First things first. Delhi Belly is a little gem. Well, not so little - with Aamir Mamu backing yet another bhaanja-starrer. Nevertheless, we must spare 96 minutes of our time, revel in Bollywood's first REAL adult comedy, and salute the team behind this brave brazen work of art-entertainment. Forget the Box Office collections and commercial aspirations for a moment. Let's stick to the basics...
Cinematically, Delhi Belly could do, hopefully, what Dil Chahta Hai (DCH) had done a decade ago, it could usher in an entirely new era of young filmmakers keen to depict the uncompromised ways of their generation on screen. In 2001, DCH was, in its purest form, a path-breaking film about contemporary urban relationships. Not surprisingly, Aamir Khan was an integral part of things even back then. Delhi Belly, similarly, has made a bold stand. If it means going that step further and crossing the language barrier (90% in English, mind you), so be it.
Now that the big picture has been analyzed, let us concentrate on the actual piece of priceless pop art at hand. Once again, as was the case with the other surprise of the year Pyaar ka Punchnama, the film revolves around three Delhi boys sharing a flat. The plot is nothing out of the ordinary: 3 losers - trashy lives - get caught in smuggling mixup, chance across wealth, face huge predicament, bumble out of mess to a happy ending. Now if this was an Indra Kumar or Anees Bazmee film, you'd expect an ORGY of stars with half-decent mimicry abilities and a Komal Nahata indirectly declaring that the audiences are dumb enough to declare themselves as juvenile delinquents. But this is a smart film that dares to challenge the common perception of Indian juvenile comedy aided by a cracking script (by Akshat Varma) and some slick direction (by Abhinay Deo of Game fame) And to be fair, Delhi Belly was shot way before Game went on the floors.
I, for instance, am not a great fan of potty humour. But somehow, I found myself grinning at the scenes that involved a tummy growl and a fart. It could be pure timing. It could be situational humour at its wry best. The power of silence, for example, is used in this film like it always should be used in a mature laugh-riot. Fans of Pink Panther, or even Mel Brooks enthusiasts will do well to recall the funniest moments of their films - dialogue was never an integral part of those scenes, and it had more to do with the situation and their body language.
The biggest victory of Delhi Belly lies in the fact that not once during the film do you feel the strangeness of having to watch an Indian film with predominantly English dialogue especially because, admittedly, Indian actors (Salman in general and even Aamir in Dhobi Ghat) sound hughly stilted spouting the language on screen. In fact, Imran Khan must consider ditching Hindi films altogether after this surprisingly comfortable performance as a run-of-the-mill journo Tashi stuck in black-eyed hell. Vir Das (as the cynical Arup) is blessed with some inanely decent lines like 'Your arse is the size of a bloody solar eclipse' and the legendary 'Because I am 21st century male, I have no shame in admitting that I too have given your daughter oral pleasure!' Insanely creative, considering the fact that every male probably dreams of humiliating his ex-girlfriend (and her family) after they have just collectively dumped him for a computer engineer or doctor. And then there is the audience-pleaser and charming (in a Zach Galifianakis sort of a way) Kunaal Roy Kapoor, the photographer who is one step short of necrophilia. His incessant drawl accompanying regular abuses like F*cker and Bastard are so spot-on that you may not even need to look at his face to understand that he is that incessant whiner of every group with a heart the size of his paunch. The one particular scene, where he is cursing Imran for the impotency of his new car, will tickle you even if you are Akshay Kumar (or variations of him).
Of the rest of the cast, Vijay Raaz, as the last flag-bearer of desi-ness in the form of a shady drug-dealing gangster, is finally back in form. This time, he is not hindered by a Shakti Kapoor and Aftab Shivdasani (Bin Bulaye Baraati) or a failed home production (Always Kabhi Kabhi). And finally, Poorna Jagannathan as the enigmatic Menaka exudes the typical queer charm of a young rebel divorcee. Her presence as Yin to Imran's Yang is most intriguing and makes for an interesting (read strong) debut.
There are complete offshoots to the plot, like Arup's girlfriend track, his ad agency track (which is, admittedly, an apt take of modern-day creative bosses) and their red-faced landlord's carnal dilemma. These tracks may have been FIRST on the chopping block on any other ensemble project headed by editors who believe that 'What does not add, SUBTRACTS.' But this isn't just any other project. And contrary to certain writing 'rules', a little bit of unrelated lunacy goes a long way in shaping out the mood and tone of the story at hand. These 'offshoots' here, as does happen very rarely, are the real strengths of the film.
A special mention must be made for the very innovative production design (again, a major aspect of invisible characterization) and cinematography - especially in closed spaces like the filthy residence inhabited by the three flatmates, and the shady hotel room later on. Unfortunately, the only thing Delhi about the film was Roy Kapoor's belly and the only true indication about the geographical backdrop of the setup is when a character mentions the area 'Vasant Vihar'. The lingo and gritty on-location sequences could very well have been Mumbai-based and we'd be none the wiser. But if the filmmakers have decided to use the Delhi trumpcard because of the recent record of Delhi-based films (and the attractive title), who are we to question the logic behind it? The music and DK Bose video, of course, proved to be the wisest strategic move as far as bringing in a different demographic altogether is concerned. The background score gives you an adrenalin rush, namely during the madcap chase sequences through the bylanes of the capital.
All in all, Delhi Belly is a MASSIVE step forward for mainstream Bollywood, the perfect (and rare) case of a smart script backed by a top producer and effective marketing skills. Humour, as widely accepted, is region-specific and that could mean that Golmaal 1,2,3 (to 100) and Bazmee fans might shun this effort altogether. Fair enough, we say, for this is not a war for acceptability. There is place for everybody, and it certainly takes a bit of guts and conviction to put your unapologetic style out there. Again, if all else fails, there is an 'item song' at the end which is the talk of the town. So shake that biscuit and go for it. After all, how often can you say that you're going to watch a commercial Hindi fillum with NO interval and (thankfully) no respite from the events unfolding on screen?!
- Reel Reptile