An illiterate politician learns the value of education during his jail term. What an idea, sirjee. But why make it such a comic book-fantasy? Are the filmmakers telling us not to take their film seriously, undermining its message?
Very soon into ‘Dasvi’, which should ideally have been spelt ‘Dasveen’ to account for the ‘chandra-bindu’ in the word, Ganga Ram Chaudhary (Abhishek Bachchan) an ‘eighth pass’ chief minister of Harit Pradesh (standing in for Haryana, given the plethora of Jat accents and witticisms) finds himself in prison.
Kya jail hai, sirjee. It has the feel of a modest resort, with Chaudhary disporting himself in a room with mod cons and gadgets, watched over by an obsequious jailor (Manu Rishi Chaddha). All the inmates are orderly and well-behaved, no bristling gangs, no reception committee, zero scary incarceration feels. No one gets beaten up; grunge and grime are carefully kept out of sight. The only one who barks orders is the newly-arrived prison-in-charge Jyoti Deswal (Yami Gautam), and everyone falls in line, except of course our hero who roars, till one fine day, he begins purring. So does she. Padhaai-likhaai to the rescue, got it?
Alert viewers will catch attempts at subversion via sly digs. Here are some samples. ‘Fit India, hit India, so jao India, jaag jao India’ is such a waste of time, declares a character. Another is dubbed ‘anti-nasional’ (national), and yet another ‘liberal ki aulaad’. For a film to topline a newly-minted ‘dasvi pass’ politician whose electoral plank is ‘free education’ is in and of itself a hugely subversive idea, given the current state of the nation. Nehru and Gandhi find a mention; so do famous revolutionaries and freedom-fighters. A craven babu (Chittranjan Tripathy) who has served Chaudhary and is now busy yes-ministering his wife, is the butt of bureaucrats-are-no-good-jokes, and a couple of them land.
But in the way it plays out, mixed signals to the fore, these things get lost. Furious Khap leaders are shown swallowing a ‘mixed marriage’, giving Chaudhary a chance to militate against ‘jaatiwaad ka jahar (zeher)’: all of it gets done in a jiffy, without any pushbacks. This is not the only fairy-tale element. Within days, our hero gathers around his faithful tribe who start giving him lessons on exams and life: a vertically challenged gent (Arun Kushwah), an affable librarian (Danish Hussain) who is serving a sentence for ‘photocopying expensive books’. What?
As Bimmo aka Bimla Devi who swiftly learns to play political games while shifting from frumpy salwaar-kameez to stylish saris and expensive handbags, Nimrat Kaur gets her oar right in. Too bad the plot paints her a petty villain: why doesn’t a woman have the right to be ambitious? Abhishek Bachchan has the rare gift of not taking himself seriously, and is a perfect match for the kind of character he is playing: it’s a pity that the material never quite knows whether it is an exaggerated parody or a sharp comedy with realistic overtones. For a film which wants to nod to inclusivity and gender-upliftment with ‘ladies-log’ as figures of authority, both Nimrat and Yami are reduced to standing by (the latter even joins the cheer-leading club), while Bachchan gets all the smart lines.
Will Bimmo get to make a serious stab at the kursi? Maybe that can be the peg for ‘Baarveen’. Now that would be an idea, madamji.
Dasvi movie cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Yami Gautam, Nimrat Kaur, Manu Rishi Chaddha, Danish Hussain, Arun Kushwah, Chittranjan Tripathy
Dasvi movie director: Tushar Jalota
Dasvi movie rating: 2.5 stars