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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Delhi Belly was the ‘cool’ film 10 years ago. But does it still hold up?

This was the era when Imran Khan was still the promising upcoming hero, and Vijay Raaz was best known for that kauwa biryani scene in the much-lesser known Run.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
July 1, 2021 8:16:25 am
delhi bellyAbhinay Deo's Delhi Belly released 10 years ago.

Ten years ago, when Delhi Belly released in theatres, it left the urban youngsters in awe. This was the film they wanted to see when Bollywood was presenting them with Ready and Bodyguard. While Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara gave them an aspirational tour of Spain, Delhi Belly gave them a look at how ‘cool’ could be interpreted in Hindi cinema. The syntax of this Abhinay Deo directorial felt closer to the urban youth of 2011 and was something they really wanted to relate to, instead of the over-the-top dialogue-baazi they got in Singham that had taken the nation by storm.

Starring Imran Khan, Vir Das, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Vijay Raaz, Poorna Jagannathan and Shenaz Treasury, Delhi Belly was written by Akshat Verma and produced by Aamir Khan in an era when Imran was the promising upcoming hero, despite Luck and I Hate Luv Storys, and Vijay was best known for that kauwa biryani scene in the much-lesser known Run. The film was probably a re-launch vehicle for Imran but it was Vijay who flew with it.

vijay raaz This scene whe Vijay Raaz’s character finds shit instead of diamonds has become one of the most popular memes.

Memes from Delhi Belly are still a part of our cultural zeitgeist but what was it about this film that clicked with the audience back then? And does it still hold?

To recap, Delhi Belly is a comedy of errors where a package with diamonds is delivered to the wrong place and the gangster-owners of the diamonds start going after everyone who could have the package. Enter Imran, Vir and Kunal’s characters who are accidental bystanders to this mess but have to now find a way to outrun the gangster and stay alive. Poorna Jagannathan and Shenaz Treasury are along for the ride as well.

One of the biggest plus points of Delhi Belly was its music. Ram Sampath’s excellent and catchy tunes might have created some controversies (with Bhaag DK Bose) but tracks like Bedardi Raja, I Hate You Like I Love You and Switty Tera Pyaar are such zingers and flow with the film quite perfectly.

The film’s dialogue was another one of its controversial points. The traditionalists believed that the expletives were unnecessary but the youth called it colloquial. Living in an OTT era where some of the shows’  dialogues aren’t even half as sanitary, Delhi Belly’s dialogues don’t sound objectionable one bit today but they do sound extremely forced. Most cuss words feel like they were forcefully added to up the ‘cool quotient’ and the makers could have probably done away with most of them.

As far as its comedic appeal is concerned, the film does not feel as humorous as it did the first time. The extended gag about Nitin’s diarrhea and Sonia being too silly to be a mule can be chuckle-worthy moments but the impact isn’t as strong anymore.

In hindsight, it feels like Aamir Khan produced this film to reinvigorate Imran’s career and he delivered. Imran was thoroughly impressive here and it was evident that he was capable of doing much more if he had maybe picked subjects that weren’t as traditional as his other roles. In fact, this was possibly the best film of his short-lived acting career which makes us think that in a different era, with some different choices, Imran would have probably found his calling as an actor.

Watching Delhi Belly in 2021 doesn’t leave you awestruck and that’s mainly because that the mainstream Hindi film industry isn’t playing just to the traditional gallery anymore and we are watching more of these experimental films in this day and age. Of course, there are hero-centric formulaic films today as well but with the emergence of OTT platforms and the ever-changing rules of cinema, Delhi Belly seems like a film that probably encouraged others to take the plunge into a territory that wasn’t as accepted back then.

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