ContactSales: UTV Motion Pictures, Mumbai ([email protected])
Theatrical release: India, 1 Jul 2011.
Presented by UTV Motion Pictures (IN), in association with Ferocious Attack Cow. Produced by Aamir Khan Productions (IN). Produced by Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao, Ronnie Screwvala, Jim Forgele.
Script: Akshat Verma. Photography: Jason West. Editing: Huzafa Lokhandwala. Music direction: Ram Sampat. Choreography: Farah Khan, Bosco. Production design: Shashank Tere. Sound: Anup Dev. Visual effects: Prasad Sutar. Associate director: Akshat Verma.
Cast: Imran Khan (Tashi), Kunal Roy Kapoor (Nitin), Vir Das (Arup), Poorna Jagannathan (Meneka), Shenaz Treasury (Sonia), Vijay Raaz (Somayajulu, the gangster), Paresh Ganatra (Maneesha, the landlord), Kim Bodnia (Vladimir), Aamir Khan (Disco Fighter star), Lushin Dubey (Sonia's mother), Shilpa Mehta (Tashi's mother), Raju Kher (Sonia's father), Rahul Singh (Rajeev, Meneka's ex-husband), Rahul Pendkalkar (boy), Rajendra Sethi (jeweller), Anusha Dandekar (actress).
Delhi Belly दिल्ली बेली
Contemporary crime comedy
2011, colour, 2.35:1, 102 mins
Directed by Abhinay Deo
By Derek Elley
Sat, 09 July 2011, 20:18 PM (HKT)
A lively, toilet-humour crime comedy that's too eager to shock for its own sake. Asian and genre events.
Delhi, the present day. Three hard-up friends - journalist Tashi (Imran Khan), photographer Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor) and cartoonist Arup (Vir Das) - share a bachelor loft apartment in a rundown part of the city. One day, Tashi's girlfriend, airline stewardess Sonia (Shenaz Treasury) - whom he's being pressured to marry by his and her parents - drops by and asks him to deliver a package she's just been given by a passenger on her flight, Vladimir (Kim Bodnia). Tashi takes it with him on an assignment to interview a bimbo actress (Anusha Dandekar), along with Nitin and another journalist, Meneka (Poorna Jagannathan). Pressed for time, Tashi later gives the package to Nitin to deliver, but the latter gets a bad stomach upset after eating a street hawker's tandoori chicken and gives it to Arup to deliver, along with a stool sample to his doctor. Stressed out by arguments with his boss, Arup accidentally mixes up the packages and instead delivers the stool sample to gangster Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz), who is expecting a consignment of smuggled diamonds. Meanwhile, Meneka, who's taken a liking to Tashi, invites him to a party, where he's attacked and pursued by her drunken ex-husband Rajeev (Rahul Singh). Looking to retrieve his diamonds, Somayajulu tracks down Vladimir and acquires the address of the three friends, but his attempts to beat he truth out of them is interrupted when the ceiling of their flat collapses. The trio hide out in Meneka's flat and sell the diamonds for INR 9 million (US$200,000) to a jeweller (Rajendra Sethi). However, they then get a call from Somayajulu that, unless he gets his diamonds, Sonia is dead meat. They then have to retrieve the diamonds from the jeweller's safe.
On the surface, Delhi Belly दिल्ली बेली (2011) seems a long, long way from your average mainstream Hindi crime comedy. Written by Asian-American, Los Angeles Film School student Akshat VERMA, grungily shot by Australian-born, UK-raised d.p. Jason WEST (Rock On!! (2008), Don 2 (2011)), and plastered with enough toilet humour and (in its original 90% English version) four-letter words to fuel a host of grungy British movies, the film has a deliberately international patina that's further underlined by having 39-year-old actress Poorna JAGANNATHAN — born in Tunisia and based in LA — in a lead role that traditionally would have been played by a more glamorous local star.
On a technical level, the crime comedy scores high, with direction by Abhinay DEO (who debuted with the slickly forgettable Game (2011)) and Verma himself that's tight and super-focused on plot mechanics, and performances by an unstarry cast that blend well. In the leading role of the central loser, Imran KHAN (I Hate Luv Storys आई हेट लव स्टोरीस (2010)) is especially good with his hangdog looks and straight-faced humour, backed up by Kunal Roy KAPOOR as a portly, bearded slob and Shenaz TREASURY (aka Treasurywala, Ishq Vishk) as the hero's rich-kid girlfriend. Jagannathan is okay as a journalist but has a cold quality that doesn't make her character very likable.
The problem is that, in international terms, this kind of losers-entangled-with-gangsters story is not especially original, and the movie as a whole is way too eager to shock simply for its own sake. The situational humour is strong enough to work without the copious cussing (which adds nothing) and, between all the cleverness of the domino plotting, the script develops no emotional pull towards its characters. In that respect, it's a cynical exercise in shock that appears transgressive but — typical for a production by Mr. Clean superstar Aamir KHAN (Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India लगान (2001), 3 Idiots थ्री इडीयट्स (2009)) — is actually pretty traditional, careful to follow basic local rules (sex jokes but no actual kissing, slob values but anti-tobacco messages, etc.).
Aside from the film's funniest moment — a mock-'70s disco cameo by Khan himself at the end — the best scenes are between the three male leads, living in their bachelor pigsty or plotting to blackmail their landlord with incriminating photos. Delhi Belly is an interesting one-off but it will be interesting to see whether writer Verma has anything more substantial to offer Hindi cinema beyond this "shocking" calling-card.