“Dunki,” the much-anticipated collaboration between ace director Rajkumar Hirani and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, has finally made its way to theatres. Offering a break from the usual high-octane Indian cinema, this film takes us on a slightly mellower journey, focusing on the serious issue of illegal immigration from Punjab to London. The movie’s strength lies not just in the star power of SRK but in its compelling narrative.
The film, set against the backdrop of a small Punjabi town, narrates the poignant tale of four individuals desperate to migrate to London. Their saviour comes in the form of Hardy, an ex-army man played by Shah Rukh Khan, who offers them an illegal yet hopeful passage to their dreams. The relationship dynamics, especially between Hardy and Manu (Taapsee Pannu), offer a tender subplot amidst the overarching theme of migration.
The Good: Stellar Performances & Engaging Narrative
Shah Rukh Khan returns to his charming best, portraying a character that is both relatable and enchanting. His performance, coupled with the equally brilliant Taapsee Pannu, forms the backbone of “Dunki.” They bring to life characters that are multifaceted and integral to the story, rather than mere accessories to the protagonist. The surprise package, however, is Vicky Kaushal, whose limited screen time does not hinder him from delivering a memorable performance. The storyline, revolving around a group’s perilous journey to London, is engaging and filled with moments that resonate with the audience.
The Not-So-Good: Nostalgia Overdose & Predictable Pathways
Despite its strengths, “Dunki” isn’t without its flaws. The film’s attempt to evoke nostalgia by harking back to the Bollywood era of 2012-15 might not sit well with all viewers, especially over a lengthy two hours and forty minutes. Hirani’s storytelling, while compelling, doesn’t stray far from his tried and tested formula, leading to a sense of predictability. The film, replete with long, impactful dialogues reminiscent of “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” and “PK,” may feel repetitive to the audience looking for something new.
The comedic elements, particularly those aimed at English and the British, start to feel overdone and occasionally miss the comedic mark, making the movie less enjoyable. Choosing England as the place people want to migrate to is interesting because of its history with India, but it doesn’t feel as relevant today compared to other countries like the US or Canada where more people are moving to now.
A Deeper Look: Social Commentary Amidst Flaws
Still, the movie does some things really well. It’s clear that the director, Hirani, knows how to mix serious messages with the story. The movie shows how tough life is for poor people and the many challenges they face when they try to move to a better place. It also talks about how people judge others based on their work and gender, like a son feeling ashamed because his mother wears pants and works as a security guard. This shows how deep-set unfair attitudes towards women and work are in some parts of India.
Verdict: Worth the Watch, with Reservations
“Dunki” is a film with its heart in the right place, attempting to shed light on the serious issues of illegal immigration and societal norms. While it may not stand up to the expectations set by Hirani’s previous works in terms of narrative ingenuity and emotional grip, it still offers compelling performances and significant moments of social commentary. The film is a worthwhile watch for those seeking a blend of Bollywood charm and a thought-provoking storyline, albeit with tempered expectations for the groundbreaking spontaneity and humour that once defined Hirani’s films.