How Blackmail director Abhinay Deo breathed new life into the comedy genre with 2011’s Delhi Belly

With Abhinay Deo's upcoming directorial Blackmail releasing on April 6, it is the perfect time to revisit his previous madcap comedy Delhi Belly and how it brought something very novel to the Bollywood comedy landscape.

Written by Shivangi Jalan | New Delhi | Published: April 5, 2018 10:07:44 am
delhi belly imran khan abhinay deo Blackmail director Abhinay Deo has previously helmed 2011’s Delhi Belly.

The premise was pretty simple: three Delhi boys, struggling with very desi problems in their cramped up dump of an apartment. They get embroiled with a gang of mobsters and there is the whole chase and being chased sequence. Yes, at the face of it, Delhi Belly is just another madcap comedy. But what it has, unlike many of its other contemporaries, is a plot. In fact, a very pacy and tautly written one (by Akshat Verma) that makes the 102 minutes sweep by so smoothly.

Right from the get-go, director Abhinay Deo is mindful of what the film’s reality is going to be and he establishes it pretty deftly. And despite it being a comedy, he does not waste a minute of the runtime on anything futile. Everything has a purpose and it comes together very well towards the end.

delhi belly imran khan abhinay deo Delhi Belly was bankrolled by Aamir Khan Productions.

Take, for instance, the first few frames of the film. The opening credits roll with shots of the dingy apartment that Arup, Nitin and Tashi (Vir Das, Kunaal Roy Kapur and Imran Khan) live in — not only is the apartment a very important aspect of the scrambled story of the three lads but it also is the place where most of the action happens. The grubby toilet, the broken ceiling, the ‘Suntraa’ juice boxes and many other things are captured in the opening sequence. And sometime later in the narrative, they all appear again with much more purpose. And that is precisely how Delhi Belly builds up almost all its gags so that nothing comes out of the blue.

Most of the movie for that matter is a buildup: for three aptly spaced out crackpot events. First, the introductory encounter between the gangster (an adept Vijay Raaz) and the boys, second, the diamond heist from the jeweller (Rajendra Sethi) and third, the climactic sequence in Vladimir’s (Kim Bodnia) hotel room. Peppered with hairy butt-cracks, men and women being pleasured in ways unknown to Bollywood and non-stop potty humour, we as viewers are never made to feel the wait for these crescendos. The plot is so well thought-out that it almost always has the ‘one-thing-leads-to-another’ kind of vibe.

While there is a great eye for detail on Deo’s part throughout the film, the problems that the protagonists face in the narrative otherwise are also very real. Be it the Bharatnatyam player above them, the pressure on Tashi to marry Shenaz Treasury, the objectionable demands of Arup’s boss, Nitin’s fiasco with street-food or the general lack of water in their house. That is not to say, that there is not the usual comic hyperbole in Delhi Belly. But when it is paired with this kind of realistic approach, even improbable acts like Raaz’s criminality or Nitin’s excrement issues do not take us by surprise.

With some cackling sequences and a well-detailed plot, Abhinay Deo is able to bring to the comedy landscape something very novel with Delhi Belly. So much so, that even with the stoic Imran Khan in its lead, it manages to tickle the funny bone of the audience even today.

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