White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time

Anil Grover

Hindi Movie Review: Dunki succeeds as a broad character comedy, but fails as a nuanced commentary on immigration

Shah Rukh Khan headlines the new Hindi movie "Dunki," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

What a 2023 it has been for Shah Rukh Khan, whose return to leading roles following a four-year hiatus couldn’t have gone any better from a commercial perspective. Audiences warmly embraced his action extravaganzas Jawan and Pathaan, catapulting them to the first and second slots, respectively, for the calendar year at the Indian box office. Both garnered high marks from critics (including yours truly), as well, with robust compliments given to Khan’s performances and the overall craftsmanship of the films.

Now comes Dunki, Khan’s third and final movie of the year, and the first comedy-drama of the bunch. It’s a heartwarming, crowd-pleasing journey that’s likely to be just as much of a hit with audiences as Jawan and Pathaan, especially families looking for a feel-good outing over the Christmas holiday period. Critics, however, are likely to meet this one with more reserved praise, as its social commentary on immigration comes across as awfully simpleminded when held up to any level of scrutiny.

But let’s start with the positives, of which there are many. First and foremost, Dunki is a friendship movie/road comedy with a cast that has effortless chemistry together. After a brief prologue set in the present, we meet friends Hardy (Khan), Manu (Taapsee Pannu), Buggu (Vikram Kochhar), and Balli (Anil Grover) in the year 1995. All of the actors play both much-younger versions of themselves in 1995 and much-older versions of themselves in 2023, with relatively modest makeup and hairstyling enhancements, which is a ludicrous creative choice on its face but it somehow only adds to the film’s spunky charm.

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