Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New India

"There are so many ‘caste no bar’ ads in the matrimonials now," I said to my friend Pramod.

"Yeah, ‘Caste no bar. Must make minimum six figures a month,’" he said.

(100,000 rupees=1 lakh=$2275 approx.)

Still thinking about Delhi Belly.

Kurt: “Hollywood couldn’t get away with some of that stuff.”
Pramod: “Only Aamir Khan could.1

The burqa sequence is comic genius. Imran Khan breaks out of his ‘chocolate boy’ image. Vir Das is hilarious, as always. Kunal Roy Kapoor was something of a revelation for me. His character was so sweetly corrupt. He was endearing.

Western critics in particular cite Hangover and other American movies as an influence. Not as much as they think. There has always been dark comedy and scat humour in India—Hindi is rich with great insults and dark, earthy jokes. DB’s humor is very much indigenous, but will translate well overseas. Does everyone know that South Asians prefer water to toilet paper?2 If you know this, then you’ll never look at a juice box the same way again.

While there have been a few dark comic gems in Indian films, most film humor here has been of the escapist slapstick variety of masala films or the gentle and/or satirical strain of the parallel cinema. As a screen genre, dark comedy really came into its own with Khosla ka Ghosla in 2006. Great film.

Adult Comedy

DB is the first, flat-out adult movie I’ve seen in India, but there have been signs and groundbreakers before. Mahesh Bhatt and Anurag Basu have dealt frankly with sexual topics in their films, and there is some racy simulated sex in Gangster.3 Dhoom 2 has the most twisted and delicious kissing scene. Last’s year’s Turning 30 gave us a modern heroine who has sex on her own terms.

1 I suspect, also, that someone fabulous with the initials ST has been loosening screws on the Censor Board.

2 I read a study that showed water (plus the left hand) is more sanitary than toilet paper.

3 Gangster stars Kangna Ranaut, Shiney Ahuja and Emraan Hashmi. Hashmi is known as the “serial kisser” for his many on-screen kisses. Evidently, I am in the minority here: I like Hashmi’s acting and hate his kissing. It always makes me think of Dave Barry’s great line after Al and Tipper Gore’s on-stage kiss at the 2000 Democratic convention: “He looked like a lizard depositing an egg sac in the mouth of his mate.”