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Dunki Review: SRK Is Earnest, The Film Is Not

December 22, 2023 09:39 IST

Dunki doesn't have any repeat value unlike other Hirani films. And that perhaps is saying a lot, notes Mayur Sanap.

As I was watching the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Dunki, the thought crossed my mind why the superstar's much hyped collaborations with star film-makers are stung by such bad luck.

Jab Harry Met Sejal with Imtiaz Ali and Zero with Aanand L Rai were dream collabs that ultimately turned out to be tepid affairs.

Dunki unites the superstar with Rajkumar Hirani, the man with a 100 per cent track record and who is hailed as the master of family entertainers. This was a perfect star vehicle for SRK after his action razzamatazz in his last two outings (three, if you also count Tiger 3) but despite its many interesting assets, sadly, the SRK-Hirani combo brings only boredom in an overly programmatic heart-tugger.


The film picks the topic of illegal immigration with soft focus on the overarching themes of love and friendship.

SRK plays a fauji named Hardayal Singh Dhillon aka Hardy from Pathankot who comes to the Punjab town Laltu on a personal voyage.

There he becomes friends with a group of misfits -- Mannu (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu (Vikram Kochhar) and Balli (Anil Grover) -- who harbour the dream of going to London in search of a better tomorrow.

The hurdle is their financial background, the stringent rules, exams of visa and the immigration process.

When everything fails, Hardy takes upon himself and goes for an illegal method, the Donkey (Dunki) flight, to relay his friends to their dream destination by travelling across the continents through treacherous terrains and many dangers.

I had the feeling I was supposed to feel amazed with which Hirani constructs his ambitious story about illegal migrants but instead, I kept noticing how simplistic the drama is and how utterly one-dimensional all the characters feel.

And this is the biggest problem with Dunki -- something that keeps you emotionally distant from what's unfolding on screen.

Despite the tragedy at its core, the film never feels deeply personal because Hirani and his co-writers Abhijat Joshi and Kanika Dhillon offer only surface-level viewpoint and push-pin thoughts about the subject matter, making it far too formulaic and mundane to carry your interest through the runtime of close to three hours!

Hirani, who is otherwise so effortless with bringing chuckles and tears, can’t work the same magic around, especially during the film's big moments.

What we get then is half-baked humour and haphazardly staged scenes that just don’t land well in their entirety.

Some gags play out in mind-numbingly juvenile fashion and go on for quite some time -- like the tuition class sequence (Boman Irani playing an English teacher), the make-believe church wedding in England, or the final showdown at Dubai port.

Even the key scene in which SRK talks about his mulk in a British court room is depicted in a prosaic manner, which could have been so much better if the film wasn't trying so hard about the tear-jerking humanism of its protagonist.

What makes the film slightly less dreary is the endearing cast, starting with, of course, the very able Shah Rukh Khan.

He shoulders various emotional beats efficiently, and the amount of restraint and believability he brings to Hardy is heartening to see.

Vicky Kaushal makes the most of his brief screen-time as a credulous small-towner desperate to land in the UK to rescue the love of his life. The actor aces this role in some of the most emotionally-charged moments in the first half of the film.

Taapsee (whose name appears first in the opening credits) looks lovely, but the performative streak in her act is very much visible which gives a very wooden texture to her performance.

The wig that she puts on in later scenes only adds to the jarring effect.

There's also barely any fizz in the romantic scenes shared between her Mannu and Hardy, which is quite unusual in a SRK film.

The biggest disappointment of all is how Hirani regular Boman Irani is under-utilised in the film.

The actor has always been iconic in Hirani films, but he is wasted here in a severely under-written role.

Similar treatment is there for both Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover, who are otherwise so good with their comic timing.

There is so much that could have been better, but the silver lining here is SRK, who brings earnestness to his role in a very committed performance.

The film can be watched at least once for his yet another magical screen outing this year.

Too bad Dunki doesn't have any repeat value unlike other Hirani films. And that perhaps is saying a lot.

Dunki Review Rediff Rating: