Synopsis – Jailed under a tough cop, an uneducated politician decides to spend his time studying for high school, while his scheming wife has plans of her own.
My Take – I think we can all agree that a major reason why lawlessness and corruption exists in Indian states is because the illiterate ministers, who rule and control the electoral seats on the basis of influence and intimidation, are hardly aware of even the basics, and seldom not even qualified to run a state. But what if that wasn’t the case?
Mounted as a blend of political satire and social comedy drama, this latest Netflix release, which is based on Ram Bajpai’s story, written by Ritesh Shah, Suresh Nair and Sandeep Leyzell, and marks the directorial debut of Tushar Jalota, who had earlier made his onscreen debut back in the long forgotten Mukesh Bhatt Production called Showbiz (2007), takes a humor infused jab at the terribly low standard of politicians in India, all the while making a case to focus on the importance of education for an individual.
Yes, while the film’s premise may sound all too familiar, and is backed by a simplistic depiction and at times clumsy handles the all-important balance between humor and purpose, however there’s enough merit in the idea alone to cheer wholeheartedly for the actors and their easygoing wit and charm to make this one quite the heartwarming and entertaining watch.
The story follows Ganga Ram Chaudhary (Abhishek Bachchan), the pompous, corrupt and semi-literate Chief Minister of Harit Pradesh, a fictional North-Indian state, who finds himself in jail after being convicted for a scam in the appointment of teachers. Determined to keep his power intact the moment he steps out, Chaudhary anoints his seemingly silent, rustic wife Bimla Devi (Nimrat Kaur) to take over his role, with the hope that she would vacate it for him, as soon as the law allows him to reclaim it.
While he adjusts quickly thanks to the compliant jailer Satnam Tomar (Manu Rishi Chaddha), who is always at his service, Chaudhary’s life begins to complicate when Jyoti Deswal (Yami Gautam Dhar), the new honest superintendent, takes charge of the prison, and begins forcing him to follow the manual.
But with a determination to get out of physical tasks, Chaudhary finds himself in jail’s library, unwittingly taking up the challenge to pass Class 10th Board Examinations. Meanwhile, the simple Bimla, who used to spending her time caring for cows, the household, and her husband, quickly realizes her love for power and decides to cling on to it, come what may.
Right from the start, the film makes its point in a way we understand how corrupt our leaders are and how they twist the system in their little fingers to feather their own nests and more. Being a satire, on the face of it, you chuckle constantly, but subconsciously you realize the sad state of affairs that prevails. And the humor amplifies as the stakes for the chief minister’s seat get higher.
Much of the humor derives from Kaur’s comic relish as an actor to play the deluded and haughty Bimla. She, and some the inmates, especially Ghanti (Arun Kushwah aka Chote Miyan), make up the comic force of the screenplay. There are also digs at anti-nationals and liberals at the expense of the chief minister’s chief aide, Tandon (Chittaranjan Tripathy), an IAS officer who is a personification of academic success without conviction of character, and a journalist (Shivankit Singh Parihar).
The film’s writing though only scratches the surface at times and doesn’t delve deeper perhaps to keep the comedic mood alive. It does address a lot of issues- corruption, red tapes, honor killing, middle school education and even dyslexia, but it never goes too deep into any of these issues.
Sure, some of the puns and jokes fizzle out, but director Jalota’s treatment of the subject keeps the tone light and cheeky, and steers clear from being preachy. An unforgettable takeaway from the film is the lack of respect for education in this country. It is a battle between literacy and illiteracy, as hundreds of thousands of adult men and women are still unable to go beyond merely signing their names.
At its best, and most inventive sequence, Chaudhary, inspired by a quote to take up history seriously finds himself transported, in his mind, to key events during the Indian freedom struggle. He saves Lala Lajpat Rai from a baton charge, joins Gandhi on the salt march, and even encounters Chandra Shekhar Azad in his final hour.
These scenarios, suitable for a subject like history, fare better than the film’s other attempts to dramatize school-level academics. With Ganga’s political acumen helping him with lessons in chemistry and math, after a point the film just requires a suspension of belief.
However, the biggest take away from the film is Abhishek Bachchan‘s performance that is marked by aplomb and acumen that highlights the breadth and depth of his skills and shows him off in never before light. Charming as the corrupt, cocksure CM who forced into circumstances beyond his control, here, Bachchan gets the milieu, the accent and the part just right. The film rests heavily on his shoulders and he does not disappoint.
Nimart Kaur too totally nails her part and wins over you. The way she transforms at first is a bit much to digest but Kaur lights up the screen with her wit and convincing portrayal of housewife-turned-politician, who has now tasted power and fame and is in no mood to let go of her chair and position.
Definitely deserving applause for her recent choice of roles that are breaking the clutter for Hindi film actresses, Yami Gautam brings in yet another earnest performance with palpable sincerity and restrain. In supporting roles, Manu Rishi Chadha, Chittaranjan Tripathy, Danish Hussain, Shivankit Singh Parihar, and Arun Kushwah aka Chote Miyan are delightful. On the whole, ‘Dasvi’ is a well-intended social comedy backed by superlative performances.
Directed – Tushar Jalota
Rated – NR
Run Time – 126 minutes