Director: Vishwak Sen
Writer: Prasanna Kumar Bezawada (dialogue)
Cast: Vishwak Sen, Nivetha Pethuraj, Rao Ramesh
It’s admirable that Vishwak Sen is broadly committed to the principle of ‘one for me, one for them’ i.e. he balances a mainstream movie with an off beat risky venture. He balanced the emasculated vulnerability in his 2022 film Ashoka Vanamlo Arjuna Kalyanam with the conventional Telugu romantic comedy beats of Paagal (2021). A cameo in the conceptually brave Mukha Chitram (2022) is offset by the safe remake in Ori Devuda the same year.
He also seems to carry a brashness in spirit that translates excellently on screen, and when that brashness faces an equal adversary, the screen produces some crackling cinema. Sen’s thriller Faluknama Das (2019) worked not only because it was ambitious, but because Vishwak Sen embodied the brazenness of the protagonist – turning filmmaker and lead actor with the film, and also creatively adapting Angamaly Diaries. HIT, despite its flaws, was riveting because his arrogance was juxtaposed against a primal fear that eats him alive.
All of this proves that Vishwak Sen has been brilliant when he’s done the unorthodox but when he confuses mainstream with safety, he becomes monotonous and unbearable. Sadly Das ki Dhamki falls in the latter category.
Das Ka Dhamki tells the story of Krishna Das (Vishwak Sen), a scheming waiter looking to get lucky who gets to swap places with the honest Sanjay Rudra (Vishwak Sen), CEO of a company that strives for a cancer-free world. The story, in the mold of Katthi (2014), Alluda Majaka (1995), and the more recent Ravi Teja films Dhamaka and Khiladi, is not only dated but it also doesn’t manage to bend the framework of this masala template in exciting ways.
Vishwak Sen wants to utter punch dialogues and land even harder punches on bad guys but there are countless other actors who do this. In a film he’s chosen to direct, the visual grammar is unexciting unlike in Faluknama Das, whose guerrilla filmmaking style seemed so suited to the location and the story. The frames in Das Ka Damki are constructed as if he’s borrowed from other films that follow the same arc. This lack of bravery in scene construction might be owing to the fact that he felt short changed by the negative reception to the one-take climax of Faluknama Das. He has publicly stated in interviews that only cinephiles and critics seemed to have taken to the edgy presentation of the climax. So he’s substituted that edge for a more basic block-by-block storytelling, which is patronizing to even a general audience.
The result is a mess of a film that feels familiar, outdated, and stale. Any other actor, this might have seemed pardonable but Vishwak Sen is capable of more and better. His other failures such as Paagal have proven so. But for now this is his weakest work – in terms of ambition and execution.