Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki was not just about a group of people trying to enter a foreign nation through illegal channels; it aimed to address a far greater social issue that, due to certain reasons, was never really discussed or given a lot of attention. Much like Hirani’s earlier venture, Dunki, too, through goofy and lighthearted execution, tries to bring to our attention how each and every nation discriminates against human beings on the basis of their economic status. Though Dunki is not completely based on a true story, it could be said that it is inspired by real life events. It is a well-known fact that there are agents who take money and smuggle migrants into a foreign country, and it has become a global concern. These migrants are generally willing to risk their lives, do anything, and pay any amount just to cross borders, and the agents take advantage of that fact. These migrants move to another country with the hope that they will be able to upgrade their standard of living in the foreign land, but most of the time there, too, they are exploited and forced to live in deplorable conditions. In the post credit scene we saw how Hardy’s friends returned to India as they probably felt that all that struggle was just not worth it. I personally cannot fathom what the mindset of a person who is willing to literally put his life in jeopardy just for that would be. It deeply saddens me to imagine the plight of that person and how miserable they feel about their own existence. According to the United Nations Organization for Drugs and Crimes, it is believed that the migrant smuggling industry is worth approximately 7 billion dollars, but because of the clandestine nature of the offense, the authorities have not been able to stop it from happening. So, let’s understand what the word “Dunki” means and what the director wanted to symbolize through the characters’ journeys.
What is Dunki?
In the film, we saw that Manu Randhawa, Balli Kakad, and Buggu Lakhanpal wanted to move to England in search of a better life and to support their daily lives. Manu wanted to pay the mortgage and get her ancestral home back; Buggu wanted to earn so much that his mother didn’t have to do the job of a security guard; and Balli wanted to support his family so that they didn’t have to toil so hard to earn a livelihood. They didn’t have a good education, and neither did they have enough money in their bank account to get a visa. Hardy came into their lives when they lost all hope, and he told them that if they could crack the IELTS examination, then they would get a visa easily. Balli was able to pass the examination, but Manu, Buggu, and Hardy were not able to. Sukhi, who studied in the same class, also failed the examination, and after he got to know that the love of his life had taken her life as she knew that he wouldn’t be able to come to rescue her, he just couldn’t bear it. Sukhi set himself on fire and took his life in front of everybody. That’s when Hardy decided that before any other tragedy occurred, he would take charge of the situation and make sure that they all reached England by hook or by crook.
Geetu Gulati, owner of the English-speaking classes, knew many agents who smuggled people through illegal channels without any sort of documentation. This hopping from one place to another was called “Dunki” in the local lingo. The film showed us how hard it was to illegally cross borders. It sends shivers down your spine when you realize that a lot of things that Hardy and his gang had to go through in the film happen in real life, too, and it is not entirely fictionalized. Hiding in the cargo and crossing international borders is one of the most common ways through which migrants illegally enter a country. It is true that they have to survive in extremely harsh and dreadful situations, and the worst fact is that even after they reach their destination, there is no guarantee that they won’t be caught and put behind bars. Hardy, Manu, Buggu, and others somehow escaped death and reached England, but they realized that it was not a very easy task to get a legal permit to stay in the country. Where Hardy decided that he would rather go back than speak ill about his nation, Manu, Buggu, and Balli were ready to do anything to stay there.
What did Dunki symbolize?
Rajkumar Hirani, through his film, first questioned the system and grounds on which a nation grants a visa permit to an individual. Dunki addresses the issue of how the chances of getting a visa are directly proportional to the financial status of a person. A person is allowed entry into a foreign country if they feel that there is a threat to their lives in their own nation, but they are not allowed entry if they want to escape poverty and earn enough to at least live like human beings. Dunki states that poverty is the biggest threat of all, and on basic humanitarian grounds, there should be some provision where a person who just wants to work hard and provide for his family must be allowed to live in a foreign land. The judge in the film sympathized with Hardy and said that if he was ready to accept that he was seeking political asylum as his country was after his life, then he could grant him a permit. But Hardy asked the judge that if he had a clean background and there was no reason to believe that he was involved in any terrorist activities, then why couldn’t he get a permit based on the fact that he wanted to escape his extreme state of destitution? The judge didn’t have any answers to it, though he knew that Hardy’s statement did make sense. The international norms that governed the migration schemes didn’t make sense, and Dunki describes the discrimination that a person coming from an underprivileged background faces because of them.