Director: Abhinay Deo
Cast: Imran Khan, Kunaal Roy Kapoor, Vir Das, Shenaz Treasury, Vijay Raaz, Poorna Jagannathan
Storyline: Three roommates are on the run from gangsters after having a particularly bad day when a package of diamonds gets swapped with a sample of stool
Bottomline: The film is like what causes the titular condition. Unhealthy yet inviting street food not necessarily in good taste.
As the opening credits roll out leisurely to the tune of Saigal Blues, there’s a cheeky mid-shot of a fat guy’s partially exposed lower back (as Mr. Chow says in the Hangover: It’s funny because he’s fat). We are shown this visual at least thrice just in case we miss the obvious wisecrack there. It’s the “hero introduction shot” to not-so-subtly let you know where most of the jokes in this frat-house film would come from.
Thankfully, though that is sort of true, there’s more to this film than just toilet-humour.
Not entirely mindless, ‘it’ from the film’s tagline, happens as a metaphor for a particularly bad day. It’s because you got “it” from something you did unwittingly. While the fat guy Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapoor, simply the best thing in the film) gets ‘it’ literally from eating Tandoori Chicken by the street-stall, Tashi (a new improved thick-stubbled Imran Khan) gets into ‘it’ when his girlfriend Sonia (evergreen Shenaz Treasury) springs a surprise engagement on him and Arup (finely restrained Vir Das) goes through ‘it’ when he is stood up and subsequently dumped by his girlfriend. Not the perfect day to lose a package of diamonds that gun-toting gangsters led by Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz puts the sin in sinister) are looking for. And surely not the place to be in once you’ve sent him a sample of stool instead unwittingly.
That’s all you need to know about the plot because it’s really just an excuse to let out all that’s been repressed in Bollywood for decades together.
So when it proverbially hits the fan and brings the roof down and we see the shocked expression on the faces of the elite kathak-trained prudes from the floor above – a room that has its walls lined up with photo frames of Gods. That’s probably the reaction you will get from your older uncles and aunts because as one of the guys tell us right at the beginning, nothing is sacred here (we are specifically told this when photographer Nitin puts a flower on the ear of a corpse for fun when on assignment).
The problem when you are watching a smart film is that you expect it to be smart throughout unlike say, a stupidly inane Dhamaal or an asinine Ready. Delhi Belly isn’t able to stay consistent in tone though it makes up for it by keeping the laughs coming.
What’s not consistent?
One, though Hinglish seems like a smart choice of language between three Delhi-based yuppies, when the uncouth gangsters enter the scene, the English-Hindi-Hinglish jumps seem obvious.
Two, profanity, by itself, isn’t humour. Wicked application of it is. While associate director and writer Akshat Verma (easily one of the best discoveries of the year) tucks some of it in smartly between jokes, some of it seems used for effect rather than need.
Three, lack of depth in characterisation. Of the three central characters, the cartoonist Arup (Vir Das) gets a raw deal because his love story is too undercooked for us to care enough for him or understand his random need for a tonsured head while some like Menaka (Poorna Jagannathan) are just so well-defined in spite of her limited presence in the film. As a result of this uneven mishmash, Delhi Belly remains a few notches below the subversive comic classic it could have been. There are many fine touches that lend themselves brilliantly to a comic book adaptation. But surely, this is a film that’s destined for cult status with the youth simply because they haven’t seen anything like this out of Bollywood, however derived it is from Messrs. Farelly Brothers, Todd Phillips or Quentin Tarantino.
Oral sex is not just spoken about but also shown as a matter of fact. There are shots of arousal – both human and canine – used for comic relief. Many words, some expletive and some just explicit, never uttered on screen before make their entry into Hindi cinema parlance. Music is used creatively as a part of the narrative and not just as an excuse to choreography the most successful song in the album (Bhaag DK Bose just appears as a part of the score). And like Dhobi Ghat, there’s no interval here either. So, there’s plenty to party about. After all, Bollywood just turned old enough to check into a frat house.
(This review originally appeared here)