Religious intolerance, among a huge mass of people, has led to many fights, riots and massacres. The blind faith a lot of people have in religion has also helped many self styled Godmen commercialise religion and reap the benefits out of it. In the recent past, films like ‘OMG – Oh! My God’, ‘Yeh Hai Bakrapur’ and ‘PK’ have dealt with these issues quite effectively. ‘Dharam Sankat Mein’, the official remake of the Hollywood film ‘The Infidel’, is made on a similar subject. Interestingly, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, the studio, and actor Paresh Rawal were associated with OMG – Oh! My God’ as well. However, the directorial reins have been handed over to cinematographer turned director Fuwad Khan. Giving Paresh company are Naseeruddin Shah and Annu Kapoor, two powerhouse performers. As three films have already been made on a similar subject, director Fuwad Khan has a task in hand as he has to give the audience something that they have not seen in any of these films.
Dharampal Trivedi (Paresh Rawal), a man in his mid 50s, runs a catering business in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He steers clear of religious rituals and Godmen and is far from being a devotional person. Dharampal’s son is in love with a girl whose father happens to be the follower of a religious sect led by Neel Anand Baba (Naseeruddin Shah). Thus, he requests Dharampal to try to get himself interested in the various religious rituals and get some information about them, so that the girl’s father would approve of their alliance. In the meantime, Dharampal goes to the bank to open the locker of his dead mother. In addition to his childhood drawings, his mother’s gold bangles, he comes across a legal document that sends shock waves through his body. The document reveals that Dharampal was adopted by his foster parents and he was actually born to a Muslim father. Dharampal, who detests the minority community, is devastated by this revelation and decides to hide this piece of truth from everyone. His search for his biological father leads him to a Muslim sanctorum. The Mullah (or Islamic clergy) at the sanctorum tells Dharampal that he could meet his father after he learns to behave like a Muslim. The mullah says that his father would not be happy to know that his son was raised by Hindu parents. Dharampal seeks the help of his neighbour Nawab Mehmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur (Annu Kapoor), a lawyer by profession, who had also helped him trace his father.
Director Fuwad Khan and writers Alpesh Dixit, Sanjay Sharma and Vijay Desai generously borrow the plot structure of ‘The Infidel’ and add certain elements to the original script, written by David Baddiel, to cater to the Indian audiences. The screenplay is good but does not offer much that one has not seen in the other films (mentioned earlier) dealing with this issue. The idea of a man finding out he belongs to a religion, which he has always held in contempt, is very interesting. It also leads to many humourous situations. There is one scene in which Dharampal, dressed up as a Muslim, attends a gathering filled with Muslim guests. They start talking to him in sentences filled with chaste Urdu words and ask him to share his views on a few things. The way Dharampal deals with the situation is hilarious.
Fuwad Khan manages to strike a good balance of comic and serious scenes. He delivers the message effectively without getting preachy. Having said that, the drama, especially in the first half, never quite reaches its height. The climax, though has an interesting twist in store for the viewers, ends up looking like a rushed up job.
The film bears a decent look but is far from being called a superior product. Fuwad Khan makes a respectable debut as a director but there is so much more that he could have done with the subject he had. The writers (Alpesh Dixit, Sanjay Sharma and Vijay Desai) rely heavily on the (average) sourced out script and fail to contribute much to it. They portray the several issues attached with religious intolerance and blind faith but, as stated earlier these things have portrayed earlier in various films. Music (Meet Bros Anjjan, Sachin Gupta and Jatinder Shah) is dull. The dialogues are good. Anshuman Mahaley’s camerawork is ordinary and does not offer any striking image.
Paresh Rawal carries the film on his shoulders and delivers a memorable performance. He carries the comic and the intense scenes with equal ease. Annu Kapoor is brilliant as a liberal, upright lawyer with a heart of gold. Naseeruddin Shah’s presence can be best described as a cameo and one wonders why he was not given more screen time as there was a lot scope to develop his character further. Alka Badola Kaushal and Murli Sharma are good in brief roles.
‘Dharam Sankat Mein’ is a film that delivers a message and entertains at the same time. Although these issues have been dealt with in a few films earlier, these are still relevant and hence, bringing them to the fore again is not a bad idea. However, inclusion of a few novel ideas in the script would have helped the film stand out. ‘Dharam Sankat Mein’ is a good effort by a first time director driven by some noteworthy performances.