Directed by: Abhinay Deo
Starring: Imran Khan, Vir Das, Kunal Roy Kapoor, Shenaz Treasuryvala, Poorna Jagannathan and Vijay Raaz
All images courtesy of: http://www.glamsham.com
WARNING: Review contains spoilers, if you do not wish to know what happens, please revisit my review after viewing the film.
There is always a lot of noise made about films “crossing over” from the traditional Hindi film market into places it has not been before, in particular, into the western mainstream market which seems to maintain a casual indifference towards Hindi cinema in general. However, I’ve always felt that the language of cinema is universal and to me, it doesn’t matter where a film is from, as long as it is a film that I can connect to, enjoy and understand, then I am happy to watch it. I appreciate not everyone thinks in the same way and that is a real shame as there is fantastic cinema from across the world to be seen by everyone and the more open minded the viewer is, the greater the range of films to be seen.
So why am I going on about this now? Well, after watching Delhi Belly which is being trumpeted as the ultimate cross over and antithesis to the standard Hindi film, whilst I had to agree that this film has that potential to be enjoyed by those who have never seen a Hindi film before, I didn’t understand why the film couldn’t just be accepted on its own merit as a good film. Anyway, I digress; after having to miss the world premiere of Delhi Belly due to prior commitments (read as being forced to attend a sangeet night in the run up to a wedding), following the avalanche of praise that was heaped upon the film, not only by the Indian press but by the international press too, it goes without saying that I really wanted to see it. So, when the time finally came round, I was at the cinema faster than the speed of sound. Smiling indulgently at the regular cinema attendant who finds my obsession with film amusing, it was straight to the top floor of the multiplex to Screen 7 (which feels like a private cinema and was coincidentally also where I had seen Dhobi Ghat – a good omen!), with only four other people in attendance (and no one annoying which was nice), after getting sidelined by the trailer for Aaksharan, it was time to see if the hype was justified…
Delhi Belly is set in Delhi and revolves around Tashi (Khan), a journalist whose air hostess fiance Sonia (Treasuryvala) asks him to deliver a package for her to a certain address. Tashi lives with Arun (Das) and Nitin (Kapur) and he in turn asks one of them to deliver the package for him. It eventually falls to Arun to deliver the package after Nitin is struck with an upset stomach aka delhi belly and the package he is meant to deliver gets mixed up with a stool sample which leads to life changing consequences for the trio…
Make no mistake, Delhi Belly is a fun film and a quality product though with Aamir Khan’s involvement, there is never any doubt on that front. In fact, all the hallmarks of an Aamir Khan production are easy to spot in Delhi Belly – intelligent female characters, a willingness to do something different and do it wholeheartedly and in general, an ambience of intelligence where the film talks to the viewer rather than down to or at them. I liked the unpredictable nature of the film where one didn’t know what was coming next as well as all the small details such as the retro film tributes or even the classical dancers who live above the main trio and become part of the action unintentionally. The humour is not going to be for everyone – some of the toilet jokes will certainly alienate prudes in the audience and as for the bad language, though I found it funny and in context (which I preferred rather than the random swearing we sometimes get in Hindi cinema to show the character as being cool), again, it does make this an awkward watch around parents/families but having said that, the publicity for the film made it quite clear this is not suitable for all so one cannot claim to be surprised when a barrage of bad language is unleashed.
Technically, the look and feel of the film is very unique and the silent fourth character of New Delhi is given due prominence without overshadowing any other element. The pace of the film moves well and I was rather surprised at the short running time considering Delhi Belly felt a little longer than it was (in a good way that is). I really like the soundtrack and though I was pleased to see Aamir in the I Hate You (Like I Love You) song at the end, my personal gripe was that the Switty song was not worked into the screenplay or picturised – I know this would have have hampered the energy of the film but still, the heart wants what the heart wants! Styling wise, the wardrobe nails the New Delhi urbanite look perfectly with the boys dressed in graphic tees/sweatshirts with jeans and Converse trainers, or kurtas with cropped trousers and chappals. I loved Poorna Jagannathan in the brightly coloured Manish Arora tops which were covetable but in keeping with her character too. I also loved the crazy white jumpsuits worn by Vir Das and Aamir which were very 70’s and glam.
In terms of performances, Imran Khan recovers from Break Ke Baad nicely by going into the outer edge of his comfort zone as the urban kid caught up in something that is way out of his depth. I thought he did play Tashi well giving the right amount of understatement and resolve to the part and playing the role straight up to allow the other actors a chance to flex some comic muscle. Though Imran does make it seem easy to play this kind of role, I have to admit, he does add a certain element to the part (though I am unsure what that element is!) and his interaction and chemistry with the rest of the cast is very good. Having said that, the rest of the cast are on top form in any case – Vir Das is brilliant with perfect comic timing and playing the emotional scenes just as confidently as the comedy scenes. Kunal Roy Kapoor is fantastic as Nitin, stealing the show at times with hilarious one liners and comic sequences. Vijay Raaz is excellent as usual, providing menace but also a touch of empathy to his gangster character. As for the ladies, Shenaz Treasuryvala is suitably ditzy and bitchy as Sonia and is the perfect foil to Poorna Jagnnath as Meneka who plays the thinking woman with class and guts, so that not only is she likeable but at times, steals everyone else’s thunder.
For me, Delhi Belly lived up to the hype quite nicely and will definitely be fast tracked into that exclusive canon of films that I borrow out when introducing Hindi cinema to someone who has never seen a Hindi film before. Going back to my previous rant, I think Delhi Belly is a good film irrespective of whether it can crossover to new markets and instead, should be seen as setting the bar or laying down the gauntlet to other Hindi films to try and create films which don’t fall into traditional genres of Hindi cinema but still entertain and appeal to the loyal viewers who experience a massive collective high when a film like this comes along and reminds one of why they love film so much.
So, I highly recommend Delhi Belly and have also added Aamir Khan productions onto my wishlist of places and people I would love to work with (FYI: others include HBO, AMC, Yashraj Films, UTV Motion Pictures and Dharma Productions to name but a few) and am glad this film will be seen by a wide audience. What’s more, as one of the films to kick off the second half of the year, this is incredibly encouraging and without a doubt, I wish I could have been at the premiere and the Q&A which followed. In any case, here’s hoping for more films like Delhi Belly in the future…