Ok, let’s get this out upfront – if you like desi stand-up comedy, the kind of TV shows, say, Archana Puran Singh judges and rolls about laughing in, you’ll like Ab Hoga Dharna Unlimited (AHDU). If you don’t, make other plans – unless you wouldn’t
mind a political satire, even a grubby one.
AHDU opens with the cheery premise that where dharnas, sit-in agitations, were once a great way to fight injustice – cut to obligatory Mahatma Gandhi shot – today, they’re a totally different beast. Exploited by all political parties, the dharna’s a headache for the aam aadmi and a stepping stone for the khaas. Thus, ‘Avsarvadi Party’ leader Gopinath (Gunaji) approaches, ahem, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, yoga-guru Baba Lakshman Dev (Pal, very good in a creepy sort of way) to start a dharna against the incumbent government, targeting corruption and inflation, and hopefully pulling the regime down. The Baba plus sleazy sidekick (Qureshi, clearly enjoying corny lines) name a price the opposition’s happy to pay. “Baba karenge dharna, humein kuch nahin karna!” they chortle, throwing an ‘item number’ party.
Meanwhile, from rural India, sincere Satya (Manikpuri, maxing his Peepli Live ‘Natha’ avatar, all dust and dreadlocks, yet oddly flat here) approaches Lakshman Dev to raise awareness of pastoral poverty. An eye on the dharna, the canny Baba makes him his prime disciple, in a glittery little line, exclaiming – “Satya marega! Pichli film mein nahin mara tha!” All’s ready for the big sit-in except the ground. The Ramlila Maidan where rehearsal for the traditional Ramlila’s on, and proprietor Kaante Lal’s reluctant to cancel – till visited by don Makkhi. But the Ramlila being cancelled means troupe lovebirds Rahul and Priya can’t mix-and-match. Dismayed, they approach the dharna – as Satya does too.
AHDU is an interesting experiment. It has rather modest production values but some great lines. It retains the traditional love-story (to its detriment) but goes out on a limb satirizing the political. It’s commenting on what’s currently happening but in ways not everyone’s going to like. It’s a cheeky little film – but you may find the laughter a challenge.
Opposition neta Gopinath wants Baba Lakshman Dev to do dharna – and bring the government down. Will these plans get limited?