Delhi Belly

Abhinay Deo loads up Delhi Belly with self-conscious references and imagery of Bollywood and “India”. The opening sequence includes Rishi Kapoor prancing in a blinding white suit from the medley from Hum Kisise Kum Nahin intercut with a slick airport and some slum kids. I wanted to like this. I like the caper genre, I like Guy Ritchie films (of which this is heavily derivative), and I even quite like Imran Khan. But it feels a bit empty, like a film set in India and made for people who have never been there themselves.

Note: I watched the Hinglish version of the film which is heavy on the profanity, with some characters swearing as much as I do. I believe the Hindi version is not quite as graphic.

Tashi (Imran Khan) is a journalist of sorts, interviewing starlets he despises when he isn’t writing up serious crimes. Tashi’s flight attendant girlfriend Sonia (Shehnaz Treasurywala) does a dodgy deal with Vladimir to drop off a package to a local address. Of course the package contains smuggled diamonds. Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) is a perve, and a photographer, as well as Tashi’s sidekick and roommate. The other flatmate is Arup (Vir Das in a terrible wig), the geeky graphic artist charged with making a banana look happier but not too happy. Menaka (Poorna Jagannathan) is a journalist colleague who is there because someone has to have a crazy ex-husband who wants to hunt Tashi down. Tashi tells Nitin to drop off the package to Somayajulu (Vijay Raaz) but Nitin comes down with Delhi Belly, and sends Arup to drop off the package AND his stool sample. Yeah, you can pretty much guess the rest.

The film is stylised, with quirky sound and visual effects emphasising the comedy and dramatic beats. It’s meticulously planned, with all the intersecting plotlines and near misses neatly plotted. And that is one of the problems I have with Delhi Belly. While it is visually accomplished and great to look at, there is not enough fizz or life in the story or the characters.

There is an overabundance of trashy puerile boy humour that might put some people off, but at least it is frank about sex and avoids unnecessary coyness. And as you would expect from the title, there is scatological and toilet humour galore, and that is carried over to Raj Sampath’s soundtrack. The bad language and smutty jokes are largely for shock value and not driven by a genuine insight or moment. That is what I found distasteful and even worse, boring. Making a man run down the street while wearing a burqa is not champagne comedy. One rare comedy highlight is Arup fantasising about breaking up a wedding in his Disco Fighter avatar (and announcing his equal opportunity approach to oral sex) before bursting into song. It’s a little bit Mithun and a little bit Wedding Singer post the break up.

Imran Khan is stuck with a character who doesn’t seem to have much motivation but ends up in an ever more threatening and strange set of circumstances. His nice middle class boy aura never really leaves him, no matter how squalid the surroundings, and I never quite believed in Tashi. I did like his Rajinikanth shirt though. Tashi is apparently acceptable husband material to a wealthy middle class family but he chooses to live in a hovel and not really have much of a career. How does that work?

Imran has no chemistry at all with Shenaz or Poorna which is disappointing considering Tashi gets very hands on with them. Imran and Kunaal Roy Kapur are much more fun together. But despite Kapur’s rambunctious performance and occasional zingers I got so tired of Nitin and his digestive tract that I wanted his scenes to be over NOW. And Vir Das was sort of reprising his role in Go Goa Gone so I felt he was a bit underutilised. And his wig was truly terrible and a great distraction.

Shenaz Treasurywala delivers an entertaining performance in a role that didn’t demand one. Sonia is a confident upper middle class girl. She can afford to be nice to almost everyone because other than choosing a lipgloss she doesn’t have much to tax her brain with. Poorna Jagannathan plays Menaka as more of a world weary cynic, but again she will go out of her way to help a hopeless boy. As mentioned, I couldn’t see the appeal of Tashi to either lady and given they formed a mild love triangle it would have been better if there was more chemistry.

Leading the villains, Vijay Raaz and the gang of henchmen do their best to be OTT. I appreciated their commitment, and some scenes had real tension. But the film couldn’t commit to playing it straight so there were forays into unnecessary slapstick that fell flat. Often literally. A dishonourable mention goes to Rahul Singh as Menaka’s ex. His character was so unpleasant it was hard to believe such a smart confident girl would have married him against her family’s wishes, and his acting was completely suited to the role.

I have to mention Aamir Khan’s appearance as Disco Fighter in the closing song. Aamir is one of the film’s producers and according to the goss, attended some special advance previews to find out why audiences weren’t responding to the film. But his disco antics are there for added box office appeal, not for the film and not for fun. And not because the world needs any more actors in blackface. Jeez. Anyway, it’s not like he needs any more proof he is a terrible dancer so I guess he really likes his nephew.

It’s a clever but ultimately joyless effort. The film lacks the verve of proper masala embodied by Rishi’s performance in the opening visuals. Great masala films crackle with the energy and velocity of dodgem cars and roller coasters, not the methodical progression of chess. 2 ½ stars!

Go Goa Gone

Go_Goa_Gone_poster

I like a good caper, I like zombie movies and I don’t mind copious swearing. So Go Goa Gone should have been tailor made for me. Sadly, after a promising start – featuring Chiru in Golimar! I cheered! – the film fell away into rote dialogues and predictable predicaments.  Raj and DK had a great idea but the execution didn’t quite do it for me.

Luv (Vir Das) and Hardik (Kunal Khemu) are dope smoking slackers, nominally employed but really living off their good friend Bunny (Anand Tiwari). Luv breaks up with his girlfriend Priyanka and Hardik decides that all he needs is another woman to cure his woes. So off to Goa they head, freeloading on Bunny’s business trip. Luv meets Luna (Pooja Gupta) who invites him to a rave on a deserted island. Following much recreational drug use, the boys wake up the next day to discover the party goers have become zombies with a taste for blood. The boys rescue Luna, run into Boris (Saif Ali Khan) the mafia dude who ran the party and they all hustle to get to safety.

go-goa-gone-luv-and-hardik

The first section of the film sets up the characters of Luv, Hardik and Bunny. Although different personalities on the surface, they’re all whiny boys who don’t take responsibility for much and have little clue. Luv is the more appealing as he seems to have a faint notion of how to be decent and Vir Das generally nails the right balance of silly and serious. Hardik (imagine the puns) is more self-centred and less inclined to bestir himself to make an effort. Kunal Khemu plays most scenes just for laughs, sometimes to great effect. Bunny is the good boy who wouldn’t mind being bad but lacks opportunity. The dialogue is mostly one liners, some hilarious some not, and insults. If you find calling someone ‘fucker’ over and over really funny, this is your movie.

go-goa-gone-pooja-gupta

Pooja Gupta is very good as the smart and sensible Luna. She deals with the undead and the unceasingly horny with the same air of faint dismay, and generally runs away from trouble not at it so I approved of her. She is a very pretty girl but despite spending most of the film in micro shorts and a strappy top, she isn’t just eye candy. I loved her scenes with the boys as they each thought they were sharing a moment with her and she shut them down ruthlessly.

go-goa-gone_Saif

Boris is a caricature. In fact, I think Saif took his character references from Bob Christo. With a bad wig, fake tatts, a dodgy accent that he maintains even after admitting he isn’t Russian, he is a charismatic presence without being in the least bit real.

go-goa-gone-the-good-guys

I think Boris is also indicative of the confusion within this film about whether it is a comedy or a horror or both. The gore is very gory so that was a bit darker than needed with the comedy and the horror element isn’t scary enough. The zombiefication occurred after the rave goers took a specific $5000 pill which fried their brains, but then was transmitted by bite. So there’s no logic in the threat, and it’s a really bad business model if you kill your clients after one dose. They were just shuffling zombies of varying acting ability. But there are some moments of the quirky genius I expected from the team that delivered 99 and Shor in the City. Hardik lures a zombie girl away in a brilliant filmi song inspired romp around trees and through the woods, his facial expressions totally at odds with the music and body language. They take a boat called the Tatinic to the island, the Russians subtitles are in a specific font. There are lots of details to enjoy.

There is an overt anti-smoking and anti-drug message that is about as subtle as a zombie bite. One of the warnings struck me more as an effort to placate Goan authorities for yet again portraying Goa as a place overrun with crime and drug addled ‘zombies’ than anything else. A further warning at the end was heavy handed and careless. I felt the second half just lost momentum as it needed to ramp up.

go-goa-gone-zombies

It’s a very stylish film (except for a few zombie ravers who looked a bit like accountants), and the Sachin-Jigar soundtrack works well with the sharply edited visuals. Some subtitles are out of synch with the dialogue, which surprised me in a project that otherwise had good production values.

I laughed at some lines, but didn’t find this terribly funny especially in the second half. It’s a kind of Delhi Belly of the Living Dead, and neither as fun or frightening as it could have been. Worth a look, but not the zom-com I hoped for.