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Paresh Rawal specializes in movies on religion or perhaps he is a thinking man's actor and so the logical choice for a movie such as Dharam Sankat which is on religion like his other movie OMG. Any case, he is one of our finest actors and provides this movie the bedrock on which to lay it's basis and subsequent story.
What does a Hindu do when he finds out that he was actually a Muslim by birth but adopted by Hindu parents? How do you come to terms with this duality? This is the question that faces Dharam Pal. He wants to meet his biological father but the Maulvi at the Sanatorium where his father lives will allow him to only if he behaves like a true Muslim. Desperate as he is, he turns to his Muslim neighbor, a lawyer who initiates him into tehzeeb, Urdu and basics of Islam. However he has to keep it a secret from his family since his son has become a follower of a Hindu Godman Neelanand Baba so that he can marry the girl he loves. Sometime everything has to come to a head and then the search for identity unravels and leads to discussion, anger, sorrow and resolution.
The movie is well paced with a witty screen play that keep s you engaged. The discussions between Dharam Pal and the lawyer friends on religion etc. remain easy and light- hearted. Both of them are men of the world and don't take their religions that seriously. Neelanand Baba's Ashram with its tilt towards commercialism abets the sense of cynicism that Dharam Pal feels about religion. He is a Hindu who drinks, eats non-vegetarian but to him these are small transgressions. His so-called Hindu soul has to slowly learn to accept that all faiths teach the same thing. His evolution is gradual and natural. The denouement happens at the Baba's Ashram at a public gathering but even though it is dramatic it is still understated and so more effective.
Paresh Rawal as the man assured of his place in the world who is faced with a dissolution of his identity is first rate. Annu Kapoor as the Muslin lawyer gets to play a forceful personality that suits him to a T. The wife and kids, especially the son are naturals. The only jarring performance was Naseer as Neelanand Baba. Dressed like the MSG man in sneakers with a bike and with lots of weird ear hair and goggle eyes he is too over the top. If you parody a character, then you dilute it. What happens then is that even though the character is a vital part of the story you force the audience not to take him seriously enough. Mithun made the same mistake in OMG but his expressions had saved that role. Naseer looks kind of disinterested and is content to roll his eyes around and speak in a dramatic manner with an exaggerated body language.
This is a movie that will generate debate at dinner table conversations long after it is over. It does not say anything new or startling but the message it sends out remains crucial, relevant and always urgent . As the messenger of peace and unity Paresh's cynical businessman Gujjubhai wins over Amir's alien PK any day. Totally worth a watch.