Sunday, March 3, 2024

Dunki: Who draws borders around countries?

Dunki – a film that we had been waiting for with bated breath. A grand coming together of two reckoning forces – one that had made a name greater than himself throughout the world with his arms wide open and his hair surprisingly always in place, his eyes glittering to love and his idea of romance always on-point. The other one is a rather unconventional artist. A handful of films over decades of being in business in the industry that is known to throw out the members who do not get on with the fast paced hustle. Rajkumar Hirani is known for taking his time, softening the edges, sharpening his sword and delivering films that have high rewatch value. A year back, when Shah Rukh Khan brought up a rather quirky video with himself in a student look with a school bag hanging on his one shoulder in style staring and drooling at the filmography of Rajkumar Hirani and wishing for a film to be made with him, we all knew that 2023 had something to give us – something great.

Hence, started the wait.

It’s odd to get into the film without speaking a bit about the long four years when Shah Rukh Khan stayed away from the screens, only coming to save a few films with a few cameos here and there. With his son’s arrest, his name being pulled into the mud by ignorants who blatantly went on to say that he spit on the corpse of Lata Mangeshkar – one of the most celebrated singers of the country.

The four years of wait ended with him bringing in the big guns, blazing across the screens with his machismo, patterned shirts, long frizzy hair and moon glasses. Guns, roses, fights, romance and romanticism of the nation – he did it all with Pathaan and Jawan.

And when people started to get a bit bored of seeing and screaming to the star who taught romance to generations being all actiony, he gave us Dunki.

The story of Shah Rukh Khan and four others based out of a small town in Punjab with dreamy eyes romanticising a life abroad. The grass is always green on the other side for them and sometimes to reach the other side, they need to falter – at the storyline.

The illegal border crossing is well-known across countries in search of trying to earn a better life in a new country that they know very less about. Shah Rukh Khan – Hardy – comes as a blessing to the four actors. Ofcourse he peeped through the train door and carried a tape recorder – a cameo to remind us of Rajkumar Hirani’s one of the most successful releases – PK.

The story kind of takes off on its own from there. With a little bit of hits and misses here and there, a love story as the central of it, some action and Shah Rukh Khan always acting as the messiah – the kind of character he generally portrays post his sabbatical from the screens.
The prominence of Dunki lies in the fact that Shah Rukh Khan brought back memories of his own movies of his golden era with it. A little bit of Dil Se, a pinch of Veer Zara. Lovers meeting after ages when they are old and getting together briefly.

Where does the love go when people leave?

Shah Rukh Khan, with his eyes on the screen and his jawline tightened speaks of his love for the nation – he belongs to the army in the story. However, he also helps people cross the border illegally in the memory of a friend who went through three months of English coaching classes just to visit London for a day to save his lover from a violent husband. The friend dies by lighting up himself on fire. The storyline falters here and there.

The struggle of the Donkey route, the deaths, the shootouts, the long walks of the desert, the underwater struggle, the guns and gulabs come up in the story in the second half. The first half – evidently given to the character buildups – doesn’t say much. So does the second half. Rajkumar Hirani, perhaps tried so hard that he failed to tighten the knots in the story and align them to bring to us a tale that has very rarely been told in this language.

However, so is a Rajkumar Hirani film. He brings up the tales of our imperfect world through a perfect fantasised screenplay. In Munnabhai MBBS, Sanjay Dutt is a man who beats up people and somehow ends up in a medical college – while its unbelievable, its also convincing. So is PK – an alien coming to earth to bring to our notice the falters in our religion system. If we put 3 Idiots under the lens of reality, it’s equally ridiculous to think that a man would sell the identity and degree in exchange for education and go on to become super successful – all the while making us see the potholes in the education system.

But so is a Rajkumar Hirani film. He is known to create a mystic world in resemblance to our own to make us dream – in case of Dunki, its the dream of Visa-free nations.

Who draws the borders around the countries?

Taapsee Pannu says in the film – the land belongs to God. It’s as much theirs, as is ours. The perfect world doesn’t exist. Settling in a new country that we are not a citizen of is easier for people with money. For the poor, its always the longer, darker route – the Donkey route. Somewhere in the backdrop of the mind, a dialogue from PK lingers – What is this God? The rich gets it easily. The poor need to stand in queue.

That’s all. Maybe that’s all that Hardy and his gang of four friends wanted us to question.

Tapatrisha Das
Tapatrisha Das
Tapatrisha Das is a freelance journalist and creative writer. She writes on movies and arts.
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