Movie review: Dharam Sankat Mein; Director: Fuwad Khan; Cast: Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah, Annu Kapoor
The fraudulent ways of self-appointed custodians of faith have lately provided Mumbai filmmakers with much dramatic and quirky raw material.
The latest to hop on to the religious satire bandwagon is first-timer Fuwad Khan, whose Dharam Sankat Mein homes in on an Ahmedabadi Hindu Brahmin, Dharampal Trivedi (Paresh Rawal), who discovers late in life that he is actually a Muslim.
The film sets out to be a cinematic critique of the biases and prejudices that are rife in Indian society, but loses its way in a confused blend of drama and drollery that does not add up to a coherent whole. As a result, the satire does not hit home.
The protagonist’s unlikely predicament pans out along largely predictable lines. It is worsened manifold by the discovery that his biological father is dying in an old age home.
Dharampal wants to see his old man but the maulvi in charge of the home decrees that he cannot do so until he qualifies to be a full-fledged Muslim.
With the help of a Muslim lawyer and neigbour (Annu Kapoor), the man in the muddle begins to initiate himself into Islamic rituals while honing his Urdu pronunciation. But that isn’t the last of the obstacles in his way. His son is in love with a girl whose family reveres a flashy and lecherous Hindu godman (Naseeruddin Shah).
So Dharampal cannot turn his back totally on the religion that he has grown up in. He spouts shlokas while reciting Quranic verses and struggles to cling to his dual identity.
Dharam Sankat Mein makes a relevant social comment, touching upon the ingrained religious bigotry that exists on all sides of the communal divide.
But the methods that the director employs to verbalise these statements are far too cliched and washed-out to be effective. The film has three depenedable actors, but even they are unable to pull this messy tale out of the fire.
Paresh Rawal obviosuly has the meatiest of the roles, but, given the limits of the characterisation within which he must work, he has little scope to add value to the outing.
Naseeruddin Shah has what can at best be described as a walk-on part. In the stray scenes that he has in the film, neither the writing nor his own over-the-top approach allow him much leeway.
Dharam Sankat Mein is a film that has its heart in the right place. It is the head that lets it down.