Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Dharam Sankat Mein :: Movie Review

Dharam Sankat Mein is a honest & specific social face-off which depicts dilemma of a common middle class man going through identity crisis with respect to religion in a thought provoking manner. While the premise of Dharam Sankat Mein is interesting in the way it presents the dilemma of its protagonist who is an atheist & doesn't care much for the religion he belongs to but the frequent oscillation of the narrative between being a satire & preachy,insightful one robs the common middle class man's uncommon story of its charm making it a tepid film. Though, the movie is an official remake of the 2010 satirical comedy "The Infidel" (by Josh Appignanesi) written by David Baddiel but the makers have rechristened the screenplay keeping Indian backdrop in mind. The Infidel is the story of Mahmud (played by Omid Djalili) whose life is turned upside down when he discovers that he is not a British Muslim, but a Jewish by birth. Since the movie talks about religious fanatics & self styled Godmen, comparisons are bound to be there with past films like O.M.G. & P.K which also revolved around the same subject. But, there is a major difference in all these three movies as both the earlier ones were deliberate satires on Godmen and blind faith of people in their respective religious parameters. Where as in this movie there is no deliberate attempt to make mockery of any religion as they drop in obviously due to given circumstances. Another major USP of this film as compared to P.K & O.M.G is that these two movies had portrayed Hindus as most intolerant, violent, superstitious, blind followers, narrow minded religious fanatics but in Dharam Sankat Mein, the director has tried his level best to give justice in keeping right balance between two religions. He has portrayed the shortcomings amongst the blind followers of both Hindusim as well as Islam as on one side there is Hindu Baba Neelanand (Naseeruddin Shah) who is fleecing his followers for his own ulterior motives & on the other side is Imam (Murli Sharma) who is trying his level best to convert Dharam Pal to Islam. The movie begins with ordeals faced by DharamPal (Paresh Rawal), who one fine day discovers that he is a born Muslim who was adopted and brought up by a Hindu family. This comes as a real shocker to him as he is a very liberal common man with an obvious mindset towards Muslims. He even questions the sense of humor played by God on him. Soon, as the reasons behind his adoption get revealed to him along with the fact that his biological father is still very alive and hasn't got remarried because of his affection towards him, he treads on a path to self discovery. Despite having a good storyline & some powerful actors, Director Fuwad Khan has not been able to capitalize on them as the movie has got several loopholes in it. To quote a couple of examples ; the movie through one of its principal characters states that Muslims in this country are a harried lot being in minority which seems illogical as Muslims in this country are leading a healthy, respectable life & especially the film fraternity to which Fuwad Khan belongs is full of prominent people belonging to this community. This perception voiced in the movie is not based on concrete grounds. Secondly, when a Hindu religious preacher is called to teach some rituals to Dharam Pal, he is shown teaching him "Shiv Tandava" which is totally irrelevant as it is not a part of the prayers. While Dharam Sankat Mein makes a solid case against blind faith, the excesses of religious rituals, it never sticks its neck out far enough as if afraid to be too provocative. If only the film had the nerve to go the whole hog with its healthy spirit of scepticism and fired on all cylinders, its unusual central premise would have made infinitely more sense and found its intended mark.

STORY & SCREENPLAY                                                           ::                        While the credit for the story has been given to David Baddiel (The Infidel), the screenplay of the movie has been written by Sanjay Sharma, Alpesh Dixit, Vijay Desai & Vedish Jhaweri. One of the drawbacks of this film is its patchy screenplay that aimlessly oscillates from one issue to another without addressing anyone with the required clarity. As a result of this, Dharam Sankat Mein ends up on a dull note conveying the age old preaching about message of humanity & that self styled Godmen are all fraudulent people who work for their own vested interests. Though, the movie begins on a promising note by setting a tone of being a cinematic critique of prejudices that are prevalent in Indian society but soon looses its steam by amalgamating drama & satire which fails to bind the movie as a coherent whole. Due to this, even the satire fails to leave that inducing effect. The way screenplay has been penned, the drama appears quite far-fetched and unbelievable at places, robbing the film of the plausible element. Had the entire film been comical and satirical rather than philosophical in parts, it would have been far more entertaining and universal in appeal. The film begins with the movie's protagonist Dharam Pal (Paresh Rawal) trying to cover his ears as he is getting irritated from the sound of morning "Azaan" coming from a nearby mosque. He is a well settled caterer in Ahmadabad who is leading a happily married life with caring wife and two doting children that include a son and daughter and his biggest passion is to listen to songs of a singer by the name of Manchala (Gippy Grewal). His son, Amit falls in love with a girl whose father is a staunch Hindu and devotee of Baba Neelanand (Naseeruddin Shah) & wants Dharam Pal to visit the ashram of Baba as well as learn finer nuances of Hinduism to impress the girl's father. While going to the ashram, Dharam Pal's car accidentally rubs across with the car of his neighbor Nawab Mahmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur (Annu Kapoor) who is a lawyer by profession and sends a legal notice for the same to Dharam Pal. This infuriates Dharam Pal who is already at logger heads with him due to their religious differences and they have a verbal spat. The twist in the story comes when Dharam Pal's wife asks him to to go & open the locker of his dead mother. On opening the locker, his life is turned upside down when he finds an old affidavit which states that he is a muslim by birth and was actually adopted by his Hindu parents. He is taken aback and hides this fact from his family fearing disgrace from the society he lives in. To know the identity of his biological parents, he approaches Nawab Mahmood with a plea to trace his parents who soon comes to know that Dharam Pal's mother is dead and ailing father is living in a Muslim sanctorum. Upon reaching the sanctorum, he is not allowed to meet his father by the Imam (Murli Sharma) who wants Dharam Pal to learn all the rituals of a devout Muslim. Until he becomes a devout Muslim, he will not be allowed to meet his father.  He finds his savior in Nawab Mahmood who begins to teach him mannerisms and rituals of a Muslim. On the other hand, his son, Amit calls a Hindu preacher at home to teach Dharam Pal finer rituals of a devout Hindu. Dharam Pal is caught in a fix ; learning the finer rituals and mannerisms of both the religions, simultaneously. Now, Amit wants his father to impress Baba Neelanand to win over father of his ladylove and in the process of doing so Dharam Pal ends up burning Muslim skull cap which attracts backlash of Muslims. To save his skin, Dharam Pal reveals in front of everyone that he is a Muslim by birth following which his family abandons him. Left all alone, he stumbles upon a startling truth about Baba Neelanand. Will Dharam Pal be able to meet his biological father, will his family come back to him, will he able to expose Baba Neelanand & will he able to get his son marry the girl he loves, is what forms the rest of the story.

STARCAST                                                                                                        ::       Kudos to Vinod Rawat (Casting director) for casting 3 National award winners i.e. Paresh Rawal, Nasseruddin Shah & Annu Kapoor for this movie but alias! he failed to assemble talented ensemble starcast to back them up. Paresh Rawal is acknowledged as a supremely accomplished and consummate actor of our times. The veteran actor is so talented that he can carry any film on his own shoulders and execute any kind of challenging character with candor. But, in this film Paresh Rawal looks like an under utilized actor. One reason can be that his character in this movie is quite similar to Kanjibhai from Oh My God, that there was nothing much left for him to bring anything new or fresh to the character of Dharam Pal. Still, there are few scenes where he is able to come out of the shadow of Kanjibhai and leaves a lasting impression. Watch out for him in the scene where he goes to Muslim function by putting on a fake beard with Annu Kapoor and wins over everyone present in the function by the virtue of his presence of mind. His act in that scene is stellar as well as effortless. Naseeruddin Shah as Baba Neelanand is simply a treat to watch. He has ably captured and enacted the finer nuances of his character that include being flashy, over the top and loud. His entry scene on a modified mobike, wearing flashy clothes and donning goggles are reminiscent of another present day Baba who also made a film recently in which he himself played the role of protagonist. Whenever Naseer appears on-screen, he leaves a smile on your face with his loud act. But, as per me the best performance of the movie has been delivered by Annu Kapoor who endears you with his class act as Nawab Mahmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur. Be it his verbal banters with Paresh, emotional bonding with him, teaching Muslim mannerisms to Paresh or his defending Paresh in courtroom ; he has come out equally good in all of them. Suffice to say, his sequences with Paresh Rawal contribute enormously to the delightful moments. Murli Sharma is another fine actor who always manages to leave his mark even by playing small cameos like he did in "Badlapur". In this movie, he has portrayed the role of Imam with utmost conviction. His face expressions and firm body language lend a certain aura of authenticity to the character he portrays in this film. Another actor who deserves a special mention is Mukesh Bhatt who has enacted the role of Hindu Priest. With his comic timing, he brings chuckles on your faces. Alka Kaushal has given an apt performance as wife of Paresh Rawal. Punjabi singer & actor Gippy Grewal makes his Bollywood debut with this movie, though his performance is restricted to singing songs only. The ensemble starcast includes Auritra Ghosh, Rushita Pandya, Sharat Sonu, Suresh Venkataraman, Jagdish Rajpurohit & Jahangir Karkaria. 

TECHNICAL FINESSE                                                                           ::       The musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by Meet Bros Anjjan, Sachin Gupta, Jatinder Shah & D J Kiran is on a very average scale with couple of good numbers. "Allah hoo" sung by Sachin Gupta & Ravi Chowdhary is a retrospective number with some fine lyrics from Kumaar and is pick of the album. "Tu Takke" sung by Gippy Grewal, Meet Bros Anjjan & Khushboo Grewal is another foot tapping number from the album. The background music of the film that has been composed by Sachin Gupta is apt enough as per the genre of the movie. The cinematographer of the movie is Anshuman Mahaley who has not done a fine job behind the lens. His camerawork is uneven and you can gauge the paucity of light in several visuals of the movie. He had a brilliant opportunity to capture the outdoor locales of Ahmadabad as the whole movie has been shot there but he has hardly captured any of those. His uneven camerawork comes out all the more surprising as the movie has been directed by Fuwad Khan, who himself is an ace cinematographer. So as an audience, I had preconceived notion that quality of visuals in this movie would be excellent which turned out to be otherwise. But, I would like to applaud Alpesh Dixit, Sanjay Sharma & Vijay Desai ( Dialogue writers) of this movie who have penned down some real good one liners in the movie. Their well conjured dialogues add up spice to the narrative and never dry out till the end. To quote a few ; Dharam koi bhi ho, topi sab pehnate hain. When Annu Kappor enters the courtroom pronouncing his name "Nawab Mahmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur" as the defense lawyer, judge asks where are the other lawyers to which Annu promptly replies " Kai baar to mera naam parrne mein hi case ki agli date dall jaati hai ". The movie has been edited by Apurva Asrani who has kept the runtime of the movie to 129 minutes which seems a tad too long for movie of this genre. The editing is tacky & some of the scenes could have been shortened or done away with on the editing table. Cinematographer turned director Fuwad Khan chose an ambitious, sensitive subject while helming his debut movie but his inexperience is perceptible across the canvas. His biggest flaw is that he fails to draw a trajectory with respect to what he wants to portray ; emotional drama or a well meaning satire. As a result, what we get is a convoluted movie which keeps on oscillating aimlessly in different directions with the pace lagging & humor falling flat several times. Fuwad chose a very good subject but was not able to execute the same in a flawless manner.

CONCLUSION                                                                                            ::     Dharam Sankat Mein is frequently weighed down by verbose and preachy passages that overstay their welcome. The film's premise is courageous no doubt, but its heart and sinews are rather weak. It seems to chicken out a tad too easily in the end. So, despite the high fun quotient inherent in the concept and the steady flow of droll one-liners from the principal players, the movie never rises to particularly great heights either as an entertainer or a social message-oriented drama.  

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