Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Trigno Media’s Dharam Sankat Mein (UA) is the story of a Hindu Brahmin, Dharampal (Paresh Rawal), who learns one day that he was born a Muslim and had been adopted by the Hindu Brahmin family. He is shocked and doesn’t know how to break this news to his wife and two grown-up children. All along, he has been very critical of Muslims but that’s now just a minor issue.The major problem is that his son, Amit (Manoj Sharma), is in love with a Hindu girl, Shraddha (Auritra Ghosh), whose father won’t agree to the marriage unless he is convinced that the groom and his family are religious-minded and ritualistic. Dharampal is neither. To get the father of Amit’s girlfriend agree to the wedding, Dharampal is forced to accompany his family to Godman Neelanand Baba’s (Naseeruddin Shah) ashram. He is also being tutored in Hindu religion and rituals by a priest.

Alongside this, he begins to learn about Muslim religion and rituals because he is keen to meet his biological father who is critically ill. The Imam (Murali Sharma) looking after the place where his father now lives, will not let Dharampal meet the father unless Dharampal learns about Muslim religion and rituals. And so, Dharampal takes lessons in Muslim religion, rituals and Urdu language from his neighbour, Mehmood (Annu Kapoor), who is a lawyer by profession.

Anyway, Dharampal’s secret is out one day, much to the shock and dismay of his family. His wife and children walk out on him. Obviously, his son, therefore, will not get to marry his girlfriend. On the other hand, the Imam is still not convinced that Dharampal can meet his biological father.

What happens thereafter? Does Dharampal’s family realise Dharampal’s predicament and return to him? Is his son able to marry the girl of his choice? Why is the Imam so resistant to the idea of Dharampal meeting his own father? Does Dharampal ultimately get to meet his biological father?

The film is an official remake of British film The Infidel, written by David Baddiel. Its screenplay has been written by Alpesh Dixit, Sanjay Sharma, Vijay Desai and Vedish Jhaveri under the supervision of creative consultant Kundan Shah. The script is far from convincing and is, in fact, nothing short of a shoddy job. Why Dharampal is so ashamed to tell his family about him being a Muslim is not explained. He may feel awkward, yes, but ashamed?!? After all, it is not a crime he has committed by being born a Muslim. It is also not as if he knew about it and hid this fact from his family. The whole track of Neelanand Baba is so tacky and irritating that it looks completely farcical, even for his staunch supporters. The need for Dharampal to be religious-minded and ritualistic is ‘created’ through dialogues rather than actual scenes of the girlfriend’s father, greatly diluting the seriousness of the issue. Again, the comedy that ought to have been created when Dharampal sets out to learn simultaneously about Hindu and Muslim religions and rituals is simply not created. An occasional laugh here and a smile there do not constitute comedy. The Imam’s real reason for precluding Dharampal from meeting his biological father is revealed only in the climax and that is so ridiculous that the audience remains unmoved. Besides, Dharampal’s exposé in the climax is so idiotic that it just doesn’t make sense. It almost looks like Dharampal’s ‘crime’ of being born a Muslim were reduced in impact simply because of his revelations or that if he hadn’t revealed what he does, he may never have been forgiven for being born a Muslim. The fact, however, is that the two are not connected at all and the writers have somehow tried to correlate the two – without much success, of course. The track of Neelanand Baba and Amit’s marriage look like a repetition of a similar track in PK – that too, a very poor copy.

All in all, the writers seem to be at sea in creating comedy. Consequently, many attempts at humour fall flat. Even the scenes which do make the audience laugh do not really add up to make the drama cohesive and fulfilling. One of the main reasons for this is that the writers seem to have penned the entire drama, except the climax, under the assumption that it is fine to be born a Hindu but definitely not so fine to be born a Muslim. While alienating the Muslim audience from the content, the film won’t even appeal to the non-Muslim audience because of the ridiculous premise! Many scenes are lengthy and boring. While some dialogues, penned by the writing team, are entertaining, the same cannot be said about all of them.

Paresh Rawal does a fine job of Dharampal but even he is not able to add more conviction to his character than the script which is rather weak. Annu Kapoor performs ably as advocate Mehmood and is very real. Naseeruddin Shah gets limited scope and is more caricaturish than believable. Alka Badola Kaushal is okay as Dharampal’s wife, Indu. Murali Sharma is alright in the role of the Imam. Mukesh Bhatt passes muster as the Hindu priest. Manoj Sharma (as Amit), Auritra Ghosh (as Shraddha) and Rushita Pandey (as Dharampal’s daughter, Antara) lend ordinary support. Gippy Grewal, Sophie Choudry and Hazel Keech (all three in special appearances) are okay. Suresh Venkataraman (as Neeleshwar), Jagdish Rajpurohit (as Bhatt), Jehangir Karkaria (as Hasmukh), Alka Mehta (as the bank manager), Gagan Gupta (as the magistrate) and the others lend very average support.

Fuwad Khan fails to impress in his debut attempt at direction. Neither has he been able to make the film a laugh-riot nor even a hard-hitting satire. Music (Meet Bros. Anjjan, Sachin Gupta and Jatinder Singh) is okay; no song is truly appealing. Kumaar’s lyrics are quite meaningful. Arvind Thakur’s choreography passes muster. Sachin Gupta’s background music is ordinary. Anshuman Mahaley’s cinematography is average. Javed-Aejaz’s action and stunt scenes are functional. Sukant Panigrahy’s production designing is routine. Editing, by Apurva Asrani, leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Dharam Sankat Mein is a very dull fare and its business prospects will be no better.

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