Movie Review: Delhi Belly (2011)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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It seems as though the hallmark of American comedies for adults in recent years has been to include as many graphic bodily function gags as possible. It’s why I don’t generally see comedies in the theater: I’m likely to walk out when things get too disgusting.

Delhi Belly, India’s first mainstream foray into Western-style gross-out comedy, comes as a relief because the filmmakers realize that a little goes a long way. By emphasizing quality over volume when it comes to scatological humor, Delhi Belly showcases the genre at its best.

Freelance reporter Tashi (Imran Khan) lives in a filthy apartment with his two pals, photographer Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) and cartoonist Arup (Vir Das). Tashi’s gorgeous but ditzy girlfriend, Sonia (Shenaz Treasurywala), takes a package from a suspicious Russian man in the airport where she works as a flight attendant. Without realizing that the package is full of contraband, Sonia asks Tashi to deliver the package for her so that she can run errands.

Tashi hands the package off to Nitin, who promptly contracts a case of “Delhi belly” (diarrhea) from some unsanitary street food. Nitin asks Arup to deliver the package on his way to the doctor, who’s requested a stool sample from the ailing Nitin. You can guess what happens when Arup makes his deliveries.

Delhi Belly is not a typical Indian film, and not just because of its genre. The dialog is primarily in English, and the plot structure is also more like a Hollywood film. Bucking the standard formula for a two-hour-plus masala picture — split the story into two halves, separated by an intermission — Delhi Belly‘s plot has three acts that run continuously for 100 minutes, sans intermission.

What results from these breaks with Indian cinematic tradition? A damned funny movie. The writing is hilarious, and the dialog generates as many laughs as the physical gags and fart jokes do. Fair warning: even by much looser American ratings standards, this would be an R-rated film. Copious use of the f-word, violence, reference to sex acts and scatological humor make this adults-only fare.

Director Abhinay Deo — who failed to impress with his debut earlier this year, Game — shows a real flair for comedy. The story is well-paced, and Deo uses the camera deftly to exaggerate the ridiculous situations Tashi and his pals find themselves in. The movie’s two musical numbers are hysterical and fit seamlessly into the production.

There’s also an emphasis placed on the relationships between the main characters. The friendship between Tashi, Nitin and Arup never wavers. When Tashi and Nitin meet a hip, cynical fellow journalist named Menaka (Poorna Jagannathan), it’s clear that she fits in with the goofy trio much better than Sonia does. This is a group of misfits we want to see succeed, and great performances by the cast only enhance that desire.

If I had to sum Delhi Belly up in one word, it would be “satisfying.” It has everything I want in a comedy. As long as you can stomach the cuss-words and gross-out gags, this is about as good as it gets.

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19 thoughts on “Movie Review: Delhi Belly (2011)

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  6. Amit

    Even for it’s genre, this movie is gross. If you want to rate it just on the basis of how many times the “F-word” has been used in this movie, then yes, I will give it 5/5. However, no originality by itself is something needs to be considered in a movie. This is nothing but an extremely disgusting attempt of trying to copy a hollywood dirty comedy and try to season it with the theme of slumdog millionaire (show filth and get applause). However, the crew has failed to achieve either. In this effort, the significant attributes of a movie (script and story) have been completely sidetracked. Most importantly, this film potrays bollywood very badly to the audience abroad.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Amit, your comment serves as a good warning for people offended by foul language and who aren’t fans of gross-out comedies to avoid Delhi Belly at all costs. I’m not usually a fan of scatological humor myself, but I considered the gross parts of Delhi Belly pretty tame compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen in Hollywood movies (confession: I closed my eyes when the gangster opened up a container expecting to find diamonds). This isn’t a movie for everyone, but I thought it was funny.

      Reply
      1. Amit

        Thanks for the comments. Yeah, agree this was little funny at times, but all the humor has been stolen from good old bollywood movies. I understand this was intended for international audience, but we do have lot of original (and brilliant) plots to work upon. This movie will cash in india just because the foul language (which is almost absent in Indian movies). However, for example, if you see carefully, the f word is used almost indiscriminately, and not at proper times. Anyway, I have seen a lot of R rated movies and understand this genre. However, my main objection for this movie is lack of any originality, overly (but unnecessarily) used fowl language, and a good plot. It is clear that the production house it trying to prove themselves ‘cool’, but all they did is copied the R rated movies with brains shut, eyes closed and all creativity locked up in a safe. I know they can do it better. That’s where my objection is.
        I don’t mean to question anyone’s criticism, but wanted to bring up thIs point. Anyway, thanks again for responding!

        Reply
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  11. Paul

    I agree with Amit about the inappropriate use of the F word. I am not totally against the use of bad language in films – some times it is totally appropriate – but I think there were times when it was just being used for the sake of it, and/or just to get cheap laughs. One thing I love about Bollywood is it manages to get laughs with having to resort to bad language – and long may it remain that way.

    I also agree with Kathy that it is a very funny film with some classic comedic moments. The plot is fast-paced and it gets down to business pretty much from the get-go. I was watching it with my 17 year-old son and he thoroughly enjoyed it (maybe he is the target audience for gross-out comedy).

    I also think Kathy’s one-word summation is spot-on – it does leave you feeling ‘satisfied’ – or at least it did me. It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like a good laugh and don’t mind some inappropriate use of the F-word then it is worth watching.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Back in 2011, I was really hoping that Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat would usher in a new era of Hindi films without intermissions, but that never came to pass. At least a growing number of films are clocking in at around two-hours long, instead of the insistence that every movie have a runtime in excess of three hours. With a runtime of 103 minutes, Delhi Belly is a good example of brevity being the soul of wit.

      I’ll consent that the use of the F-word in Delhi Belly feels less organic than, say, the frequent use of the F-word by this Irish guy looking at snow.

      Reply
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