Message on Migration Falls Short

by Dasun Panapitiya ‘24

Well-known Bollywood director Rajkumar Hirani released his 6th movie, Dunki, around the world on December 21. Known for movies such as 3 Idiots and PK, which both excel in blending comedic aspects and emotional depth into a well developed story, Hirani once again delivers. With a loveable cast, featuring the iconic and long-time actor Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) and amazing writing from Hirani, anyone who watches Dunki will immediately deeply connect with this story.

The film follows Manu Randhawa (Taapsee Pannu) escaping a hospital in London to meet with her friends, Buggu Lakhanpal (Vikram Kochhar) and Balli Kakkad (Anil Grover). They plan on leaving London to go back to India, their home, but are rejected a Visa because of the illegal nature of their migration to London. They had used a dangerous method of immigration called Donkey Flight, or Dunki in Punjabi, to get to London, and had to ask for asylum in London to legitimize their residency. In order to get home, they must meet up with SRK’s character, Hardy Singh, in Dubai, leading into a prolonged flashback which unravels the entirety of the narrative.

The first half of the movie is all world building, where there are a lot of comedic moments and where the motives of each character are revealed. The comedic tone of the movie shifts to a more somber and emotional tone when Vicky Kaushal’s character, Sukhi, is introduced at the end of the first act. His introduction is the driving force behind the rest of the story and Kaushal’s performance ensures that the dark turn is emotional and impactful.

Besides the good writing and performances, the film’s portrayal of illegal immigration tries to offer a message about the discriminatory nature of the immigration process when it comes to class and wealth. While the message is commendable, the execution of the message is one of the weakest points in the movie. The comedy, which works in the first half of the film, becomes off-key when featured in the very serious second half of the film. The overall message about how it is difficult for the poor to get Visas is undermined by Hirani’s focus on the grandiose and daring adventure of a donkey flight rather than the harsh realities that lead to the characters wanting to actually leave.

While Dunki is spectacular on a technical level and works as a great story that anyone can simply enjoy, its disregard for root causes of migration hurts the social commentary.

Grade: B-