Dharam Sankat Mein is a remake of The Infidel, a low-budget British indie starring stand up comedian Omar Djalili. Remakes – adapted for a different cultural milieu and audience – are rarely better than the original. Either they are too faithful and literal or go haywire with ambition. Unfortunately DSM misses out on the genuinely funny and quirky moments from The Infidel (a biological Jew raised a Muslim wakes up one morning in Church and goes “Jesus Christ!”) and is far too preachy when it could have been a lot smarter and aimed to cause discomfort instead of instructing the already over-smart paying viewer.
The intent of the film cannot be questioned. It’s source material is solid too – a family man raised a Hindu, finds out he is adopted from a Muslim family. On one hand he must pose as a fanatic Hindu to prove himself in the eyes of his son’s potential father-in-law and his MSG-like baba. On the other, in his quest to find his real father, he must present himself as a devout Muslim.
But Dharam Sankat Mein’s execution leaves much to be desired. Is it the comic timing, the laggard pace, or the mound of exposition? It’s hard to put a finger on why DSM just doesn’t get it together. Sometimes the writing is contrived – the reason the protagonist was being held back from seeing his father, is easily glossed over in a logical exchange towards the end; at other times it is lost in rambling at precise language-dependent jokes that don’t necessarily translate well from paper to screen.
And then there’s the repetition. Cyclic ideas in the films. Themes we’ve seen over and over again in other films. Bollywood has embraced the dhongi baba like extremists would a beef ban. We’ve been seeing so many dhongi babas that Naseeruddin Shah himself has played a similar Hindu evangelist in Sona Spa. Talk about Karma and coming a full circle.
Tech departments are hampered by, presumably, a low budget. Audio is off with lips barely ever syncing to the dialogue track. The opening item song with Hazel Keech makes for a very poor start to the film. There just doesn’t seem enough footage to cut to. There is some awful, awful acting in the film save for the three leads. The actor playing the son – such a major part – is incapable of acting.
Kudos to Paresh Rawal though. A BJP minister willing to mock the very basis of what the RSS sermonizes on a daily basis in a film set in Gujarat is a move not gone unnoticed. A giant lotus is the throne of the charlatan baba and Rawal gracefully accepts a comment “Kamal Mein Keechad Khila Hai.”
Hindi, Comedy, Social, Color