A 96-minute film. No interval. Adults only. Exactly a decade ago, Delhi Belly came, shocked, made us guffaw, cringe our noses, and laughed its way to becoming one of the most talked-about films of the year. Packed with dark humour, this predominantly-in-English film turned the comedy-of- errors trope on its head, giving us a film that signalled a definite — and welcome — shift in contemporary Indian cinema.
This was a film made by adults and for adults, and producer Aamir Khan —— with Delhi Belly being the third in his list of independent productions after Dhobi Ghat and Peepli Live — pulled no punches when it came to giving India a no-holds-barred X-rated comedy.
Today, as it turns 10, The Telegraph picks some reasons which makes Delhi Belly a fun watch then, and now.
As the name suggests, the film has a lot of potty humour. In fact, that’s the premise around which Delhi Belly (the bug that most often fells a foreign stomach as soon as it lands on Indian soil) is built. Director Abhinay Deo, then coming out of a terrible film called Game, had a blast directing Akshat Verma’s script of three flat mates — Tashi, played by Imran Khan, Vir Das’s Arup and Nitin, played by Kunaal Roy Kapur — getting embroiled in a gangster war in Delhi after a bag of diamonds gets exchanged with a stool sample. A handful of mostly moronic mobsters, led by the ever delightful Vijay Raaz, are after the diamonds and that results in a cat-and-mouse chase through the streets of Delhi (and some plush hotel corridors), resulting in a shootout straight out of a Quentin Tarantino climax.
What’s also stuffed in is a love triangle of sorts between Tashi, his rich girlfriend Sonia (Shenaz Treasurywala) and Tashi’s free-spirited journalist colleague Menaka (Poorna Jagannathan). There’s also Arup’s run-in with his stuck-up boss in the graphic designing agency that he works in (remember the scene about making the banana ‘happy?’) As also, the three friends chancing upon their landlord hanging out with a hooker, and blackmailing him to the hilt. Menaka’s neurotic estranged husband baying for Tashi blood…. And finally, Aamir Khan himself popping up as the crazy Disco Fighter. But none of it makes Delhi Belly feel stuffy.
Poorna Jagannathan, as the free-spirited and bindaas Menaka, came in as a breath of fresh air
In fact, for much of its 96-minute running time, we laugh out loud, even through some of the most bizarre (and crazy) lines one would have heard in a Bollywood film. Most of it is, of course, unprintable. Like Arup referring to Nitin’s “g***” as a “solar eclipse”. Or Tashi’s brand-new red car — a gift from his would-be in-laws — being described by his flat mates as, “When a donkey f**** a rickshaw, this is what you get”.
Aamir, as producer, knew that he was taking a risk with a film like this, but he was also well aware who he was catering to — the young, urban multiplex crowd that hadn’t quite seen something like this in mainstream Bollywood before. Aamir’s intuition, as expected, paid off and Delhi Belly earned Rs
90-crore against a budget of just Rs 20-crore.
Even the Chaplinesque comedy — the ceiling coming crashing down on the heads of the three, a gangster latching on to Arup’s tie as he and Nitin race through the capital’s dingy streets on a scooter — brought on the laughs. And yes, orange juice — with Nitin using cartons of it to wipe his you-know-what in the absence of water every time he had a diarrhoea attack — gave us second thoughts for months (and years) every time we reached out for one on the breakfast table.
On hindsight, it was possibly the sheer daftness and goofiness of this comedy-farce that made it likable. It’s obviously not a film that will appeal to those offended by butt cracks, the F-word and scenes of oral sex, but there was a certain wackiness and absurdity in that which teased a laugh out of almost everyone.
Tashi, Arup and Nitin are the Everymen we see around us. Three boys trying to get by on a minuscule income, with their apartment (if one can call it that) in dingy Dilli giving pig sty feels. Imran Khan has since quit acting, but his portrayal of the confused Tashi was spot-on, with Vir and Kunaal pitching in ably. These are the Pyaar Ka Punchnama guys, with more guts and gore (read, one too many scenes of poop), and they simply feel like people we know (or actually had been, once upon a time).
New York-based actor Poorna Jagannathan comes in like a breath of fresh air (almost in the mould of what not to expect from a Bolly ‘heroine’) and Vijay Raaz, as mentioned earlier, is a hoot.
The film’s risque-ness (or should that be riskiness?) extended to its music. Ram Sampath, backed by words from Amitabh Bhattacharya, Munna Dhiman, Akshat Verma and Chetan Shashital, came up with a winner of an album that matches the irreverence of the film. Bhaag DK Bose stirred controversy on release, and by default became a rebel anthem, while Nakkaddwaley disco, udhaarwaley khisko, Switty tera pyaar chaida and Bedardi raja still feature on our playlists.
Producer Aamir Khan channelled his inner Elvis to come up with the crazy I Hate You (Like I Love You) that featured in the film’s closing credits
The pick of the lot? Aamir as Disco Fighter in the goofy I Hate You (Like I Love You). Elvis-like hair and costume, a chest full of hair and lines like, ‘Shake that biscuit, baby!’ Wanted: a sequel… bhaag, bhaag!