Effin Fantastic

A bit juvenile, very silly, but hey, then why are you smiling?
 
Sonali Ghosh Sen Kolkata
 
It's a story about stolen diamonds. It’s a fart fest. It’s a fast-paced thriller. It’s a cuss word spouting farce. Delhi Belly is, ahem, all of the above.
 
In Bollywood parlance, Delhi Belly should have been two movies. One would have been a David Dhawan comedy with double meaning dialogues and pelvic thrusts, and the other, an Akshay Kumar action genre with guns, babes and car chases.
 
Thankfully, Delhi Belly manages to marry both in a witty, irreverent Guy Ritchie meets Dibakar Banerjee fashion. It’s got a smart plot, a smarter scriptwriter, a director who loves layering the film with leitmotifs, visual and musical, and a cast that is so over-the-top that they could only be real.
 
Akshat Verma’s tightly paced plot revolves around a stool sample being sent to a mafia don and diamonds being sent to the pathology lab. With such a premise, the leap to gun-toting ex-husbands on the Delhi highway, photo journalists blackmailing unsuspecting landlords, and hirsute men in burqas being chased all over narrow Delhi alleys seems, well, just normal and logical.
 
In this mad Alice-in-Wonderland movie, characters will be felled by pots and bowel, chased on rusted scooters and fire-red dinky cars, and fall in love at the oddest time. They will blackmail, kill, shoot, and shit in the middle of a gunfight. And they’ll leave the audience with a lot of quirky moments. 
 
There’s Vir Das smashing a cop’s head with the smallest glass vase possible, Imran Khan with a black eye wearing “Rajnikanth-style sunglasses” and T-shirt, a dancer’s foot hanging improbably from a caved-in ceiling, and a Matrushka doll with immense possibilities caged in a glass cabinet.
 
The dialogues are uniquely “we’re like this only” Indian. It’s the Queen’s English, the way a 21st-century Indian would speak it, and Akshat Verma makes sure the language doesn’t slide off the rails, ever. However, a minor quibble with the script is that Delhi is only a backdrop to the narrative and the story could have been set better in Mumbai, but as Delhi is the nesting ground for new age Hindi film scriptwriters, we’ll let that one go. 
 
Director Abhinay Deo makes sure that he adheres to script, with every comma and semi-colon lovingly detailed visually. He paints the canvas slowly but surely with visual puns and punch-lines, and adhering to his ad film-making background, tries to cram in as much fun into the movie as if he were making a 30-seconder instead of a 90-minute film.
 
The soundtrack keeps pace with the cheeky storyline. Ram Sampath creates a musical identity for each character. If Imran Khan has his ‘DK Bose, DK Bose’ ditty, his landlord has ‘Bedardi Raja’, and Vir Das, ‘Jaa Chudail’. The music is crazy and eclectic, marrying honky tonk to rock, qawwali to Saigal blues.
 
The film also underlines the importance of an ensemble cast, with Imran Khan running from the goons, Kunal Roy Kapoor running to the loo, and Vir Das running away from corporate slavery with commendable histrionics. The leading ladies (Shehnaz Treasury and Poorna Jagannathan) act self-assured without giving into Bollywood coyness, and Vijay Raaz does a fine turn as the menacing gangster. The supporting cast are, in two words, “effin fantastic”.
 
Delightful though the movie is, Delhi Belly is still a very urban phenomenon. Its jokes are sophisticated, as are its characters, but it sometimes slips to reveal very adolescent humour. It doesn’t have the maturity of a Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron which understood the dictum ‘Comedy is serious business’. It also falls short of the pan-Indian litmus test of having drama, action and emotion for the masses, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but could end up limiting the movie’s reach.
 
Delhi Belly is like your favourite nephew who forces you to sit on a fart cushion in a crowded train on a family vacation. A bit juvenile, very silly, but hey, then why are you smiling?
 
 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: AUGUST 2011