Shagufta Rafique

Movie Review
Dushman:In search of a friend

Amidst Gurmehar Kaur’s statement ‘Pakistan did not kill my father, war did’ floating around, Mahesh Bhatt camp’s first Punjabi offering Dushman builds its premise on similar lines; a brotherhood between the common Pakistani and Hindustani. Dushman tries to shatter the stereotypes that every Pakistani is a terrorist and every Indian is an enemy.

After losing his family in a terrorist attack Naren Singh Maan (Jashan Singh) goes to Bangkok to work as a waiter in a hotel. Here, he has to share a PG room with Karim (Kartar Cheema), a Pakistani, working as a security guard in the same hotel. Naren’s hatred surfaces instantly when he learns that Karim is a Pakistani, but a further turn of events forces them to live and work together. Their dreams to restart and live a successful life get shattered when both are caught in a drugs and human trafficking racket. How do they get out of Satan’s Paradise? How does their hatred turns into a deep friendship and brotherhood to save each other’s lives; forms the rest of the story.

Writer of films like Ashiqui, Jism, Murder and Raaz’s sequels Shagufta Rafique turns writer-director with Dushman. The story looks promising on paper. But the screenplay, dialogue and execution are a big let down. From the very beginning, the film loses the connection with the audience. Sequence after sequence unfold, scattered here and there, but with no grip on the narrative. However, the sequence in which Kartar Cheema expresses his angst explaining that every Pakistani is not a terrorist, is memorable. Film’s climax and pre-climax scenes are enjoyable too and deliver the subtle message of humanity and brotherhood across borders. Still, overall Dushman lacks the spark. Dialogue are so bookish that a seasoned actor like Kartar Cheema doesn’t look at ease delivering them. You’d expect that a film with the tag line ‘a story of the enemy within’ would take the audience on an inner journey of the protagonist. But Dushman only scratches the surface. The Bangkok chapter of the story seems loosely inspired from Mahesh Bhatt’s blockbuster Naam (1986).

Kartar Cheema carries the character with confidence but his body language and dialogue delivery seem out of tune. Kartar, who comes from the hinterland of Punjab, replaces his natural rustic accent with a false tone. Debutante singer turned actor Jashan Singh wears a weary look throughout the film. He needs to work hard on expressions, body language and dialogue delivery. Sakshi Gulati’s character remains a prop. Gulshan Grover excels once again but his character seems wasted, like Savita Bhatti.

Shagufta tries to use the background score (Raju Singh) to keep the audience invested, but slow narrative and unbinding visuals fail to hold attention. Item song Mehrama has a rich Bollywood look, a first for Punjabi cinema, but overall, the music adds no value to the film. Editor Deven Murdeshwar could have made the film pacy had he cut it short by fifteen-twenty minutes.

Dushman seems like a good concept and a big banner production going down the drain with sloppy execution. It can be watched for its message of universal brotherhood amidst the suffocating atmosphere of hyper-nationalism versus freedom of expression, but strictly without a huge expectation. It tries to define true friendship but might not make friends with the audience.

   Deep Jagdeep Singh

Deep Jagdeep Singh is a freelance journalist, Screenwriter and a Lyricist.. http://www.facebook.com/deepjagdeepsingh

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