Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Delhi Belly

I have not watched a Bollywood flick for over a year now and decided it was time to get caught up. I chose Delhi Belly and was very glad I did. It is a funny, risque and smart little movie  - not your garden variety Bollywood caper. Each character does their part really well in making this movie come together rather nicely. The dude with the Delhi Belly is not the protagonist but his condition directly contributes to many twists and turns in the plot. The fact that I laughed as many times as I did watching this movie, made me realize that the desi in me is alive and well ; not having been back to India in over eight years has not taken that away from me. DB would have enjoyed it too - but his desi-ness is much too worn out for him to get what I did out of it.
What is specially neat about the movie is how well it captures the essence of the Indian experience - we are a people and country that can span centuries and millinea within a day of our lives. There is this dilapidated house with toilet fixtures from the early part of the last century shared by three guys with unremunerative, non-mainstream jobs, the offices are swank and very twenty first century, the electronics on the more well-heeled characters are state of the art , the wardrobes are deeply influenced by the west but not entirely subordinate to it. To that extent we have the ironic tee-shirts with distinctly desi flavor and the zari trimmed vest on a scooped top. There is the kathak guru upstairs from the three guys instructing young girls on a dance form thousands of years old in a setting not unlike what it was back then - very little if anything has changed about their world. The landlord who seeks comfort in the arms of a prostitute visits them in an establishment that looks as old as the trade itself.
The female characters in the movie range between conservative to liberated and everything in between. They are not the one-dimensional romantic interests for the male roles - among other things it was good to see female sexuality being acknowledged without subterfuge.There is a place in India for all of this to co-exist, the multitude of characters and locales that shape our communities grow with the wild profusion of a tropical rain forest. It may not be pretty or well-ordered but it is certainly not sterile and lifeless. All of these contradictions come together to create the Indian and desi experience. I have missed the time travel that everyday life back home can be. Delhi Belly was the perfect Indian sampling platter for someone who has not been home in a while.

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