A few years ago the country saw a surge in female bikers making adventurous journeys. Newspaper supplements mapped the trend with details of their amazing backstories. Gradually, as their breed grew, the trend lost its news value. The makers of Dhak Dhak want to sell us yesterday’s theme with a film that engages and entertains in parts but ends up like a well-meaning editorial on women’s empowerment.
Staying true to the format of life-altering journeys, director Tarun Dudeja tells us a tale of four unlikely women who decide to take the arduous journey from Delhi to Khardung La. For the sassy Sky (Fatima Sana Shaikh), it is a professional project that has its roots in a personal setback. Trapped in the picture of a doting grandmother who makes delicious food, Mahi (Ratna Pathak Shah) seeks an image makeover. Similarly, Uzma (Dia Mirza) wants to take a break from a husband who only values her existence as a cook whose job is to conjure up biryani and phirni in a jiffy. Then there is an overprotected Manjari (Sanjana Sanghi) who wants to experience the world before she is married off to a boy she has seen but not met. While the backstories of Sky and Mahi make sense, it is hard to digest Manjari and Uzma’s passion for driving heavy bikes and taking a life-threatening trip. But then we take the trip as a metaphor and hop on to the march towards freedom.
Dhak Dhak (Hindi)
Director: Tarun Dudeja
Cast: Fatima Sana Shaikh, Ratna Pathak Shah, Dia Mirza, Sanjana Sanghi
Run-time: 140 minutes
Storyline: A tale of four women who take a life-altering road trip from Delhi to Khardung La, the world’s highest-altitude motorable pass
Those who are following the trend of concept-based cinema could easily guess what contours the screenplay will follow and, unsurprisingly, Dudeja and co-writer Parijat Joshi take a predictable route, lined with banners promoting pop philosophy. The obstacles in the path of intrepid women can be seen from a distance. It is only late in the second half that the emotional swell assumes some ‘Dhak Dhak’ proportions.
Still, the journey is not boring because a competent cast brings alive passages of sharp humour and observations on life and relationships that emanate from lived experiences. For instance, nani is not just about morni and she could have a motorcycle as well, which is a subtle yet pointed comment on breaking cultural shackles. Led by an absolutely malleable Ratna and Sana, the four bond naturally, and their heartfelt conversations drive the patchy narrative to safety.
Dhak Dhak is currently running in theatres