Hatke cinema came into vogue about a decade ago with films like Jhankaar Beats and others. Over the years, from a fringe movement, with greater commercial success, it has been mainstreamed and is now the cool thing to do. So much so that the biggest stars and production houses have taken it upon themselves to produce these sort of films. Aamir Khan has been on the forefront of this phenomenon, and proven himself to be something of a marketing genius in promoting these small (and often of dubious standard) movies to ensure big returns. Delhi Belly is his latest offering starring Imran Khan, Vir Das and Kunal Roy Kapur and much like Dhobi Ghat, the results are mixed at best.
Delhi Belly is about journalist Tashi (Khan) who lives with his two friends, the cartoonist (Das) and the pervert photographer (Kapur) in a derelict apartment in what seems to be one of the most squalid areas of Delhi. He receives a mysterious package from his fiance (She(h)naz Treasury(wala)) to deliver to an address. A free spirited colleague (Poorna Jagannathan), a case of severe loose motions and an unfortunate switch of packages leads to an insane comedy of errors as the trio is chased by goons (led by Vijay Raaz), jilted boyfriends and cops and chaos reigns supreme.
The film, directed by first timer Abhinay Deo and written by Akshat Verma, is not without its merits. For starters, the soundtrack of the film is simply superb. The tunes of Ram Sampath and the explosive lyrics of Amitabh Bhattacharya, complement the film every step of the way. It is also embellished with strong supporting performances particularly from Das, Kapur and Jagannathan although Imran Khan looks excruciatingly ordinary and brings little nuance or depth to his character. In terms of writing, there are some exceedingly clever dialogues throughout that will leave you in splits. The film successfully manages to be extremely edgy and naughty in its tone and approach. There are enough moments that will leave you sufficiently grossed out, disgusted and in a state of utter disbelief.
The problem here is that the film (and its makers) seem convinced that these elements alone suffice. They don't care too much for a plot or character development as they are too busy trying to distract you with how cool they are for using colourful expletives and gross out gags. Undeniably, there are some very interesting ideas here. Unfortunately, these ideas are very poorly translated into a plot. While the premise is set up competently in the first half, it is a rather glorious mess in the second half as highly implausible plot devices are thrown in and several loose ends are left untied. Several bits are either predictable or highly inexplicable. For example, why does Tashi live in such a filthy house despite having seemingly well of parents? Why does his rich fiance agree to carry such a package? There are several questions that come to mind and they only increase as the film progresses.
Ultimately, what starts off as an interesting premise does not end up amounting to anything more. Blame it on the poor plotting and the weak execution that undermine an otherwise slick production. I am not saying that it is a terrible movie. But it's not a very good one either. There will be those (including most, if not all, Indian critics) who will be enamoured by its coolness. I just wasn't. So, my advice? Wait for a lazy afternoon and cheap tickets or better still, DVDs.