Dhaakad review: Papad-thin script is no match for Kangana’s ‘dhaakad’

Divya Dutta is the lone diamond in this minefield of a film, but even the underrated master can’t save this poor action drama.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

The little gorgeous girl of her informer wants to initiate a conversation with her. The motherless- child makes an advance, but Agent Agni [Kangana Ranaut] gives her the cold look. Earlier, in her opening action scene, she didn’t hesitate a wee bit in easing the pain of her dying Hungarian colleague in Budapest. Scarred by past, the secret agent, who is given the codename Dragonfly, clearly has no place for emotions. But in her next interaction with the child, the woman in Agni relents. She forges an innocent bond with the lovely child. Only a monster wouldn’t shower love on the gorgeous little child Zaira [Dishita Jain].

For all that hardcore, cold training Agni is still a woman at heart. But she is also guilty of making rash, impulsive decisions. One such rush of blood led to her near death, only saved by a congenital heart condition. After all, her heart was indeed in the ‘right ‘place. Her boss [played by Saswata Chatterjee] jokingly says, “Sirf dimag nahi, tumhara toh dil bhi khaska hua hai” (Not just your brain, but your heart, too, is out of position). While there is science behind Agni’s heart position, but the art on display lacks imagination.

Welcome to the world of director Razneesh Razy Ghai aka Razy Ghai’s Dhaakad [2022]. With a name like that, one is perhaps destined to feature in the ignominious Razzies – another name for the parody Golden Raspberry Awards that honors the worst of cinematic achievements in Hollywood in a particular year. Fortunately, The Razzies don’t pick Indian films. Unfortunately, we have our own Golden Kela. Razneesh Razy Ghai’s Dhaakad [2022] is likely to be a strong contender for the best worst film of 2022.

The trailer was fairly decent. Clearly the promo editor simply got the best shots, dialogues and rolled them into a trailer.  Back then, some suggested that maybe the Indian film could suffer from a Black Widow [2021] hangover. The Marvel film turned out to be disappointing. We saw Black Widow few days ago, and found similarity only at a metaphorical level. Dhaakad takes on human trafficking, that can only end with mankind going extinct.  While Cate Shortland’s film is based on remote-controlled female mercenaries, the American film also subtly touched upon the exploitation of women in a man’s world.

The devil in the desi film is one Rudraveer [Arjun Rampal], a mercenary raised in the Sohagpur coalfield of Madhya Pradesh. He loves axing his victims. He misguides the poor with his son-of-the-soil narrative. While the film doesn’t spell it, but men-like Rudraveer are creations of Naxalism. His brutal conduct forced him to live like a ghost. 25 years later, the ghost steps out of the darkness to confront his biggest nemesis, Agent Agni.

On the face of it, we have a fine she vs men battle, but the papad-thin script is no match for Kangana Ranaut’s dhaakad (swag).  The tropes, twists all reminiscent of popular Hollywood spy thrillers. It must be stated though that even Hollywood is getting monotonous in this genre.  That begs the question, why do then Indian filmmakers take inspiration from the West? Razy Ghai, Chintan Gandhi and Rinish Ravindra’s story ends up as a cliched action thriller. Ghai and Rajiv Menon’s screenplay is all over the place. Even the usually dependable Ritesh Shah (additional screenplay and dialogue) can’t save this drag.

Kangana Ranaut gets to wield fancy guns, but she’d hoped to be armed with a better screenplay. The papadum-thin script hardly builds any engagement. Ranaut’s impetuosity further dents a big hole in the poor film. The jism se rooh alag karna, business hai mera (My business is to free a body from its soul) dialogue was catchy, but beyond that there is nothing much to the character.

The various disguises, burgundy hairdo can’t mask an underwhelming show by the hugely talented Ranaut. The worst of the lot is the lady ending up at an evil Sheikh’s den disguised as a blonde. The Sheikh is surrounded by white women, and our desi blonde sings a Hindi track to charm him. Ah, that’s harsh. Hindi is a global language. Ranaut’s feeble attempts to mutter few English dialogues fail to make any impact. While the film does have some fine action sequences, but a closer look would suggest that not all of it is Kangana’s doing. The final twist triggers a sense of déjà vu. Poor Saswata Chatterjee is wasted in another directionless Bollywood drama.

Arjun Rampal in Dhaakad [2022]

Arjun Rampal strives hard to fit into the son-of-the-soil avatar, but the farcical rustic accent and the creaky tone needed to be accompanied by sub titles. It is another woody show by Rampal. Rudraveer’s backstory though is smartly revealed in monochrome frame.

Divya Dutta in Dhaakad [2022]

Divya Dutta is the lone diamond in this minefield of a film. She’s the perfect partner in crime for Rudraveer. Pushed into flesh trade at an early age, Rohini [Dutta] becomes the very evil that struck her. More than Agni, it is Rohini that displays true dhaakad, intimidating her victims, laughing in the face of death. She’s perhaps faced it too many times and often survived.  Vicious, scheming to the core, Rohini is all smiles shooting a man in the head in front of his little daughter (Zaira). Dutta’s command over the local language (Madhya Pradesh), her body language is impeccable. Dutta’s remorseless, cold, cunning act is a real tour de force.  It proves why Dutta is an underrated master in Bollywood.  Sadly, we felt her talent wasn’t fully optimized here.

The makers have hired international experts but not all action scenes are that gripping. The cinematography by Japanese Tetsuo Nagata though is largely impressive. The Agni-Rudraveer first tussle is captured finely amidst the haze of explosions. The background score by Dhruv Ghanekar is immersive. Though the frequent wolf howl also partly spring memories of igniting the early Windows (software) computers.

Dishita Jain

Child artiste Dishita Jain is just too adorable. Along with Divya Dutta, she makes Dhaakad bearable for the scenes she features in. The So Ja Re lullaby is enjoyable in her sweet tone.  Unfortunately, the poor script, screenplay is likely to put the audience to sleep. After learning that his disguise for Agni didn’t work, Zaira’s father Fazal [Sharib Hashmi] laments how the lakhs spent on make-up and a golden fly-spy gadget, all went to waste.  Perhaps, Razy Ghai would have saved all of Rs85 crore [rumoured budget] had he nipped his Dhaakad in the bud.

Dhaakad [2022] is currently screening in theatres. Watch the trailer below.


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