Dunki Review: Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki is drowned out with love and longing

Dunki history: A soldier, Hardayal Singh Dhillon (Shah Rukh Khan) embarks on a difficult and daring mission to help a group of friends realize their dream of going to England. It seems like an impossible task because they neither have a visa nor can they afford a ticket. And it’s the start of a journey that promises to change their entire lives forever.

Dunki review: When an ailing Manu (Taapsee Pannu) wants to return to India, she realizes that Hardayal Singh Dhillon aka Hardy is the only one who can help her get back to the country she left years ago 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 came across a group of friends, Manu (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu (Vikram Kochchar) and Balli (Anil Grover), whose sole mission was to come to Britain, 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 fraud along the way. In the end, they decide to learn English in the hope of getting a student visa. This is where they meet Sukhi (Vicky Kaushal), who is desperate to come to London for her own reasons. “Birmingham here I come” becomes their motto.

But despite all efforts, when most of them are denied visas, things go very wrong. Heartbroken by the turn of events, Hardy takes it upon himself to make a passage for his newfound friends to reach the foreign shores they so desperately desire. They make the difficult decision to take the ‘donkey’ route (‘Dunki’) – a way for illegal immigrants to find their way. It is a tumultuous journey filled with hardships and challenges.

The story of ‘Dunki’ is an emotional one – rolling in friendship, romance, heartbreaking and heartwarming moments rolled into one. And in trademark Hirani style, there is plenty of comedy laced with satire to make it an entertaining ride, along with the strong message the film conveys. The expansive narrative (Abhijat Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani, Kanika Dhillon) not only crosses borders and landscapes but also has a 25-year time jump.

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

‘Dunki’ is a film about unfulfilled hopes and reaching for dreams beyond means and limits. The belief that reaching a first world country is 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 spreads across continents and changing landscapes, they dodge bullets, risk their lives and more only to realize that their dream destination doesn’t have the sparkle they imagined. There is a naivety to their dream, unaware of the reality of living as an illegal immigrant. But since the script is showered with more emotional turmoil, it can be perceived as manipulative. Be prepared for some tear-jerking scenes. And it has its share of meandering moments and an old-school charm that may not work for some.

In a special performance, Vicky Kaushal as Sukhi packs a moving performance with his grasp of the raw emotions that his character has to portray. Shah Rukh Khan as the brave, younger Hardy is simply sensational, effortlessly sweeping you off your feet with his charm. And as salt-and-pepper Hardayal, 25 years later, he’s just lovely. Manu and Hardy’s tender love story unfolding from Laltu to London is a stay. Taapsee Pannu shines with a spirited performance. Anil Grover and Vikram Kochchar both deliver commendable performances.

The cinematography (Muraleedharan CK, Manush Nandan, Amit Roy) and background music are top notch.

‘Dunki’s’ music by Pritam scores high when it comes to underlining every mood, undoubtedly the composer has given the best Hindi film music soundtrack of the year. Be it 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 – by tap Banda (Diljit Dosanjh, Amitabh Bhattacharya) or the touching 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 is uplifting, relevant, romantic and about getting back to your roots.

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