Shah Rukh Khan collaborates with renowned director Rajkumar Hirani for the first time in the film “Dunki,” which ventures into the complex narrative of illegal immigration against the backdrop of love and friendship. In a cinematic landscape dominated by action-packed dramas featuring A-list stars, the film explores whether a story centered on illegal immigrants can capture the audience’s attention.
The narrative unfolds in Punjab and spans across the globe, from London to the Middle East. Shah Rukh Khan portrays Hardy Singh, a military man from Pathankot, who embarks on a personal journey to the town of Laltu in Punjab. There, he befriends a group of misfits – Mannu (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu (Vikram Kochhar), and Balli (Anil Grover) – all nurturing the dream of seeking a better life in London.
The characters face obstacles such as financial constraints, strict rules, visa exams, and the immigration process. When all conventional avenues fail, Hardy takes matters into his own hands and resorts to an illegal method – the Donkey (Dunki) flight – to transport his friends to their dream destination, traversing continents through perilous terrains and numerous challenges.
Despite the film’s ambitious attempt to portray the plight of illegal migrants, it falls short of creating a deeply personal connection with the audience. Rajkumar Hirani, along with co-writers Abhijat Joshi and Kanika Dhillon, provides a surface-level perspective, offering formulaic and mundane insights into the subject matter, making it challenging to sustain interest throughout the nearly three-hour runtime.
While Hirani is known for seamlessly blending humor and emotion, “Dunki” struggles to replicate the same magic, especially in crucial moments. The film delivers half-baked humor and poorly staged scenes, with some gags appearing juvenile and prolonged, such as the tuition class sequence and the make-believe church wedding in England.
The cast, led by the capable Shah Rukh Khan, adds some charm to the film. Vicky Kaushal shines in his brief role, portraying a small-town individual desperate to reach the UK. Taapsee Pannu, despite her charming appearance, displays a noticeable performative streak in her acting.
The disappointment lies in the under-utilization of regular Hirani collaborator Boman Irani, along with Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover, who could have contributed more with their comic timing. Despite its shortcomings, the film offers a one-time watch, primarily for Shah Rukh Khan’s committed and earnest performance, marking another memorable screen outing for the actor this year. Unfortunately, “Dunki” lacks the repeat value characteristic of other Hirani films, making it a noteworthy aspect to consider.