Film: Dharam Sankat Mein
Actors: Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah, and Annu Kapoor
Director: Fuwad Khan
Producers: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Sajjad Chunawala, Shariq Patel
There is no good age to be told you are adopted. Set in an upper middle-class society in Ahmedabad, Dharam Sankat Mein tells you exactly that, and much more.
The film follows the life of Dharam Pal Trivedi, a Jain caterer who doesn’t have too many cares.
The story is layered and complex, yet simple and straightforward. The story is of a man who is trying to meet his biological father.
It is of a tolerant man who has accepted that his religion of birth is different from the religion that he has grown up with.
The story is of a man who gets caught in the web of religion.
It is of a man with an identity crisis.
It is also the story of a man who does everything in his power to fulfil his son’s only desire.
However, the hero of the film is its direction. The director, Fuwad Khan, places one religion next to the other, and impressively brings out the similarities between the two, as well as the differences in their similarities.
My personal favourite moment was the bike scene is Dharam’s dream. An innocent, bewildered Dharam caught between a Muslim version, and a Pandit version of him. All three sitting on a bike and headed somewhere. That one moment packed so much meaning and captured the soul of the film. There could not have been a better, more entertaining depiction of Dharam’s identity crisis.
The screenplay was tight, crisp, and entertaining. Every frame was accounted for, every movement had a meaning. It may not reveal itself in the beginning, but as the story unfolds, you will relate to previous instances in the movie.
The character development and acting was spot-on. We had the finest of the industry playing brilliantly sketched out characters.
Paresh Rawal, as Dharam Pal Trivedi, essays the role of a modern, educated, liberal Hindu man. He practises some, does not bother with the rest. He does not allow his faith to interfere with his lifestyle. He is slightly intolerant of his new neighbour, who belongs to a different faith. The character outlines the typical modern Indian man, who puts his family before the rest.
Annu Kapoor plays the role of a modern, Muslim Lawyer. He tells us that not all Muslims are evil, and that most of them, are just like regular Indians (read Hindus). He is well versed with the tenets of his religion, However, he does not seek to impose it upon anybody. He gets extremely upset to learn that the curator of the old age home where Dharam’s father is spending his last days, who also happens to be an imam, sets Dharam on a path that leads to conversion.
Naseeruddin Shah is very convincing as a notorious Neelanand Baba with nefarious intentions. At some points on the film, he reminds us of rock star baba. Fashionable, cool, modern in the most superficial sense, herds of crazy, irrational followers, cool bike entries, and rock/pop bhajans, with a roving eye.
The screenplay is sprinkled with the sounds of the temple bells and and the sounds of the namaz, among with Neelanand’s personal backround music.
The film is very aptly titled. Since it is a story of a man who suffers from an identity crisis, Dharam Sankat Mein gives you a hint of what’s in store for you.
Dharam Sankat Mein manages to question the importance of religion in an inoffensive manner. It questions the prioritising of religion over everything else. Religion is a way of life, it is supposed to help you conduct your relationships, not ruin them. Something that Dharam already knew, but reinforced this knowledge after braving tumultuous events that shook his roots.
The film turns into a moral science class toward the end that preaches humanity over all religions. It is mandatory to do that if you are making a film about God and religion in India. You can’t afford to offend anybody or any institution. Ignore that bit and you’ll find that Dharam Sankat Mein makes for an interesting, entertaining watch! Make space for the movie in your weekend schedule.