Hindi Reviews

Dasvi Review: Interesting Performances in a Comedy Too Shallow To Be Funny

In Dasvi, directed by Tushar Jalota, Abhishek Bachchan plays Gangaram Choudhury, the chief minister of a fictitious north Indian state called Harit Pradesh. An eighth-grader who rose to power by corrupt means, Choudhury gets indicted in a long-running legal case over a scam and is sent to central jail at the beginning of the film. To latch on to power, Choudhury appoints his wife, Bimla Devi (Nimrat Kaur), a rube whose world revolves around cattle-rearing and the kitchen, as interim chief minister. As Choudhury waits for bail impatiently, Bimla discovers the sweetness of power and transforms, overnight, into a cunning politician. She starts to plot to stay in power forever.  


Somewhere within Dasvi, lies hidden an amusing farce about Indian politics and society, centred on a politician who discovers the joy of knowledge-seeking inside a prison, but the film never unearths it. The filmmaker fiddles with the scenario, puts Choudhury in highly implausible and unfunny situations, and exhibits a naive message about the might of education in the end.  

Mind you, the education the film talks about is exam-oriented. It asserts that the educated individuals, namely the bureaucrats, are morally and ethically superior to the semi-literate and illiterate people. Choudhury magically transforms into an honest man shortly after coming into contact with the prison library and the smug librarian. The jail superintendent (Yami Gautam) who is enraged when her colleagues mention her caste name, does not hesitate to humiliate a prisoner over his poor educational qualifications. India, according to Dasvi, is a country ruined by illiterates, not by casteism and the countless structural issues that higher education cannot, evidently, solve.  

Abhishek Bachhan and Nimrat Kaur fit into Dasvi’s milieu rather well. The latter, especially, makes one buy Bimla’s viciousness. She is a hoot in the initial scenes where she is a submissive housewife who cannot look her husband in the eye. Kaur has a natural rustic accent, unlike her co-star who speaks Hariyanvi like an urbane Instagram influencer mocking his relatives in the village. Yami Gautam’s jail superintendent represents the self-righteous privileged class that believes India can be great again if everyone mugged up their school textbooks and scored excellent grades. Gautam tries, but she only ends up exposing her limited acting potential.  

To enjoy the film’s sense of humour, one must believe that Choudhury, a chief minister, is not informed of the basic rules of contesting in an election. He falls for the simplest tricks Bimla pulls to keep him confined to jail. Everything that happens in the film seems wildly implausible. Bimla learns to leave her kitchen and gets accustomed to the air-conditioned parliament hall in no time. Choudhury, who left school thirty years ago, gets hooked on mathematics, physics and social science overnight. The film imagines the middle-aged seasoned politician as a nincompoop; the scenes of him preparing for the exams are witless. After reading a chapter on Lala Lajpat Rai’s protest against the Simon Commission, he raises his fist and chants Inquilab Zindabad. In a time-compressed song sequence, the film shows him picking up the hardest lessons in science and language, imagining walking with revolutionaries and being one of them, and transforming into an earnest primary schooler. 


Dasvi resembles the Tamil drama Mandela (2020) in its narrative structure, but the film’s worldview is ridiculous. Choudhury, whose easy victory in school examination and interim elections rests on his caste and gender position, is upheld as an icon. His appetite for power is examined but inadequately. The film, which imagines the bureaucracy and prison as casteless institutions, inserts an intercaste wedding into the narrative to prove its point. But it only adds to the film’s essential superficiality and reluctance to see what is underneath the nation’s amenable exterior. Had Jalota and his writers cared to study the adventurous life of the Bihari politician on whom Dasvi’s hero is based, the film would have been more substantial and sensible. 


This Dasvi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.