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UNION CITY, Calif. — Its theme song, “Bhaag Bhaag DK Bose,” has already become a rebellious anthem for young Indians giddy about the expletive hidden in its lyrics.
And the first three minutes of Delhi Belly make it clear that this is not a family film: Viewers bothered by butt cracks, the F-word, simulated cunnilingus and rude behavior in burqas are advised to spend their rupees elsewhere.
RELEASE DATE Nov 30, 1999
But director Abhinay Deo and producer Aamir Khan’s gleeful experiment in Hangover-caliber humor delivers the laughs, and its young stars, including Khan’s nephew, A-lister Imran Khan, rise to the challenge.
The film, which is in English with a bit of subtitled Hindi dialogue, has already become a sensation in India. Now its appeal to open-minded audiences in the diaspora — and to curious viewers anywhere ready for a film that shows India in an irreverent post-Slumdoglight — seems assured.
The highjinks start when a Russian criminal gives Sonia (Shenaz Treasury of One Life to Live), a comely air hostess, a packet of contraband for her to courier. Sonia asks her boyfriend, journalist Tashi (Khan), to deliver it, but sight unseen, the lazy Tashi hands it off to his roommate Arup (Vir Das, in a sparkling comic performance), who in turn carelessly passes it along to another roommate, Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapoor).
On the way to make the delivery, the pudgy Nitin is distracted by a streetside tandoori chicken stand of dubious hygienic standards; his ensuing Delhi belly unleashes a domino effect of misunderstandings and mistaken identities — the characters soon learn that it’s unwise to mix up one’s stool sample with a million-dollar packet of black market diamonds.
Delhi Belly’s supporting cast sparkles in smaller roles, especially Vijay Raaz as an exasperated crime boss surrounded by incompetents and New York-based actress Poorna Jagannathan as Tashi’s problematically sexy coworker.
Akshat Verma’s script is peppered with one-liners bound to become buzzwords: At the sight of a tiny Santro mini car, one character observes: “When a donkey %$#@s a rickshaw, this is what you get.”
But the script is also grounded in the realities of life in New and Old Delhi: running water that works for just two hours a day, infuriating traffic snarls, a dowry, overcrowded living conditions and the difficulty in finding a nice place to take a poo.
Where actor-turned-producer Aamir Khan’s previous two high profile releases, Peepli [Live] and Dhobi Ghat, seemed self-consciously targeted at film festivals or foreign audiences, Delhi Bellyis pure Indian. Producer (and screen superstar) Khan’s only misstep is in a comic cameo song at the end of the film: he overstays his welcome, when a momentary glimpse would have had more impact.
The soundtrack by Ram Sampath is top-notch, especially in the way he uses the hit “DK Bose” song and other Indian rock pieces to fuel the action, and cinematographer Jason West aptly captures the chaos.
By the end of the film, the bad guys (and girls) have all gone down in flames, while the good guy gets the girl. Happily, that’s one convention from Indian cinema that’s here to stay.
Opened: July 1 (UTV Motion Pictures)
Production company: Aamir Khan Productions
Cast: Imran Khan, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Vir Das, Shenaz Treasury, Poorna Jagannathan
Director: Abhinay Deo
Screenwriter: Akshat Verma
Producers: Kiran Rao, Ronnie Screwvala
Executive producer: Aamir Khan
Director of photography: Jason West
Production designer: Shashank Tere
Music: Ram Sampath
Costume designer: Niharika KhanEditor: Huzefa Lokhandwala
Unrated, 103 minutes
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