolving psyche of the audience. Abhinay Deo’s Delhi Belly doesn’t push. It shoves the envelope. And how!

On the face of it, Delhi Belly is very much in the vein of Guy Ritchie’s films like Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch and follows the established genre traditions of mix-ups, goof-ups and fuck-ups, loop. But it is Delhi Belly’s life-and-blood characters, its swearing-cussing-conversational-urban voice and its realistic mise en scene that roots this film in the Indian milieu, giving it a zing of authenticity. At the center of the chaos are three roommates – Tashi (Imran Khan), Arup (Vir Das) and Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapur); a WC-shattering case of Delhi Belly suffered by Nitin; and two packages – one with diamonds hidden in a Matryoshka doll and the other with Nitin’s stool test sample. The packages get mixed-up and the contents of the wrong brown bag end up being laid-out on muslin cloth of the local goon (Vijay Raaz). With goons on their tail, the troika flings from one unexpected and precarious situation to another, relying on their sheer ingenuity to stay alive.

Delhi Belly is at times wicked, at times whacky and mostly plain crazy, but never stupid. It is irrepressibly funny but doesn’t resort to a single ‘gag’ or ‘punch-line’. It is loaded with profanities but never vulgar. And this once, the credit goes to a brilliant screenplay. Take a bow, Akshat Varma! Amidst the frenzied on-goings, the film captures the lives of urban yuppies in all raucous shades, be it Tashi answering a phone in the midst of going down on Sonia, Arup’s boss insisting on making a banana he has sketched seven per cent sadder or Nitin entering a random house to relieve himself in the midst of rising chaos.

Delhi Belly never tries to be funny. The comedy in this film arises out of reactions to situations. Each actor of the ensemble cast adds to the rootedness of the film and makes it all seem natural. Deft editing and a pulsating soundtrack keep the pace of the film sharp and edgy. Crisp, detail oriented cinematography seeps visuals in the narrative. This is not the Delhi of Band Baaja Baraat or Oye! Lucky… but, it is etched in as much detail and is as authentic as either (though Delhi Belly is British slang for traveller’s diarrhoea and has nothing to do with the city).

Abhinay Deo’s debut film (Game) was criticized for being all style, no substance. With Delhi Belly, he gets a chance to display his mastery of story-telling as well as his understanding of nuanced acting and detailed characterisation. Deo impresses with his sense of subtlety and his restraint. Delhi Belly is a tight slap in the face of slapstick crap doled out in heaps as comedy films in Bollywood. Here finally, is a film that doesn’t insult your intelligence and still has you in splits by its sheer authenticity of voice, setting and narrative progression. For that, we have Aamir Khan to thank. Delhi Belly will definitely not create box-office history. What it will do for sure is encourage more individualistic voices to break new grounds. As most of the established actors and filmmakers embrace the return-to-mindless-masala-flicks trend, it is films like Delhi Belly that keeps the faith going.

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