<div class="paragraphs"><p>A still from <em>Dug Dug</em>.</p></div>

Review: Ritwik Pareek's 'Dug Dug' is a Biting Satire on Blind Faith

Dug Dug premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year as part of the Discovery section.

Movie Reviews
3 min read

Review: Ritwik Pareek's 'Dug Dug' is a Biting Satire on Blind Faith

Ritwik Pareek’s wicked satire Dug Dug premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year as part of the Discovery section. An audacious new voice, his debut feature casts a critical look at how superstition and blind faith provide a fertile breeding ground for religious cults and idolatry to grow unchecked.

Set in Rajasthan, it's well into 10 minutes that we trail an unnamed man as he rides his motorcycle on a busy highway, with trucks and cars speeding past him. The ominous background score creates anticipation and there is a strong hint that something is about to happen. And it does. A terrible freak accident takes place, where the man lies dead in a pool of blood.

The camera zooms out a little to reveal a huge hoarding with a certain Jaadugar P.P Sharma’s face peering down at his mutilated body. It’s a staggering frame, setting the tone of magic realism and quite literally the circus that is to follow his death. Soon, the police arrive and the siren lights create a dramatic effect. Aditya S Kumar’s camera lingers deliberately, absorbing the details of the environment.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A still from <em>Dug Dug</em>.</p></div>

A still from Dug Dug.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)


Dug Dug is peppered with many such moments because of Pareek’s ability to blend image and sound in a way that makes the most commonplace objects arresting. The sound design and a jazzy score by Salvage Audio Collective assuredly weaves its magic.

The man who died is named Thakur, and he will soon have a legacy and history that is being spun right before our eyes like a spider's web. Thakur's motorbike, which the police had confiscated, inexplicably reappears at the very same accident spot. There is little dialogue, but the absurdity makes us chuckle. It disappears again, and soon word spreads that the bike could be possessed. Now, the object is is viewed with suspicion and trepidation. it almost feels like the magician is playing a trick and we are not in on it.

An aatma ki shanti puja follows, a blessed stone is found and godmen and pandits, when unable to explain the bizarre phenomenon, prescribe unquestioning bhakti. A Thakur-worshipping cult is formed, the serpentine lines keep growing and so does the dead man’s clout. He is declared a saint and worshipped like a lord. From a simple raised pedestal to a humongous mandir, charitable trusts and hospitals - it’s a growing business.

The characters here are a pawn in the larger game. There are literally hundreds of faces we see, though the focus is only on a few. The policemen from the local station, who haven't come across such an exciting event ever, a local politician and a resident godman - these are pivotal characters. The stylistically shot montages by editor Bijith Bala ensure our state of reverie stays unbroken.

There is a thin line between faith and superstition, and Dug Dug encourages us to reflect on it.

The denouement might feel a little meek as compared to the whole narrative, that is a biting satire and social commentary on religious commercialisation and lack of rational thought.

Dug Dug is a visually arresting film. Ritwik Pareek’s cinematic language unfolds with a breathtaking ease and self confidence.

Our rating: 4 Quints out of 5

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