It is a battle between illiteracy andliteracy in Tushar Jalota's new satire 'Dasvi'. Featuring Abhishek Bachchan as a corrupt illiterate,
pompous CM of an imaginary state called Harit Pradesh, 'Dasvi' explores the lawlessness and corruption that exists in an Indian state where several ministers win electoral seats on the basis of influence, intimidation and muscle power but are seldom aware of the basics, and many times not even qualified to run a state.
It is a premise that we have known all too well, but Jalota along with writers Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah infuse humour into a partly inspired and part fictionalised story making 'Dasvi' quite heartwarming and entertaining.
Bachchan plays the brash Ganga Ram Chaudhary, CM of Harit Pradesh who is put behind bars for one of the numerous scams he and his men are embroiled in. He knows he will be out in a matter of days and places his wife Bimla Devi (Nimrat Kaur) in his place as the acting CM. The initial few days inside the jail are mostly enjoyable for Chaudhary is given the usual VIP treatment that is meted out to most political leaders in Indian jails. Things go awry for him when a new superintendent Jyoti Desval (Yami Gautam Dhar) takes charge of the jail. A stickler for rules, Jyoti cuts Ganga to size and makes him do odd jobs inside the jail just like inmates. To escape the ordeal initially and then later after facing humiliation, Ganga Ram decides to take his 10th board exams which seems a herculean task for someone who has not studied beyond class VII. He declares that he would not take up the CM's post until he clears his 10th or dasvi.
Meanwhile, his wife, a coy housewife who has served her husband all her life, suddenly realises the importance of power and respect as she becomes the CM and isn't quite willing to leave it up once her husband is back. How Ganga ram overcomes his fear of subjects like Maths, Science and Hindi and attempts his exams forms the rest of the story.
With punchlines galore,- "Mall banega toh maal aayega. School banenge toh berozgari badhegi," (Contructing a mall will get you moolah, constructing a school will lead to unemployment) and quirky references to films like Taare Zameen Par, 'Dasvi' manages to keep the viewers smiling throughout.
It helps that the casting is pitch-perfect. Despite several of his films not doing well at the box office, Bachchan has time and again proved his versatility. He is particularly good at comedy and 'Dasvi' seems like a perfect choice. His accent does slip a bit in some scenes, but as the gregarious, Ganga Ram Chaudhary, Bachchan is a delight to watch. He isn't hamming, the humour is sly and that's why more enjoyable.
While Bachchan is the central character, the women are equally good sometimes even overpowering the lead actor with sheer screen presence and convincing performance. It was so refreshing to watch Nimrat Kaur play a role that is diametrically different from her real-life character. Initially submissive and meek, Bimla Devi comes into her own eventually and the transformation is a delight to watch. Gautam's role is of a no-nonsense cop who knows how to run a jail but also is a reformist and the actress truly delivers her part.
'Dasvi' 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-tapism, honour killing, middle school education and even dyslexia- a disorder that Bachchan himself had in his childhood, but it never goes too deep into any of these issues. The second half picks up pace but towards the climax, it seems slightly stretched. It is well-intended, has its funny moments and is entertaining. 'Dasvi' is streaming on Netflix. (Agencies)
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