A Rajkumar Hirani film, we believed, could not go wrong. From Munna Bhai MBBS to Sanju, for 15 years, he has won millions of hearts. Dunki, his first collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan, has created unprecedented excitement for obvious reasons. But the film fails to live up to expectations. The question is, why?

Hirani films always had excellent screenplay and dialogue, perfect characterizations, costumes, songs, background score, and more. DUNKI is not a match for Hirani’s outstanding track record.

The plot is about the poor, uneducated people’s aspiration to settle in England. Set in Laltu, a small Punjab village, it has such aspirants as Manu (Taapsee Pannu), Baggu (Vikram Kochhar), Balli (Anil Grover), and Sukhi (Vicky Kaushal). They do everything to get the UK visa, but in vein. A visiting soldier, Hardy Singh (SRK), has come to the village to say thanks to his savior, now dead, whose sister is Manu.

Manu and friends try everything to get a visa. They hire an agent and are duped. They attend Geetu Gulati’s (Boman Irani) IELTS classes to learn English. Sailing through, Baggu gets a student visa, while others fail. Depressed Sukhi commits suicide after learning about the death of his friend there, who had sought his help. This provokes Hardy to vow that he would take Manu, Balli, and others to London, even if it means doing DUNKI, means using an illegal way, traveling thousands of miles, and taking riks of life.

DUNKI unfolds between the past and the present. The beginning, unlike previous Hirani films, is slow and uninteresting. It takes an entire first half just to set premises before the real thing called DUNKI happens. Yet, it fails to capitalize on its most interesting part: showing the intricacies and consequences involved with an attempt to enter a nation illegally.

DUNKI lacks solid weaving of various cinematic aspects. Its characters lack depth. You can’t relate to them strongly. One can safely say that characters and scenes are unlike Hirani’s. They just come and go without adding anything to the narrative. Its music by Pritam and background score by Aman Pant contribute nothing.

Technically, DUNKI is fine, but being fine is less for a Hirani movie. Performance-wise, Shah Rukh does his best to enliven Hardy and succeeds to a great extent. Taapsee is also good. Irani has a little scope. Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover do justice to their roles. Vicky Kaushal leaves a mark. Deven Bhojani makes his presence felt.

The film mostly fails due to average writing by Hirani, his trusted cowriter Abhijat Joshi, and Kanika Dhillon. It is surprising that the Hirani-Joshi team has managed to write such a script after investing 3–4 years in it.

Yet, DUNKI in all probability, will initially attract the masses because of Hirani and Shah Rukh’s following. It may even do great business at the box office, but one thing is sure: it won’t be remembered as one of Hirani’s or SRK’s most memorable works.

  • Sanjay Shah