In Netflix’s Dasvi, Abhishek Bachchan manages to own the film with his natural talent. However, what could have been the junior Bachchan’s comeback, lets the actor down with its sloppy writing.
A corrupt politician in ‘Harit Pradesh’ or Haryana, Ganga Ram Chaudhary, played by Bachchan, lands up in jail over a scam. He makes his wife Bimla Devi, played by Nimrat Kaur, the interim CM of the state. Kaur puts up an impressive show as the wife who finally gets a taste of power and is hellbent on keeping her husband in jail to enjoy her newfound stature. To the movie’s credit, Indian audiences might finally be getting ready to see more powerful female figures in a political setting. Last we saw Huma Qureshi play the unapologetic successor to the Bihar CM in SonyLIV’s Maharani.
The story behind
Dasvi is apparently based on the former chief minister of Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala, who was found guilty of a recruitment scam and served his sentence at the Tihar jail. Chautala was 82 at the time and gave his class 10 board exams from jail. He was fed up with being called an ‘illiterate politician’.
While director Tushar Jalota denies the Chautala similarity and cites ‘personal inspiration’ to make the movie, for Indians, there is an obvious link. The idea is particularly capturing in a country where less than half of its politicians are literate and yet, hold iron claims over the political hierarchy. Dasvi tries capitalising on it, but despite its attempt to be an entertaining political satire, it falls flat.
Abhishek Bachchan as Ganga Ram Chaudhary does well — from the comic scenes to the emotional ones, he makes you root for him. Early on, he learns that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and therefore, decides to study. Chaudhary is helped by fellow jail inmates, including a victim of a khap panchayat diktat and an honest engineer falsely accused in a scam, and eventually also the no-nonsense jailor Jyoti Deswal, played by Yami Gautam Dhar. She shines in her limited role, which, frankly, could have been written better too. As the only non-corrupt police officer, and later as Chaudhary’s teacher, she does her bit without any misses.
Bachchan’s performance will remind you how talented he is. But the actor’s potential does not find a conducive space to shine through, especially in the context of his last few films of 2021 — Bob Biswas and The Big Bull — that didn’t impress too much. He definitely needs a solid script so that the audience can enjoy the powerhouse in full action.
Right to education
The ‘moral’ of the story is that Dasvi hinges on the right to education for all. But the hackneyed writing loses that gist somewhere in the middle of the film. It does drive home the state of education in our country and how people value money and success over literacy. It also throws light on how politicians eventually lord over even highly-educated IAS officers and bend them according to their whims and fancies.
Referring to his competent personal secretary, Tandon, Ganga Ram Chaudhary says, “I have no such qualification, but Tandon is my slave, not the other way round…Build shopping malls, not schools…One will bring in money, the other unemployment.”
The film attempts comedy with references to scams, liberals, atmanirbharta, and a Sachin Pilot lookalike. But the jokes don’t really tickle and neither does the sarcasm. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee ka Mandola (2013) was a much better film in a similar genre, also set in Haryana.
While you wait for the final results of Chaudhary’s Dasvi, the point is already lost by then. It resurfaces in the last few minutes and almost races to cover everything possible under 10 minutes. Even as a spoof, the film could have done so much better and not made you wish for true entertainment. At the end of the movie, you’re left with a sense of Bachchan’s charm — he most definitely aged well, and his personal styling in the film is spot on.
Here’s hoping that the junior Bachchan also gets better scripts to show what he is capable of. The actor we saw as the magnetic Dhirubhai Ambani in Guru (2007) is, surely, better than the Chautala of Dasvi. Bollywood political satire, too, can learn a lesson from history.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)
Source: The Print