Das Ka Dhamki Movie Review: A masala entertainer that chooses formula over form
Vishwak Sen puts the film in a showdown with his inconsistently written, extremely flamboyant making
Firstly, though the title, Das Ka Dhamki, sounds interesting, it has nothing to do with the plot. The name Das is from Falaknuma Das (2019), Vishwak Sen's maiden film as a director, and he's added it next to Dhamki (threat), forming a title for his sophomore directorial. But the title has more to do with Vishwak, who seeks to build a brand for himself, hailing from a non-filmy background.
Call it a strategic branding choice or an exercise in narcissism, Vishwak is determined to play the long game and emerge as a force to be reckoned with. As much as I am impressed by Vishwak’s gumption to don the hats of writer, director, actor and producer, all at once, Das Ka Dhamki also had me wishing for better writing and more coherent structure. Vishwak plays the roles of doppelgangers Sanjay Rudra and Krishna Das in Das Ka Dhamki. The former is a scientist heir to a pharma company committed to eradicating cancer with a miracle drug. The latter is a working-class orphan who has worked as a waiter in a five-star hotel for the last six years.
The film's first half belongs to Krishna and his childhood buddies (Mahesh and Hyper Aadi), whom he affectionately calls Amma and Naana. And he tries to woo Keerthi (Nivetha Pethuraj) by pretending to be a rich man. Eventually, the facade falls apart. The revelations make a way when Krishna learns that the rich man he was impersonating is none other than Sanjay, who dies in a car accident. Krishna has to now step into the shoes of Sanjay to fulfil the latter’s ambitions and save the organisation from being usurped. The second half, where we know more about Sanjay and his not-so-noble intentions, feels like an entirely different film. And as we try to weave in multiple plotlines that unravel gradually, it only stands as a detriment to the film.
Vishwak, with the help of writer Prasanna Kumar Bezawada and editor Anwar Ali, tries to create two individuals with a stark contrast in their moralities, motivations and social backgrounds. The symbolism of their names, one of Hinduism’s divine preserver Vishnu and the other, its karmic destroyer Shiva is sharply evident in their resultant characterisations. The duality of these characters makes its presence felt in the film’s power-packed last scene. And guess what...Das Ka Dhamki is not interested in the predictable good-over-evil ending but aims to build a good-vs-evil, or rather, a Vishwak Sen “vs” Vishwak Sen franchise.
Just like the story that reflects on the juxtaposition of a good person against a bad person, Vishwak's experiments with the filmmaking style seem a bit new to the mainstream, and yet it does not create a riveting experience. The film’s interval scene, where Krishna Das realises the consequences of his actions, as his frame in the day quickly cuts to night with him in the same profile and shot size, is captured beautifully. Scenes like these show Vishwak’s prowess as a filmmaker. The portions before and after the interval, make for a sluggish watch and the pay-offs don’t quite justify the setups. There is an ‘everything is a copy of a copy of a copy’ style of writing. There is also an ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’ style of acting.
While Vishwak is affable and convincing as Krishna, his rendition of the gleefully evil Sanjay, where he imitates Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight (2008), is overdramatic. The film's second half reminds me of Yashoda and DJ Tillu's later portions, with Rao Ramesh (Yashoda) and Muralidhar Goud's (DJ Tillu) appearances reinforcing it.
Rohini, who plays Sanjay’s mother, did feel typical at first but she later comes across as an inspired choice. Das Ka Dhamki’s production design makes a few easily avoidable mistakes. For instance, there is this overwhelmingly gold-painted bungalow in Jubilee Hills that screams new money, but you also see actual green hills in the background. Also, why does a Caribbean nation have caucasian cops in American tactical gear? The film’s background score by Leon James is effective and refreshing. Das Ka Dhamki ends with the promise of a sequel. And if it materialises, I hope the writing is as strong and meaningful as Vishwak’s aspirations.