Tashi (Imran Khan), Arup (Vir Das) and Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) – flatmates, buddies and partners in crime. Tashi is to get married in a month but still doesn’t know if his fiancé is the one. Arup can’t make up his mind who he wants to kill first – his girlfriend who has just dumped him or his stupid, annoying boss. And Nitin is about to discover that eating delicious tandoori chicken off a street vendor is going to give him the worst case of Delhi Belly he’s ever known. Three regular blokes, living the regular life except for one small detail – they are on the hit list of one of the world’s deadliest crime syndicates.

The Hindi film industry pulls off, rather effortlessly, the best example yet of The Hangover-inspired 'buddies-in-trouble’ genre with Delhi Belly, Abhinay Deo’s raucous, ribald yet deceptively sweet-natured film. Combining a polished commercial sensibility (that will serve the film well as it rolls out across the globe) with instantly recognisable home-grown touches (the consequences of missing your two-hour daily allotment of fresh water; the intestinal backlash against a roadside vendor’s tandoori chicken meal), Delhi Belly is a terrific example of a frantic farce mixed with superbly-played character-driven comedy.

At the centre of the film’s convoluted but spritely plot is a botched black market diamond deal. A Russian dealer passes a package to ring-in mule, air-hostess Sonia (Shenaz Treasuryvala); she has no idea of its importance and asks her slacker-journo fiancé, Tashi (Imran Khan) to do her a favour and deliver it. He is too busy, so he makes his roommate Arup (Vir Das) the new courier; struck down with the titlular affliction, he asks their third roommate, Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor) to drop it off – along with his stool sample. The doctor gets the diamonds; the crime lord Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz) gets the diarrhoeic solution. And a whirlwind of genuine hilarity ensues...

Refreshingly, Akshat Verma’s script for Delhi Belly applies fearless methods in eliciting laughs from elements often considered taboo in Indian cinema. A hastily-planned jewellery store heist features the three men and Tashi’s bisexual colleague Meneka (a lean and feisty Poorna Jagannathan, a US-based actress who provides the perfect foil for Khan) veiled in black burquas; the image of two characters kissing whilst dressed in such garb is very funny and utterly subversive. Those with timid dispositions may be rattled by humour that relies on prostitutes, butt cracks, explosives inserted into said butt cracks, free-flowing curse words and gangland torture, but it all zips along with such abandon one cannot help being won over by its exuberance.

The fantasy dance sequence one must always expect in Bollywood productions is seamlessly integrated into the character’s lives and, ultimately, is given short-shrift in favour of a belly-laugh moment at its own expense. Legendary Bollywood star and producer of the film, Aamir Khan cameos as fictional hero 'Disco Fighter’ in a pre-end credit number that is energetic but superfluous.

Already a major star in his homeland, Imran Khan has every right to expect broader international recognition after his leading man turn in Delhi Belly. The chemistry he shares with Vir Das and the instantly-likable Kunal Roy Kapoor plays a crucial role in this film’s adorability. Given Hollywood’s paucity of genuinely likable 25-35 year-old support players, Khan is a serious contender. He is superb in a film that has been cast with precision – every performance is fully-realised and perfectly-pitched.

An old-school caper film re-imagined with scatological hilarity and a modern yet traditional take on love, friendship and ambition, Delhi Belly deserves to play as widely as possible in its cinema season. It’s the best comedy in Australia cinemas right now by some considerable measure.

Details

M
1 hour 53 min

Genres