Having starred in two back to back Hindi blockbusters in Ghajini and 3 Idiots, I'm guessing Aamir Khan, one of the largest stars of contemporary Hindi Cinema, is looking to spend more time behind the camera to forge a different brand of Hindi film targeted at an international audience, one that's probably sans the usual Masala formula containing song and dance routines, and creating movie magic that is within a comfortable two hour runtime. His Aamir Khan Productions have already produced the more art house fare in Dhoby Ghat, and now, Delhi Belly continues the trend to appeal to audiences around the world, stating its intention with the predominant use of English, and circling around the crime caper with a generous dose of madcap comedy.
And it worked wonders, with a very audacious, tightly knit plot that contains everything including the proverbial kitchen sink, where 3 friends and flat mates go about their usual daily business and routine, until they get inadvertently caught up with a smuggling ring with the smugglers out after their blood following a mix up of their precious cargo, and lumps of watery faeces. Yes you read that right, this is almost a Bollywood answer to Hollywood's Hangover where the protagonists go on a quest of sorts, only that it's genuinely funnier, and loads more charming, even as it does venture into toilet humour for a fair bit, and a lot more dropping of the F-bombs quite unheard of in Hindi cinema.
As far as Hindi adult comedy goes, this is probably my first, and what a ride it was. Aamir's nephew Imran Khan, to date only starring in romantic comedies, steps out of his comfort zone to play a jaded journalist to perfection, being the de-facto leader of his group of friends as he gets himself stuck in a rut when his girlfriend's family and his parents bring forth his marriage plans to the following month. Flatmates Arup (Vir Das) has to struggle with getting no respect for his cartoons from his meddling boss, while Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) rounds up the trio as the photographer working with Tashi, but has his own photographic agenda to pursue that spawns its own interesting subplot. And before I forget, Nitin's the catalyst of the film with his contracting of Delhi Belly, which becomes the inevitable running joke throughout the story – watching just how he contracts it, is already worth the ticket price (and a warning we must be wary from which hawker we buy food from).
Before you know it you're thrown into the classic mixup involving mistaken identities, misplaced items, little side gags and plots that get thrown around thick, fast and furious (my favourite involves orange juice), a landlord who got blackmailed, romance, and gangsters who very well behave like, well, regular Joes and inadvertent poseurs. Comedy comes courtesy of the physically disgusting to verbal jibes, and even accents are not spared, never once the film was consciously trying to be politically correct, which would neuter its effectiveness. And it worked for Delhi Belly not coming off as trying too hard to please.
What worked wonders was the trio sharing incredibly chemistry in 3 Idiots fashion that was important to hold all the plot points together, as plot devices open, close and go full circle. Writer Akshat Verma and director Abhinay Deo are due credit to have crafted a complex narrative that was yet simple to follow, with pacing and story kept punchy and tight, and reminiscent of some of the best crime capers already seen from the West. Everything just about gelled perfectly here, with gorgeous art direction and sets to highlight some of the most disgusting living conditions in the city, and flowing cinematography that puts this right into the scheme of things with snappy editing and well crafted, natural dialogues coupled with excellent makeup. Then of course the marvelous soundtrack, with Nakkaddwaley Disco, Udhaarwaley Khisko opening the film in what I felt was one of the best in a long time.
Keep your eyes peeled for Aamir Khan himself as well, who makes the much touted cameo appearance every now and then as the character Disco Fighter, in posters, film stills, marquees and even a television show, culminating in what would be, as he hoped, the start of an Item Boy revolution. Disco Fighter serves up plenty of retro, disco fun coupled with his fair share of vulgar moves, that I think he'd fit right in if cast in the next Austin Powers film, complete with exaggerated gyrating pelvis to boot.
Delhi Belly is the best Hindi film to date for the year, and you will do yourself a disservice if you were to miss this totally. A highly recommended must watch, as it shortlists itself into the list of my top films for the year.