Dagadi Chawl

Ajay Tamhane, Pravin Kamle

Chandrakant Kanse

Movie Review
Dagadi Chawl:Also Ran

In India, we have our own breed of ‘Angry Young Man’ films. Mostly mainstream and commercial, these films portray the journey of a young man, typically from modest background, taking on the world with the anger of an injured lion. There’s usually some romance. A loyal friend. Injustice inflicted on the hero’s loved ones. And transformation of a happy, straightforward man into a formidable beast. 

Dagadi Chawl is emblematic of this genre. Story is simple, really. Surya (Ankush Chaudhary), a young car mechanic, falls in love with Sonal (Pooja Sawant), a new girl in his housing colony (chawl). All is well and the romance blooms, until one day a bunch of goons tease Sonal right in front of Surya’s eyes. Surya beats them up, only to realize that his enemies had ties with the most powerful underworld don in the area- the owner of Dagdi Chawl- Daddy (Makrand Deshpande). Surya’s options are limited. His life has changed. Forever.

The story unfolds through chases and negotiations, fights and interrogations. It has all the twists and turns, all the bells and whistles, action, drama, comedy, and romance to keep us watching. The rule book of box office success has been followed to the t. And the effect is evident in the hoots and cheers, laughter and whistles that the house-full theater brims with.

But as the end credits roll, people are already making plans for drinks, dinner, weekend, work, whatever. They know that the overblown, stylized fight sequences were fake. Nobody is humming the songs or shaking with laughter. The film is over. 

I’m happy I did not go in with a lot of expectations. The trailer kind of took care of that. And yet, I’m disappointed. No, it’s not the character inconsistencies, believability issues or heavy handed climax. That is still pardonable. What bothered me the most was the treatment of Sonal’s character. She has no power or purpose beyond being a showpiece and a device. She falls for him when he woos her. She cries when he gets hurt. But she doesn’t insist on knowing what’s going on with him. She doesn’t even notice that something has changed. Even the choice of her costumes- pretty dresses when single, and only sarees after marriage- is just so hackneyed. 

Films like Deevar and Satya showed women in an essentially male world with so much strength and substance. Kahani and Ek Haseena Thi took things a notch up by making the ladies protagonists in tales of revenge and crime. Whereas the recent Marathi films like Double Seat and Highway bring to light the innate power of womanhood, without turning their female leads into ninjas. It doesn’t take away from the strength or beauty of their male counterparts- rather enriches the texture of the cinema. On this background, the female lead in Dagadi Chawl is a dismal failure.

The film uses the name of Dagadi Chawl, a well known name in Maharashtrian households. One would, then, expect the film to recreate some of the energy of the 90s and the aura behind that name. Apart from the fact that Makrand Deshpande looks the part, there’s really no revival of those times in Mumbai. 

Dialogues are mostly ok, except that Surya’s Marathi diction is totally out of place. Where in Mumbai do they speak the kind of Sadavshivpethi clean Marathi that he speaks? In which chawl? I wonder how nobody noticed that.

All in all, it’s just another underworld film. And if you miss it, you won’t miss much.

   Ketki Pandit

Ketki Pandit is a writer/director with MFA from New York University. Also an alumnus of Screenplay Writing course at FTII, she is passionate about cinema and stories that shape our world. . http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2775357/

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