Dunki: Rajkumar Hirani Foils SRK’s Hattrick Plans
Dunki Review: Rajkumar Hirani Foils SRK’s Hattrick Plans

Dunki is one of the weaker films in Hirani’s filmography, yet one of the better ones in SRK’s

Director: Rajkumar Hirani 


Writer: Abhijat Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani, Kanika Dhillon 


Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal (special appearance), and Boman Irani. 


Stars: 3 


Plot: Three friends from a small Punjab village, Manu Randhawa (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu Lakhanpal (Vikram Kochhar), and Balli (Anil Grover), are desperate to migrate to England for better career prospects. It is the only way they can think of to get their respective families out of poverty. But since none of them has either the money or the education to land a visa, they resort to a ‘Dunki’. They get a street-smart ex-army man, Hardy aka Hardayal Singh Dhillon (Shah Rukh Khan), as their escort. 



Donkey flight, locally known as Dunki, is an unsafe and illegal immigration technique, involving crossing borders without permission, on foot or by hiding inside cars, containers, and cargo ships, used by many Indians to get into countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. Used mostly by the poverty-stricken locals of Punjab and Haryana, who are desperate to settle abroad but don’t have the means to obtain a visa, it is a dangerous and arduous journey that often sees an abrupt and tragic end en route. 


Raj Kumar Hirani adequately explains and contextualises the concept for the less knowledgeable while ensuring each of the four characters embarking on the journey have their motivations and backstories firmly established. In fact, he invests the entire first half in creating this foundation and it is replete with song and dance, and gags that often run too long, interspersed with emotional scenes of poverty and desperation – it is his typical laugh-cry-think formula on a loop. 


In the process, he, along with his characters spends too much time in the Punjab village. The actual Dunki journey is wrapped up in haste and hence, what was supposed to be the core of the movie, ends up looking like a match highlight. And it doesn’t help that many of the travel scenes are shot on a green screen and look rather artificial. 



Apart from what you show, a movie is also about what you leave out. Here, Raj Kumar Hirani, in an attempt to do a lighthearted take on a rather important issue like the dangers of attempting to illegally cross borders and enter countries, decides to cut corners on the actual human drama. Hirani overdoses on the sweet, making the serious tremble on the brink of silly. (Also, I am not sure what’s with Hirani and his fascination for visuals of poop-laden pots but can we please stop repeating it in every film unless he is attempting a PhD on the same). 


The story is fresh but the treatment isn’t. The screenplay is good in parts but often becomes repetitive. The dialogues are good, the funny is fun, and the poignant touches the heart. But the movie rushes past those moments and nothing really sticks. A crisper editing might have helped the impact of the movie.


Shah Rukh Khan, after attempting two mass actioners earlier this year, both of which have gone on to make records at the box office, get’s back into his charming romantic hero mode—while his disembarking from the train is bound to remind one of the iconic DDLJ scene, he also gets some Veer-Zaara moments. The de-aging is on point as he plays the young Harry, but after almost three decades, the ‘SRK charm’ often looks rehashed and jaded in Dunki. We have seen and loved this SRK way too many times but some things are better as nostalgia. After Pathaan and Jawan, one had hoped that the ‘last of the superstars’ would be able to break his own stereotype and attempt something fresh. However, there is no denying the fact that SRK is all heart as Hardy, and Dunki sees him really go all out, especially in the emotional scenes. Although his diction and dialogue delivery hardly make him sound like a Punjabi, and there is too much Shah Rukh Khan in Hardy for Hardy to be Hardayal Singh Dhillon, this is still one of his better acting performances. 



Taapsee Pannu as Manu, the feisty girl-next-door is good; she is a fine actor but she is the feisty girl-next-door in the majority of films she is in. Also, she is hardly given any powerful scene. Her gait as an older woman keeps changing and there are times when she completely forgets the time travel bit. Many actors often claim that they get into the characters once they are in full makeup on the set. And maybe there lies the problem as far as Taapsee’s Manu is concerned. She is aged with hideous makeup and that makeup is just confined to her face. Her hands, neck, and other visible body parts show zero impact of her on-screen aging. 


Vikram Kochhar as Balindar ‘Buggu’ Lakhanpal and Anil Grover as Balli Kakkad are splendid, while Boman Irani is underutilised. 


But the actor who really hits it out of the park is Vicky Kaushal. Although he has limited screen time and it is a special appearance, as Sukhi, he gives the movie its much-required strong emotional anchor and takes the movie to a whole different level with his realistic and heart-wrenching performance. His drunk scene with SRK is hands down the best scene in the movie – we have two very different styles of acting coming together in this scene and it is a masterclass by Vicky Kaushal (interestingly, the actor seems to be acing the ‘drunk’ scenes—right from Masaan to Manmarziyan to Sardar Udham, Vicky Kaushal is great as sober but iconic as ‘drunk’). 


The music album is definitely the highlight of the movie and ensures that all the emotions hit the right spot. The background score composed by Aman Pant is impactful and the music composed by Pritam breathes soul into the beautifully written lyrics, the credits of which are shared among some of the best in the business – Swanand Kirkire, Javed Akhtar, Irshad Kamil, Varun Grover, Kumaar, and Amitabh Bhattacharya. In fact, the lyrics are probably the best thing about Dunki, apart from Vicky Kaushal’s cameo. 



Verdict: It is an out-and-out Rajkumar Hirani film— a biting social commentary masquerading as a humour-laced emotional roller coaster. Just like all Hirani movies, the story is the real hero, but it is told in such a simplistic manner that it often gets too close to becoming boring. 


After his twin outing as an action hero, SRK is back playing the charming (and ageless) romantic lead — there is nothing fresh or exquisite, and his chemistry with Taapsee looks forced, but after a year of high-octane, stylised sagas, SRK as SRK feels somewhat like comfort food, it is the much-needed warm hug. And he gives one of his most powerful performances in recent years nonetheless. However, it is Vicky Kaushal in his cameo who really provides the movie with its strong emotional core. It is a delight to watch two markedly different actors like SRK and Vicky Kaushal, share screen space. 


It is laudable that after two over-the-top massy actioners, King Khan has opted for this emotional drama. And he is boht hard as Hardy. But this is no Munna Bhai or Three Idiots, or a Veer-Zaara. Sadly, Dunki is one of the weaker films in Hirani’s filmography. And it seems that might have cost Shah Rukh Khan his shot at a hattrick of box office records this year.

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