‘Dunki’ : Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki is Dunked with Love and Longing

By Sreeparna Sengupta

Story: A soldier, Hardayal Singh Dhillon (Shah Rukh Khan) takes on an arduous and audacious mission, of helping a group of friends realise their dream of going to England. It seems like an impossible task because neither do they have a visa or nor can they can afford a ticket. And It is the start of a journey that promises to change all their lives forever.

Review: When an ailing Manu (Taapsee Pannu) wants to return to India, she realises Hardayal Singh Dhillon aka Hardy is the only one who can help her come back to the country she left years back in search of better prospects.

Twenty-five years ago, Hardy arrived in Laltu, a remote village in Punjab in search of someone who had saved his life. Instead, he encountered a group of friends, Manu (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu (Vikram Kochchar) and Balli (Anil Grover), whose sole mission was to make it to the UK, in search of a better life. The committed three try everything to secure an immigration visa – from learning wrestling to fake marriages and degrees, falling prey to scams along the way. Finally, they decide to learn English in the hope of securing a student visa. It is here that they meet Sukhi (Vicky Kaushal), who is desperate to make it to London for his own reasons. “Birmingham here I come” becomes their motto.

But despite all their efforts when the visa is denied to them, things go very awry. Heartbroken by the turn of events, Hardy takes it upon himself to make a passage for his new-found friends to reach the foreign shores they so desperately want to. They make the hard decision to take the ‘donkey’ (‘Dunki’) route – a way for illegal immigrants to make their way. It’s a tumultuous journey riddled with hardships and challenges.

‘Dunki’s’ story is an emotional one – rolling in friendship, romance, heart-wrenching and heart-warming moments all into one. Manu and Hardy’s tender love story unfolds from Laltu to London and back.. And in trademark Hirani style, there are dollops of comedy which is laced with satire to make it an entertaining ride, along with the strong message the film brings forth. Although the take on the issue is simplistic and sometimes the humour is iffy. The expansive narrative (Abhijat Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani, Kanika Dhillon) not only crosses borders and landscapes but also has a 25-year time leap.

‘Dunki’ is a film about unfulfilled aspirations and reaching out for dreams beyond means and boundaries. The belief that reaching a first-world country is all about access to a bright future and the desperation to get there by any means. “London jana hain, pound mein kamana hain”, asserts Manu at one point.

As the film sprawls across continents and changing landscapes, they dodge bullets, risk their lives and more only to realise that their dream destination doesn’t hold the gleam they imagined. There is a naivety in their dream oblivious of the reality of living as an illegal immigrant. However, as the screenplay is doused with several emotional wallops, be prepared for some tear-jerking scenes. And it has its share of meandering moments, loopholes and an old-world charm that may not work for some.

After two back-to-back blockbusters, Pathaan and Jawan, Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Dunki’ comes riding on huge expectations. And it marks the first collaboration between Rajkumar Hirani and Khan. Stepping out of the action-hero mould he donned in his first two outings this year, with ‘Dunki’, Hirani gives us a wholesome Shah Rukh Khan – he’s charming, romantic, funny and pulls off some mean action sequences too. There are meta references and a hat-tip to some of Khan’s iconic cinematic moments.

Shah Rukh Khan as the dapper, younger Hardy is simply sensational, effortlessly sweeping you off your feet with his charm. And as the salt-and-pepper Hardayal, 25 years later, he is just delightful. In a special appearance, Vicky Kaushal as Sukhi impresses with a moving performance with his hold over the raw emotions his character has to portray. Taapsee Pannu shines with a spirited performance. Anil Grover and Vikram Kochchar, both deliver commendable performances.

The cinematography (Muraleedharan C.K., Manush Nandan, Amit Roy) and background music are top-notch.’Dunki’s’ music by Pritam scores high when it comes to underlining every mood, arguably the composer has given the best Hindi movie music soundtrack of the year. Whether it’s the mischief and cuteness of “Lutt Putt Gaya” (Arijit Singh, Swanand Kirkire, IP Singh), the soul-searching Nikle The Kabhi (Sonu Nigam, Javed Akhtar), the deeply romantic Oh Maahi (Arijit Singh, Irshad Kamil) the foot-tapping Banda (Diljit Dosanjh, Amitabh Bhattacharya) or the stirring songs Main tera rasta dekhunga (Shadab Faridi, Altamash Faridi, Amitabh Bhattacharya) and Chal Ve Watna (Javed Ali, Varun Grover) it’s a soundtrack that stays with you.

Overall, ‘Dunki’ is a wholesome entertainer that’s rousing, relevant, romantic and about returning to your roots. — Times of India