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People heard of Dhak Dhak only when it came on OTT - while toxic masculine movies at the same time made waves on the box office. It's a shame.
Dhak Dhak is a rare Bollywood movie that you would be hard pressed to find faults with. The core message of this film is so refreshing, inspiring and uplifting that it would be cruel to start nitpicking, or as we say nukhta-cheeni in Hindi, over things direction, storytelling, cinematography, casting, music, etc., instead of enjoying this movie for what it truly is.
Released on Netflix in December 2023, it is a story of 4 women going on a bike trip from Delhi to Khardung La in Ladakh. Directed by Tarun Dudeja, this movie boasts of accomplished stars like Ratna Pathak, Dia Mirza, Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanjana Sanghi.
Dhak Dhak as a movie has touched upon several pertinent issues. With the film’s producer Taapsee Pannu planning a sequel in the not so distant future, let us look at the 5 main reasons why this movie is a must watch:
Within the first few minutes of watching the movie, you get to realise why it is necessary to have dedicated public washroom facilities for women across the country. Manjari (Lali), played by Sanjana Sanghi, needed to access a functioning loo while the riders were taking a break. Sadly, there was no public washroom anywhere near the place they had stopped.
This led them to go to open fields to relieve themselves. Another Bollywood movie Toilet had highlighted the same problem faced by women, especially in rural areas. Lack of proper washrooms at home or public spaces force them to go to open fields.
Not only is it dangerous because of the presence of wild animals/insects, but it also leaves them to vulnerable to attacks from men. Something that almost happened to Sky (Shashi Kumar Yadav), played by Fatima Sana Shaikh while she was waiting for the other 3 to return.
The lack of public toilets in our country, especially in crowded areas and in the hinterland is something that no government has been able to address till now. Granted that the Modi government has focussed on building more toilets in the country. But they need to do a lot more before large parts of India can gain access to safe and clean public sanitation.
Sky, an automotive vlogger and the most experienced biker on the trip, was the victim of online cyber bullying when her nude photos got leaked because of her boyfriend’s phone getting hacked. The online harassment that ensued was an apt portrayal of how internet has become a breeding ground for merciless trolling.
Many of those comments attributed Sky’s success as a vlogger solely to her leaked photos. This mindset is prevalent among several men, and many women, who are quick to attribute a woman’s professional growth to her body and not her talent.
Popular personalities, especially women, people from the LGBTQIA+ communities and religious/caste/racial minorities face a disproportionate amount of online harassment for no fault of theirs. Cyber bullying can be extremely distressing, painful and scary for any individual. We saw a glimpse of how Sky’s character was undergoing severe trauma from that trolling in the latter phases of the movie.
Not that other Bollywood movies haven’t talked about online bullying faced by women. Another movie recently released on Netflix, Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, has dedicated a small but significant portion to the vicious trolling faced by influencers.
But a movie like Dhak Dhak addresses this issue head on without fear. It has shown a mirror to the modern-age trolls. Their obnoxious comments have scarred several people in real life. There are several examples of people dying by suicide as a result of the incessant online trolling by those monsters.
These faceless trolls are conveniently hiding behind their computer/mobile screens while hurling abuses at others. It is time we call out this trolling culture and make efforts to put an end to it.
Ratna Pathak Shah essayed the role of Manpreet Kaur Sethi (Mahi) in the film. Her character was grappling both with loneliness from losing her husband and the pain of being taken for granted by her family. She got into biking by accident, having won a brand new motorcycle in a lucky draw.
But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise with her grandson teaching her how to ride the bike. Mahi was the one behind the idea for the week-long road trip to Ladakh.
Ratna Pathak Shah’s character is an example of how you can follow your dreams regardless of your age. It is not easy to pick up and master a new skill especially as you grow older in life. With age comes the baggage of heartbreak, grief, failure, loneliness and trauma that is difficult to just wish away. Plus the ability to learn anything from scratch also diminishes with time. So Mahi’s persistence to reach Khardung La in spite of all difficulties is an inspiration for us all.
Uzma, a character played by Dia Mirza, was the least expressive of the 4 characters. But once she was on her bike, there was no one that could match her tenacity and determination. As the movie progresses, we come to know that not only is she a brilliant bike rider and mechanic, she was also the owner of Hindustan Motorcycles that her grandfather had started long back. Unfortunately, Uzma’s husband took control of the garage from her father after their marriage.
Her husband Shabbir (Dheerendra Dwivedi) was not someone that you would call an ideal husband. Unfortunately, many men behave exactly like Shabbir when it comes to heterosexual relationships. His character reflects how many women get the raw end of the deal in a marriage.
Uzma silently bore all the excesses of her husband just to give her daughter Zoya a good education. Uzma agreed to go on the Ladakh trip not to get away from her family. It was because she would earn 75,000 rupees as a bike mechanic on the trip, which would enable her to buy Zoya a laptop to help her study better.
Both Uzma’s eyes and her smile betrayed a sense of injustice. She was tied to the household by her husband, which led to her losing the agency to live a normal life both inside and outside her marriage. Many women, like Uzma in Dhak Dhak, have to sacrifice their passions at the altar of their marriages. Something that is not only unfair but also cruel.
Unfortunately, marriages in India are beset with several problems like dowry, domestic violence, infidelity, issues with in-laws, etc. There are several instances of both married women and men suffering physical, emotional or financial abuse in their relationships. But it is also true that married women in general face far too many difficulties, something that does not bode well for this institution.
No movie review of Dhak Dhak can be complete without praising its outstanding cinematography. Granted that the Delhi to Ladakh route has several picturesque spots, it took the sharp skills of Sreechith Vijayan and Damodar to give us the complete experience of a road trip right within our living rooms.
With the movie being shot in 83 different locations, the picturization could not have been any better. It wouldn’t surprise me if many of us get the motivation to get on our bikes and embark on road trips like these.
If you go to the Wikipedia page of Dhak Dhak, the movie release date is listed as 13th October 2023. Hardly anyone reading this would have heard about the movie till it came on Netflix 2 months later. Was it a case of not-so-great movie promotion or lack of interest from the public? We may never know the answer to that.
But a movie like Dhak Dhak needs a push from us regardless. Or else directors who want to make cinema a medium of send the right kind of messages would not find the financial motivation to do so.
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