Dharampal Trivedi is happy with his Hindu identity - what happens when he discovers he is actually Muslim?
'Dharam Sankat Mein' says it all - here's a movie that reflects a dilemma. Dharampal Trivedi (Paresh) is Ahmedabad's leading caterer, a happy Hindu with a dislike of Muslims, extending to his quarrelsome neighbour Mehmood Nazeem Ali Shah Khan Bahadur (Annu). Dharampal's son Amit wants to marry Shraddha, fervent follower of motorcycle-riding Neelananda Baba (Naseeruddin). Amit pleads with Dharampal to become more devout and impress Baba and Shraddha's dad - Dharampal agrees but suddenly discovers he's adopted, his real father's Muslim and to meet him, he'll have to learn Muslim ways.
Can Dharampal overcome his own dharmic prejudices? And can he find salvation - despite society?
This quirky film follows 2012's hit OMG, further inspired by British comedy The Infidel - but DSM lacks the cutting edge of either. What works here is the perfect Paresh Rawal - the actor again delivers a terrific performance, fuelling the film purely on his wonderfully delivered dry one-liners ('Jab miyan biwi razamand, toh kya karega Neelanand?'), ironic glances and anguished eyes as he becomes stranger to his own world. Annu Kapoor matches Rawal well, their scenes frequently crackling.
There are chunks of pure comedy (confused with all his religious training, Dharampal greets a punditji with 'Salaam Aleikum') and dialogues whistling with wit - confronted with being Muslim, Dharampal asks his temple deity, ab ye kya locha hai? Alongside, Ahmedabad and its charms (prohibition plays a cameo) show up, with references to bhangra kings, dupatta-clad swamis and controversies on conversion and caps.
But there's simply too much here. The story tries to accommodate a whole host of issues, fake babas to real crimes, and fails. The Neelananda track is overplayed while the music is underdone. Given its realistic detailing, this could have been a livewire of wry wit - but it ends up a feather-duster of fuzzy philosophy instead. Caught between wise-cracking veterans and wise-sounding vachans, large sequences look low on energy and stereotypes, from lusty swami to kajal-eyed imam, stretch to yawning point.
Clearly, the director was creative dharam sankat mein - and the dilemma shows.