Named after the stomach bugs that affect white people visiting India. This is a classic MacGuffin chase enhanced by bawdy humour and the sheer grossness of some of the characters. If you have the appetite, you might enjoy this one.
We see the plot take off with the introduction of three youngsters who live a squalid lifestyle in a small Delhi apartment. Tashi and Nitin work together as a beat journalist and a photographer respectively. The third is a cartoonist called Arup, who is the only one with a job that could is “stable”. Their daily struggle includes infrequent water supply, inability to pay rent and having to deal with noisy neighbours. Their jobs fare no better, each being deeply unsatisfied with the quality of work they’re having to do. We seem them find escapes in their own jobs through various means while still trying to manage with all the existing problems.
Tashi’s personal story delivers the primary plot for the film. His imposing girlfriend Sonia asks him to deliver a package that a friend of hers needs delivered. Tashi being the ever-unorganized one, hands it over to Arup who goes on to hand it to Nitin. Nitin accidentally replaces the package with a stool sample and delivers it to its destination. Unbeknownst to them, the original package contains smuggled diamonds and the local mafia don is very unhappy with this misplacement. After conducting an elaborate search operation, the don tracks down the youngsters and threatens to kill them if they do not return the diamonds. Thanks to a freak accident, the guys manage to escape with their lives and the diamonds. The infuriated don proceeds to kidnap Tashi’s girlfriend and demands the jewels as ransom. The final showdown ends with a shower of bullets where everyone is either shot dead, incapacitated or scared out of their wits. Our three boys miraculously survive only with a few minor wounds.
The hunt for the diamonds is enhanced by a variety of sub-plots. Tashi’s girlfriend sees him as a personal chauffeur and often uses her wealth to impose control over him. She gifts him a car bundled with a slight sense of superiority, which he promptly trashes throughout the movie. His treatment of the car is a subconscious rebellion against her. Nitin is particularly tired of their landlord’s inability to maintain the property. He starts blackmailing his landlord with photos of him in a compromising position. Later on, when the landlord rescues him from an accident, he has a change of heart and retires the plan. Arup is walked over by everyone else, including his girlfriend and boss. He is unable to stand up to his girlfriend who takes him for granted. He is also unable to question the menial work assigned to him by his boss. He finally “gives up” and shaves his head, when his girlfriend dumps him without a warning. This transformation is soon undone when he is hung from a ceiling and has his newfound voice reduced to a croak.
What’s interesting about the film is the stacking of stories in a way where the subplots have subplots of their own. We experience a form of storytelling, where some character arcs are a few degrees of separation from the central plot. For example, we see the landlord approach his brother who is an police inspector, for help with the blackmail. We start hating this brother because of his punishing attitude. It is resolved when the brother gets shot in the butt and is incapacitated in a hospital bed. Another subplot is Menaka’s relationship with her ex husband. We’re first set to hate him when he punches Tashi and manhandles Menaka. Then there’s the escalation when he pursues the heck out of the two. There’s a second escalation when he sees Menaka kissing Tashi in a Burqa. Finally, there’s the resolution where Tashi slaps the heck out of him for laughing. This fractal pattern of storytelling is not only natural, but adds a lot of texture to the movie. In fact, it is instrumental in preventing the film from becoming a simplistic MacGuffin chase. It of course introduces a few plot contrivances, to prevent the various arcs from straying too far. But I think that’s acceptable given their lack of importance to the plot.
One cannot review this movie without mentioning the way it handles some of the more adult themes. The film features more than a few instances which would make the more prude audience squirm in their seats. Particularly inflammatory are depictions of Nitin’s nonchalance in the brothel, Tashi’s oral pleasuring of his girlfriend and a scene where a man and a woman kiss each other while dressed in a burqa. The generous use of swearing, slang and sexual innuendo of course goes without saying, given the popular Bhag Bhag DK Bose song. I was surprised when this movie’s content got nowhere near the flak, compared to the likes of Udta Punjab or Padmaavat. I guess it was launched in a much simpler time and that’s a good thing, I guess.
What the movie does suffer from, is the lack of substance. Some characters see minor changes, for example Tashi leaves his girlfriend and finds a woman he “truly” loves and Nitin abandons his sinister plans to blackmail their landlord. But on the whole, the trio seems unaffected even after being put through various life-threatening situations. We see that their problems haven’t really changed and they face them with the same ambivalence as before. In order to make up for this lack of emotion, it even resorts to cheap substitutes like a happily-ever-after ending scene.
While the movie fails to hit home any way, it neatly avoids falling into most of the obvious tropes. Thanks to the very original plot and the refreshingly uncensored depiction, the movie manages to etch itself as a particularly original and amusing work, even if not a well-remembered one.