Religion is a tricky topic for Indian filmmakers to tackle. Given the current scenario in the nation, you have to walk on eggshells in order to keep everyone happy, while also uncovering the truth behind blind faith. It is only recently that the genre of Religious Satire has been explored in Bollywood. Two films that immediately come to mind are 2012’s OMG – Oh My God! and 2014’s PK. Both these films had stellar concepts backed by diligent acting. Dharam Sankat Mein follows closely on this set path. Director Fuwad Khan delivers an entertaining film but fails to leave a lasting impression. Based on the 2010 film, The Infidel, this movie is a mishmash of themes, which forgets the point it is trying to make halfway down the line.
Paresh Rawal more or less reprises his role from Oh My God! He plays a businessman named Dharampal who is not particularly fond of rituals and doesn’t like visiting temples to pray. But his life turns upside-down when he finds out that he was adopted by his Hindu parents. He was, in fact, born a Muslim. Disgruntled, he now has to learn to be a Muslim before he can meet his biological father. At the same time, he also has to adapt to a stringent Hindu lifestyle so his son can get married to the girl of his dreams. All this is to impress a famed Baba named Neelanand (Naseeruddin Shah), who doesn’t do much to salvage the already tarnished image of Babas in the country.
The only person who comes to Dharampal’s aid is his neighbor, Nawab Mehmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur (a brilliant Annu Kapoor). Together, they try to deal with the dilemma that Dharampal finds himself in. There are some insanely funny moments in the first half, most notably a montage which is laced with intelligent satire on religious identities. Alas, these laughs are very limited in supply as the plot takes ten different directions. By the second half, the film has lost most of its charm and employs regular tropes such as a courtroom scene and a final monologue to tie things together. But the biggest disappointment is the twist ending, that leaves you flabbergasted. The most common reaction in the cinema hall was, “Did that just happen? Oh man, I was rooting for this film to work.”
Barring a couple of songs, the background score is jarring for the most part. It is used unabashedly in places where it isn’t really required. Dharam Sankat Mein also falls prey to commercial cliches, with enough shameless brand placement to make you cringe. Yet in the end, it is the earnestness with which this film is made that makes it stand out. Add to that Paresh Rawal and Annu Kapoor’s interactions that breathe life into even the most dull scenes.
Eventually, Dharam Sankat Mein is a movie that has a great cast and theme, but fails to go anywhere in particular with them.
Why should you watch this film?
Paresh Rawal is one of the finest actors in the Hindi film industry. While the overall plot starts falling apart, Rawal rises to the occasion to deliver a grounded performance. His comedic timing is spot-on and the dramatic bits are also noteworthy. The film has some genuine moments where it drives the point of communal harmony home without being preachy. The climax of the film leaves a lot to be desired, but just for its overall theme, Dharam Sankat Mein deserves a watch.