Monday, Dec 25, 2023

Dunki Review: Shah Rukh Khan’s collaboration with Rajkumar Hirani is a crashing bore

Dunki Movie Review: In the 161-minute run-time of the Rajkumar Hirani film, I was hard put to find anything that made me feel. Even Shah Rukh Khan’s Hardy comes off as working too hard for not enough pay-off.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Dunki Movie Rating: shah rukh khan and rajkumar hirani filmDunki movie review: Shah Rukh Khan is a 'is a zameen-se-juda' hero in Rajkumar Hirani's film.

Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki Movie Review: In ‘Dunki’, Shah Rukh Khan plays a soldier yet again this year after ‘Pathaan’ and ‘Jawaan’, but this third time around turns out to be unlucky: his vaunted first collaboration with Rajkumar Hirani is mostly a crashing bore.

‘Dunki maarna’ is a colloquialism for illegal migration. In the film, Hardyal Singh Dhillon aka Hardy (Shah Rukh Khan) is the catalyst which gets the Laltu threesome of Mannu (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu (Vikram Kochhar) and Balli (Anil Grover) going, through dangerous underwater and overland terrain in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, onwards to their dream destination, London.

ALSO READ | Dunki Release and Review Live Updates: Fans say Shah Rukh Khan set to hit hat-trick of hits in 2023, day 1 box office collection to be over Rs 30 cr


But before that, it’s all about their hardscrabble lives in a fictional Punjab village, and their attempts to crack the UK visa tangle via small-time agents. Hirani regular Boman Irani plays the jolly English teacher whose jokes refuse to land. The problems of walking-and-talking Ingliss, the snarky interviews, the rejections, should have been classic Hirani territory, in which he effortlessly creates his fabulous fabulism. But this is a decidedly jaded Hirani, who continues to miss the mark through ‘Dunki’, which comes off as a version of Mind Your Language combined with a sort of reverse Purab-aur-Paschim.

In the past, Hirani has made us willingly swallow the most improbable elements; we have fallen hook, line, sinker for his colourful and charismatic characters. A 45-year-old star has reeled us in as a 20-something student in ‘Three Idiots’; the same actor has made us believe that he can be a googly-eyed alien in ‘PK’. Medical science firmly put aside, Hirani’s magical sleight-of-hands have helped deliver babies, and cured crusty hospital deans (Munna Bhai MBBS) of their nastiness. We know what Hirani did there, but we have been putty in his capable hands.

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Most importantly, Hirani has proved that he is a master storyteller, unafraid of diving into emotion. He is equally unafraid of creating scenes which go straight for our heart-strings. But I was hard put in the 161 minutes of ‘Dunki’s run-time to find anything that made me feel anything other than plain boredom or annoyance. It isn’t as if Shah Rukh’s Hardy is not in practically every scene: unlike the larger-than-life figure of his two 2023 blockbusters, this is a zameen-se-juda hero who is better at flinging people over his shoulder in an ‘akhada’ than pumping out bullets from fancy machinery. He is also a knight-in-armour for the spry Mannu, but despite a few mildly-nice moments between the two, he comes off as working too hard for not enough pay-off.

dunki shah rukh khan Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki marks Shah Rukh Khan’s third release this year. (Image: Red Chillies Entertainment/YouTube)

Even the money-shot in the movie, in which he is again channelling his real self, where he gets to declare that no, he is not in danger in his own ‘watan’, passes by without any weight. After ‘Pathaan’ and ‘Jawan’, SRK is once again the patriot who will embrace his country, warts and all: it should have been the moment where you are left with a lump in the throat. It passed.


The writing is shockingly flat : whatever happened to the Hirani-Abhijat Joshi zest? The only one who leaves an impact is Vicky Kaushal: his brief but memorable arc reminds you of the earlier Hirani who could make you laugh and cry. But this one? No fun, sorry hun.

First published on: 21-12-2023 at 13:21 IST
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