The London Indian Film Festival opened on the evening of Thursday 30th June with the premiere of Delhi Belly. The blurb on the Festival’s website stated that special guests were expected and, all in all, the attendees would have been right to expect a grand first night. Delhi Belly, an Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao and UTV Motion Pictures production, stars Imran Khan in a protagonist’s role and he is supported by lesser-known but hugely talented actors such as Kunaal Roy Kapur, Vir Das, Shenaz Treasury and Poorna Jagannathan.
Directed by Abhinay Deo, who was present to answer the audience’s question on premiere night, Delhi Belly promised to be the first of its kind. It was a first in terms of tackling the more taboo subjects that Indian cinema is better known to brush under the carpet. It was also a first in having dialogues primarily in the English language as opposed to in Hindi. The movie was also the first to be given an adult certificate by request of the makers. The people behind the movie simply didn’t want the boldness in the nature of the film to be dumbed down and, it seems, neither were they comfortable with appealing to the masses in a family-oriented fashion.
Abhinay Deo introduced the movie by explaining that the film is the result of a lot of hard work but he made no qualms in admitting that it is hard-hitting language-wise and doesn’t shy away from any taboos. Before the screening commenced, a short clip was played featuring Aamir Khan who unfortunately couldn’t be present due to prior commitments. Khan was heard to say that the film seeks to bring to the forefront topics which aren’t usually deemed as comfortable but that he hopes it will entertain the audiences.
Hosted by Actor and VJ Asad Shan, the film was preceded by an interactive Question and Answer session with Deo. Shan introduced Deo as the director of 450 commercials and gave particular mention to a Nike advert featuring Indian cricketers Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth. Shan started by asking Deo about the casting of the movie as it is well-known that none of the actors were the initial choices of his and that, early on, Aamir Khan was rumoured to have been playing the part that was eventually given to Kunaal Roy Kapur (Nitin). Deo revealed, “I wanted very natural actors with no baggage to be able to appeal to the wider audiences”. Deo said he deliberately chose actors who haven’t done many pivotal roles because he wanted to keep with the rugged freshness of the movie. He revealed that every actor in the movie was required to audition for the film, including Imran Khan.
Deo also commented on working with Aamir Khan as a producer, “Aamir has been in this industry for 35 years and I believe he is a marketing guru when it comes to films. He is the best marketing guru on the planet.” The director, in answer to a question relayed by a member of the audience, spoke about what he thinks about film critics, “I think critics should just say how they feel”. Deo also commented on where he sees Indian cinema in the next five years, “I think it’s high time that Indian cinema took a step towards opening up and being honest about what you’re about. This is how the youth in India speak and we wanted to be honest to that and not hold back. We didn’t want to be shy about the language they use because it’s a reality.”
Deo also disclosed that he chased Aamir Khan for some time because he wanted him to play the part which was eventually taken by Vijay Raaz. The character is of negative shades and Deo explained that Khan was adamant that putting him into the film in such a role would be like killing the film even before it had begun. Khan was also very clear in conveying his thoughts that the audiences wouldn’t accept him in villainous role as he is still a hero in their eyes. Deo said he eventually backed off only to find out that Khan, just a few months later, had taken the role of the villain in the forthcoming Dhoom 3.
Deo also conversed about the script being read by Kiran Rao whilst she was waiting in her husband’s office for the man himself. It seems she casually picked it up and started reading it. When Khan eventually arrived after a few minutes, Rao had read a considerable amount and recommended it to Khan. They changed their evening plans and instead of heading out, they decided to stay put and read the full script. Akshat Verma, the writer of the script, is seen as the initiator of Delhi Belly and Deo is the person who has given birth to it on screen, as Khan has reportedly said.
Deo’s end thoughts surrounded the way he feels Indian cinema is split into genres. He said, “I don’t think we should draw any lines. The lines should remain blurry”. It seems this very thought is what Delhi Belly and Deo’s directorial genius of the film get their foundation from. Deo’s execution of the scenes and his relaying of the story as well as the intricacies of the characters within it are what make Delhi Belly so impressionable. It certainly seems this director has come a long way from his directorial debut in Game which released earlier in the year. Delhi Belly will, undoubtedly, put Deo on the map and he is sure to go on to bigger and better projects post the film’s success.
The opening night of the London Indian Film Festival was indeed a special one with the presence of Deo. It was also attended by some other famous names in the British Asian spectrum such as Raj and Pablo, Ameet Chana, Armaan Kirmani, Gurinder Chadha and Jeff Mirza to name a few. A highlight of the evening came when, during the Q&A, Deo pointed out the handsome Javed Jaffery in the audience who had come to London just to attend the premiere night. Deo also mentioned that he was also a choice Vijay Raaz’s role in the movie. A star-studded event no less… and a memorable opening night, which left the audiences conveying nothing but congratulations to the director himself.
Review coming soon! Until then check out our exclusive pictures from the event.