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Times of India
While many harrowing tales have come forth through news reports of how Indians choosing to work in Gulf countries face inhumane treatment, 'Gulf' charts the journey of Shiva (Chetan) and Lakshmi (Dimple) who go to Dubai in search of greener pastures.
Shiva (Chetan) is the son of a handloom weaver, and hates the fact that he would have to continue with the art someday. He picks a fight with his parents about it and emotionally blackmails them into sending him to the Gulf to earn some money. He gets this grand Gulf idea when he sees a man from the village returning with chocolates and goodies from Dubai, telling them that he's a supervisor at a construction site and earns good money.
On the flight to Dubai, Shiva meets Lakshmi (Dimple), a simple village belle looking to make money to pay for her mother's chemotherapy by working as a house help in a Sheik's house. It turns out that the Sheik whom she works for is a sleaze and his wife is physically abusive. She is beaten black and blue, starved and forbidden from having any contact with her family, but Lakshmi puts up with it all, despite only because she needs to pay for her mother's treatment.
Shiva's life is no different. He discovers that the friend who was promised the job of a supervisor, is in reality, a construction worker who has nothing but a torn shirt on his back. To keep the facade of a rich Gulf-return up, he ends up taking loans. Shiva too lands up in a similar situation and while he tries to find satisfaction in his Dubai life at first, something forces him to open his eyes and he can no longer ignore how badly they are ill-treated. There comes a point in Lakshmi's life too when the abuse gets too much to handle.
The first half of the movie thus explores the brutality Indians workers who are lured by glittering Gulf dreams face in reality. In the second half, the director does a good job at telling the individual stories of not just the protagonists, but also the supporting cast. He manages to touch upon sensitive topics like physical and sexual abuse of the Indian workers in the Gulf, and does an effective job of it.
Where he fails is at keeping the pace up. There are many a sexist and distracting elements that seem to be added just to satisfy the mass audience - a big fail. 'Gulf' is a film with a story that has great potential, especially when some scenes manage to shine out and stay in the mind of the audience. And when the more-than-effective ending comes through, it only makes one wonder how much better the film could've been in the hands of a better actor and script writer.
Chetan is okay at his role; his face registers not more than two expressions. Dimple is beautiful and the perfect damsel in distress. She does a good job of her role, being one of the few characters that tug your heartstrings. The movie is filled with disturbing and harrowing moments in midst of sleaze, and especially the ending is bound to stay in one's mind.
The verdict? Watch this film if you're looking for an eye opener, and not an entertainer.