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Review: Dunki Lacks Rajkumar Hirani's Touch

Last updated on: December 21, 2023 14:51 IST
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Rajkumar Hirani has a mastery in bromance. In Dunki, Sukanya Verma doesn't feel that chemistry one bit, it's more like SRK babysitting a bunch of clueless kids running helter-skelter in a garden believing the grass is always greener on the other side.

Once when quizzed why Vidhu Vinod Chopra didn't direct his home production, Munnabhai MBBS, he answered, 'This film needed Raju Hirani and only Raju Hirani.

Dunki, which marks Raju's first outing outside the VVC stable, has the Rajkumar Hirani trademark all over.

What's in short supply is his touch.

In Hirani's artless worldview, nothing is too serious and all of life's greatest challenges can be made light in addition to an unabashed emotionality that treats tears as torchbearers of humanity.

Starry-eyed idealism taking precedence over logic -- taporis become doctors and activists, aliens take godmen to task, bad boy biopics turn into halo-sporting hagiographies and engineering colleges are rat race breeding grounds -- bode well for the Munnabhai movies, PK, Sanju and 3 Idiots.

Having said that, the film-maker's tendency to get carried away and exploit the emotional fools in the audience tries a tad too hard in Dunki.


Few make sniffling to the sound of sentimentality worth it like Shah Rukh Khan.

But after a dynamic dose of patriotism in Pathaan, swaggering show of vigilantism in Jawan, his turn as a delivery boy facilitating unlawful entry of his foolish cronies in and out of India fails to strike a chord.

Dunki is high on ambition, but its flimsy premise, which makes illegal immigration seem as simple as Aamir Khan and his band of buddies gate-crashing a wedding party in 3 Idiots renders their nearly three-hour journey into far-fetched adventures hard to believe.

Co-written by Hirani, Abhijat Joshi and Kanika Dhillon, Dunki wants to make a case for desperate, needy folks from small towns and villages running off to first world countries in search of better prospects, but in his preoccupation with '90s style sitcom humour and excessive schmaltz, he cannot establish a solid reason for us to feel bad about the situation or root for its motley bunch.

Visa plays villain as four dwellers from a village in Punjab cannot procure one owing to shortage of funds and wobbly English.

Manu (Taapsee Pannu), a dhaba cook wants to reclaim her family home, Bugga (Vikram Kochhar) wants his pants-wearing mom to retire, Balli (Anil Grover) is fed up of styling balding clients and Sukhi (Vicky Kaushal, in an extended special appearance) wants to rescue his ex-flame from a bad marriage.

Serendipitously enough it's 1995, the same year Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge released and fuelled London dreams in many a desi after Raj Malhotra's daddy proudly proclaims, 'Bhatinda se bhaaga hua ek alhad ganwar aur London ka aaj millionaire ho gaya.'

Not sure if Dharamvir Malhotra's struggle to reach England was as dramatic as the protagonists of Dunki but Oh pochi oh koka oh bobby oh lola makes a lot more sense than Hirani's love for contrivances.

Hardayal Singh Dhillon aka Hardy (Shah Rukh Khan) is an army man, a voluntarily retired one I am presuming since he travels from Pathankot to Punjab to deliver a deceased colleague's tape recorder but stays on to help the afore-mentioned quartet study English.

Not only does he teach Manu potent wrestling tricks in a week but enrolls himself in the English-speaking crash course run by a pompous guru called Gulati (Boman Irani).

Bollywood's 'I can walk English, I can talk English' trope has existed since time immemorial but seldom has one seen it in an avatar as unfunny as Dunki's. You're better off watching Zabaan Sambhal Ke re-runs or English Vinglish clips than Dunki's lavatory 'LOL' humour.

Alternating between the past and present in bumpily executed ageing and de-aging make-up techniques, Dunki displays flashes of fun and geniality.

Mostly though, its plain, puerile wit rooted in body shaming, sexism and racism -- a man's receding hair line or a woman's preference for pants is an occasion for chuckle, a South Indian name translates to a joke whereas the sight of a Black guy prompts a desi to remark, 'Is this Africa?'

On a demonstrative level too, the writing is completely off the mark.

For one, Sukhi's arc is dispensable if only he'd heard of a tourist visa.

Moreover, Hardy's grand gestures for strangers-turned-overnight besties or Lamhe-reminiscent commitment for Manu is an invisible development. It's profound purely because the makers insist it is.

Led by SRK in a role that shatters the NRI dream he so lovingly built in his celluloid prime, the cast, especially a self-assured Taapsee, delivers the goods at hand but cannot convey the bonhomie of a real friendship or lifetime long love.

Hirani has a mastery in bromance.

In Dunki, I didn't feel that chemistry one bit, more like SRK babysitting a bunch of clueless kids running helter-skelter in a garden believing the grass is always greener on the other side.

Rather than look into the dangers of traveling foreign shores the 'dunki' way -- documented in two stereotypical misadventures and one lacklustre Pritam song -- Dunki hits out at the system without building a poignant case of discrimination.

Declaring its barely concealed patriotism at the drop of hat, at heart Dunki is very much a Mera Bharat Mahan versus vs 'You Bloody Goras' conflict.

Only Hirani's simplistic resolution for immigrant woes is stuff of la la land. Where most would be languishing behind bars if caught, the British judge here apologetically concedes, 'You're a noble guy.'

More than its foolhardy protagonists, Dunki carries the baggage of a script that's going nowhere.

Dunki Review Rediff Rating:

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