‘Dharam Sankat Mein’ is the official remake of the 2010 British satirical comedy ‘The Infidel’ (by Josh Appignanesi), in which a Muslim man realized he was born a Jew. In the Hindi version, which takes the idea further and adds more layers to the original, at the age of 50 Dharampal Trivedi (Paresh Rawal) realizes that he was born a Muslim but has been raised a Hindu.
Here begins his anguished and lonely journey to discovering his true identity and seeking out his biological parents. The only way for him to meet his ailing father is by proving to an adamant Imam (Murli Sharma) that he understands the ways of his birth father’s faith.
Dharampal is unable to share his newly learnt truth with his conservative Gujarati family especially as his son is desperately wooing the daughter of a pious devotee of a self-styled god-man Neelanand Baba (Naseeruddin Shah). In one of the best-compiled and edited (Apurva Asrani) montages in the film, we see Dharampal trying to juggle lessons in the Quran with lessons in Hindu shoklas and jumbling them up. There is also an enjoyable scene with the progressive Dharampal passing comments on the ashram and its associated businesses.
Dharampal’s guide and friend turns out to be his neighbour, lawyer Nawab (Annu Kapoor). The scenes between Rawal and Kapoor are sharp and fun, but the script (Sanjay Sharma, Alpesh Dixit, Vijay Desai, Vedish Jhaveri) drags even their mostly witty and satirical words down a preachy road to an overwrought climax. For the most part ‘Dharam Sankat Mein’ is indeed about issues of faith and identity, which resonate even more in contemporary Indian society. However the styling of the Baba is over-the-top and his character does not round off.
Cinematographer turned director Fuwad Khan took an ambitious project for his debut and that inexperience is discernible across the canvas. Its surprising though that the camerawork in this film (Anshuman Mahaley) is uneven. No doubt censor cuts have further affected the unapologetic and dramatic delivery of the message. Yet performances by Rawal and Kapoor and equal doses of humour and conflict in the script makes this an entertaining watch.