Dunki Movie review: This Shah Rukh Khan-Rajkumar Hirani mix makes for a bland cocktail

Dunki Movie review: This Shah Rukh Khan-Rajkumar Hirani mix makes for a bland cocktail

The Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal starrer is boring and overly sentimental at times
Rating:(2 / 5)

Third time’s the charm, fades. When we meet Shah Rukh Khan in the sunny world of Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki, he is wearing a grey stick-on beard. Before you label him as ‘old’, he is running a race, taking a thickly-accented Punjabi jibe on a fellow runner’s slipping pants. This is the return of the streetwise, laddie SRK of Zero and Harry Met Sejal, one who amuses himself more than he does the viewer. The only race he is winning is to a Vikram Rathore cosplay convention.

Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal, Boman Irani, Vikram Kochhar and                        Anil Grover

Hirani’s films have a set format. A cluelessly eccentric outsider enters an uptight world and makes it reflect upon itself. A loving tapori ruffian in a stern medical college (Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.), a goofy genius in a competitive engineering college (3 Idiots), a god-searching alien in a superstition-infested India (PK). Shah Rukh plays Hardayal “Hardy” Singh Dhillon, an ex-armyman from Pathankot who lands in the fictional town of Laltu in Punjab. Here, settling abroad is such an obsession that families with members in foreign lands have cemented airplane models atop their houses. Three inhabitants of the town are suffering from an acute case of London Dream-atitis. There is Mannu Randhawa (Taapsee Pannu), who wants to get her mortgaged house back; Buggu Lakhanpal (Vikram Kochhar), who doesn’t like seeing his mother go out for work (what actually irks him is her being the one wearing the pants in the family, quite literally); and Balli Kakkad (Anil Grover), who is bored of being a barber. There is also Sukhi (Vicky Kaushal), who is the most impatient to go to England. He has a lover to save.

Now, Hardy is the outsider to this world but he lacks both the impishness and the endearing curiosity of a Hirani lead. He doesn’t have a whacky viewpoint on things, or any viewpoint whatsoever. The only interesting thing about the character is that it is being played by Shah Rukh Khan. But that too is a performance which dissolves in the film, leaving no taste behind. We never really know where Hardy comes from or why he is willing to brave bullets across borders to get some people-- whom he probably met weeks ago-- to England. We are told he is doing it for love but even when there are two songs dedicated to the relationship between Hardy and Mannu, their romance rarely sings. It is clearly no Veer-Zaara.

Dunki is boring at times, which is the worst criticism for a Rajkumar Hirani film. The screenplay, penned by Hirani, Abhijat Joshi and Kanika Dhillon lacks both thrills and giggles. The film feels a juxtaposition of ideas inspired (read: copied) from Hirani’s previous releases. There is a drunken expedition played for humour, English words and phrases are butchered to elicit laughter, and a death occurs only to give the characters a deeper sense of purpose. I could count the number of laugh out loud moments in the theatre. They were too few and too far-in between.

Amidst a dragging narrative, the film puts in overly sentimental bits about refugees and their desperate need for migration. It tries to invoke feelings of patriotism and love for the motherland (a character is shot and she falls with the snuffbox containing India’s soil). A film which starts out with finding ways of leaving your country ultimately becomes about loving your country. In a scene, SRK, the biggest superstar in India, hailing from a minority community, is standing before an English judge. He is wearing a green camouflage jacket with a tricolour badge on his collar. He claims of not being afraid, not being persecuted in his home country. Whatever you say, Shah Rukh, whatever you say.

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