In a fictional small town where happiness eludes everybody except a handful of drifters who are sloshed to the gills at all times of day and night, a hard-drinking man inadvertently sparks an anti-alcohol campaign that, thanks to the women around him, spins out of his control.
Control is indeed conspicuous by its absence in Dry Day, a tedious and mediocre social satire written and directed by Saurabh Shukla. Not only is the film as dry as a dune, it also ends up drowning itself in a mound of inanities.
The intent of the film is clear enough. It wants to drive home the perils of alcoholism. No problem there. It is the execution of the idea that does not measure up. Dry Day is a film with a cause let down by its profligacies.
Available on Prime Video, Dry Day features Jitendra Kumar, the undisputed poster boy of small-town films and web shows, as the male lead. He plays a politician’s feckless foot soldier, Gannu Kumar, whose pregnant wife Nirmala (Shriya Pilgaonkar) threatens to abort their baby if he does not quit drinking, shape up and find a real job that can sustain a family.
The lady’s ultimatum sets off a chain of actions and reactions that push Dry Day off its chosen course. Gannu and his mates tie themselves up in knots as the pro-prohibition movement, which begins half-heartedly and without a clear goal, sucks the entire community into its vortex and casts a shadow on the future of the town’s only liquor store.
The booze shop is run by Balwant (Shrikant Verma), stooge of a politician who has a stake in the business of keeping the town’s able-bodied men in a state of perpetual drunkenness.
The nexus between power and alcohol is out in the open in Dry Day, but the script does not see value in following through with that facet of the plot. It only tangentially builds a case against political corruption and moves on to tackle less significant matters.
Jitendra Kumar has built his career playing men negotiating the challenges of life in India’s hinterland. The Kota Factory and Panchayat actor is well within his comfort zone in Dry Day. It should have been a cakewalk for him. But since the tropes that the screenplay places at his disposal do not add up to much, vacuous prattle is all that the role allows him to peddle.
The rest of the cast does its best to inject life into Dry Day, but the meaningless meanderings of Gannu and his gang in the face of the indifference of smooth-talking politician Omvir Singh “Dauji” (Annu Kapoor), their mentor, robs Dry Day of any chance of settling into a steady, meaningful rhythm.
Gannu hopes to become the corporator of Jagodhar ward of Naraoutpura town with the blessings of Dauji and prove to his wife that he isn’t the wastrel she thinks he is. His political master pours cold water over his aspirations. He hands the election ticket to Satendra “Satto” Prasad Trivedi (Sunil Palwal).
Left in the lurch, Gannu and his angry boys, who constitute the politician’s dirty tricks department on the ground, decide to do something to reclaim the space they have lost. Gannu launches a fast unto death but when the townspeople ask him what his precise agenda is, he isn’t quite sure.
He is obviously in the right film – Dry Day is as confused as he is. The more he tries to make the point that he has not got his due, the bigger Gannu’s troubles get. After a misadventure in Delhi sends him and the gang to the slammer, they find themselves with their backs completely to the wall and their image as political workers in tatters.
Neither his mind nor his selfish desperation directs him towards what he truly desires. The predicament of a man who knows too little may have yielded mildly diverting, harmless fun had Dry Day not been so terribly unsubtle in its methods.
Notwithstanding the passable noises that it makes, the film is an absolutely pointless exercise that leaves nothing to the imagination. Its occasional shots at humour do little to liven up the listless proceedings.
Dry Day also makes feeble attempts to whip up some drama. One woman walks out on her alcoholic husband, her children in tow. Another adopts more direct means to teach her drunk husband a lesson. And, of course, Gannu’s wife, daughter of the headmaster of the local school, hits her wayward life partner where it hurts.
Dry Day is principally about a band of boys but it is the women who show the way to the town’s accidental anti-alcohol activist. As he is turned into a messiah overnight, Gannu is trapped in his own web and compelled to go the whole hog without knowing where the movement is going to take him.
Gannu’s fake agitation is inspired by a seasoned anti-corruption campaigner (with shades of a real-life figure from a not-too-distant past) who quips to a man sitting next to him on a protest stage in Delhi, “Naatak hai, enjoy karo.”
Sadly, there is little naatak in Dry Day that is anywhere near enjoyable. The film is akin to a tipple that is way too diluted to deliver any high at all.
Jitendra Kumar, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Annu Kapoor
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