Delhi Belly – Review

I am for the art of under wear and the art of taxi cabs.

I am for the art of ice cream cones dropped on concrete.

– Claes Oldenburg

Aamir Khan Productions is known for its inspiring, clean, family entertainment. All that is about to change! Delhi Belly has the potential of, in a single stroke, destroying all the goodwill we have built in the last ten years.

– From the Producer’s note written by Aamir Khan.

Delhi belly – Definition (noun) – an attack of diarrhoea. Since the era of British colonialism this has been the South Asian equivalent of gyppy tummy, Montezuma’s revenge, etc.


Delhi Belly released in the valley last week, and had greeters manning entry points to the theatre advising desi families with kids, “this picture has lot of swearing in it”. A first. That perhaps is one reason why Delhi Belly is a nicely done shift in bollywood from films for everyone to mass customization. Delhi Belly clearly appeals to some segments of the movie going junta, and guess I am part of one of those segments.

Many a times I’ve wondered why hindi movies do not speak like my native hindi speaking friends. There is almost no swearing, no expletives, and every character speaks hindi the way its spoken in Bombay.Even classic bromances like DCH and 3 Idiots have a disconnect and keeps a subtle distance from the language on the street and college campuses. In that way, Band baaja barat was a refreshing change, and Kashyap’s Gulaal was a classic. Delhi Belly, though it has very less to do with Delhi, speaks in a tongue which sounds familiar, making the movie immensely engaging and fun.

There is often a time lag between changes in external conditions and an industry’s adapting to those changes. The multiplex and overseas distribution channels gave bollywood the opportunity to slice target audiences too thin, but the mainstream of the industry still stuck to making Dilwale Dulhaniya part2 to part213. In the past five years or so, there is a welcome change with movies from the Kashyaps and Bharadwajs, and Delhi Belly and Peepli Live are examples, thanks to Aamir Khan, of thinly sliced segment movies doing much better than Bachchan-Kapoor-Yash pot pourris. Aamir Khan, an average actor, is arguably the producer of the decade in hindi cinema. Lagaan, Peeli Live,Taare Zameen, Jaane Tu, and now Delhi Belly, each with a different director, not one copying another – that is impressive.

Story: The camera follows three room mates, a journalist, and a package of smuggled diamonds around Delhi’s belly with horrible bosses, small-time gangsters, red streets, and middle class landlords.

Good:

1. Treatment: Delhi Belly has a very clever storyline by Akshat Verma to start with, but the treatment by director Abhinay Deo, and an intuitive musical score by Ram Sampath keeps the movie grounded and prevents it from going over the top. This script could have become very loud on screen, but despite the butt cracks, and incessant meditation on kitsch, Delhi Belly is a smooth ride that takes you along quite well. Unlike Salman’s “Ready” where characters speak in thousands of crores with no idea what they are talking about, the total booty in this treasure hunt is worth only a few crores, and the gangsters involved are as amateur as the guys fleeing from them. I don’t think this understatement fell off the sky, it seems like a thoughtful decision, like many other in the movie. The impulsive nature of the characters and the irreverent tone of the movie are consistently maintained, even ethical issues are not forced down our esophagus in monologues that stick out.

2. Characters: Are well developed. Kunaal Roy Kapoor’s portrayal of obese Nitin with a malfunction of the stomach and ethics has the lion’s share of our attention and he delivers a natural punch and is at ease doing that. Poorna Jagannathan playing Menaka the journalist brings in a classic touch with her portrayal of a free woman (divorce case pending) with a tinge of sadness (definitely not two dimensional). Imran Khan is likeable enough, and does a fine job playing along even though he is the biggest star in the movie. You could call the movie sexist at times, but Delhi Belly didn’t start that fire.

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v​=ozpvQ2ZC70E

Bad:

1. Cynicism: Everything including relationships and our interactions with society at large are commoditized for some of us. That makes us more cynical like every young character in Delhi Belly. I don’t think it is a Delhi Belly issue, it must be a post-1991 issue. As I said earlier Delhi Belly didn’t start that fire, it just portrays it. Blame Narasimha Rao for starting the fire.

2. Some people may be grossed out: Every dude with a camera can show a head getting chopped off. The “new wave” of tamil directors seem to relish that and have won accolades doing that. The fact that better film makers do not show that doesn’t make them worse off as directors. There is a thin red line between creativity and art. In my personal opinion Delhi Belly treads that line pretty well. Then again sensibilities are different, as my friend puts it, it is set when they change your diapers at a very early age.

Verdict: I will watch this one again.

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3 Responses to Delhi Belly – Review

  1. Sushil July 12, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    Good review, yes, its film of new YUP generation. but I think there is some overusage of slangs in second half. Poornna Jagannathan is a wonder she is from Tunisia just happened to have this role by luck. I cant think of another actress who can portray that character better in India.

    But have you noticed that its just an intelligent rework of Our Siddique Lal Movie “In Harihar Nagar”

    Kudos to Vinay Raaz who portrayed the goon Somayajulus role, like Vijayaraghavan did as Ramjirao.

  2. BVN July 13, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    @Sushil, great catch on the Harihar Nagar similarity. Couldn’t agree more, now I think of that.

  3. ivar July 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    me too but this time in pure Hindi…
    somehow ended up watching the Hinglish version..though with Mrs so cool…
    btw post marriage swearing in Hindi is d biggest thing I miss ; )

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