OTTplay Logo
settings icon
profile icon

Dhak Dhak Review: The Feminist Road Trip Film Bollywood Desperately Needed

In Dhak Dhak, four women of different ages and backgrounds band together to embark on an ambitious road trip on motorbikes, against all odds.

Dhak Dhak Review: The Feminist Road Trip Film Bollywood Desperately Needed
Detail from the poster for Dhak Dhak

Last Updated: 08.11 PM, Oct 13, 2023


BOLLYWOOD is so starved of films around female friendships and/or films around women taking a road trip that the bar is quite low. This is not to say that Dhak Dhak is a bad film – far from it – but it’s important to acknowledge before we get into the nitty gritties of this particular title that there’s a severe shortage of mainstream Hindi movies written and performed with the intent of employing the female gaze. And so, that a film like Dhak Dhak even exists is a major win.

Think about it: four women of different ages and backgrounds band together to embark on an ambitious road trip on motorbikes, against all odds. The journey is tough — from Delhi to Leh (Khardung La), and it’s being undertaken on a vehicle typically associated with men and masculinity (in Bollywood’s biggest films about motorbikes, the Dhoom series, the women played typically stereotypical roles). All four are equal protagonists, with their own subplots and character-enriching arcs; however, the emotionally tougher scenes are given to Ratna Pathak Shah (rightfully so) and Fatima Sana Sheikh. And the cherry on the cake is that the friendship between the women doesn’t come easily or immediately, and therefore the bond seems more authentic when it finally gets established.


The story begins with Sky (Fatima Sana Sheikh), who is an auto influencer and makes viral videos on bikes and gadgets. After a personal mishap, she breaks up with her partner with whom she runs her YouTube channel and her views start to drop. In a bid to revive her online career, she plans to visit an auto festival in Barcelona but she needs financial backing for it. Her financiers ask her to prove herself by first delivering a viral story — and this is where she meets Manpreet aka Mahi (Ratna Pathak Shah). Mahi is a 60-year-old firecracker who is shackled by her retired life. She wants to rise above her role as homemaker and grandmother, and she finds a way when she wins a Bullet bike in a coupon lottery. She decides to learn how to ride a bike and travel to Khardung La to prove that she still can be “a heroine” at her age.

Sky and Mahi need a bike mechanic to travel with them, which is where Usma (Dia Mirza) comes in. She’s a homemaker too, and owns a legacy mechanic shop in Old Delhi, although her husband runs the operations, leaving her to her wifely and motherly duties. She lies to her family and joins Sky and Mahi on their road trip, finally investing in memories for herself. The fourth one is Manjari (Sanjana Sanghi), the youngest and most innocent of the lot. She has been protected by her family her whole life, and so this road trip becomes liberating for her and a means to find her independence.

Still from Dhak Dhak
Still from Dhak Dhak

Conflicts and drama are peppered through the plot of the film — there’s online identity crises, family and gender politics, dangers of travelling in the tricky terrain of Leh-Ladakh, road accidents, health scares and loss of belongings. But the most refreshing creative call of Dhak Dhak is that there is no time wasted in exploring the dangers that dog women travellers. We all know it’s more difficult for women to travel solo, but the creative call to depict dangers that could happen to any gender (as stated above) is very refreshing as a viewer. I was expecting scenes involving stalkers or lechy strangers — but there were none of those. Instead, we got more screen time around the four women bonding over orgasms, their life goals and lifting each other up in tough moments. This is where the female gaze is so important, and props to director Tarun Dudeja for exploring it to almost perfection.

Ratna Pathak Shah is a delight to watch in her comedy scenes but she can also make you cry at the slightest quiver of a lip. Dhak Dhak is just that kind of slice-of-life story where you’d find yourself cry-laughing at multiple points, even though none of those moments are surprising. You don’t mind the emotional manipulation because the film treads along effortlessly (for the most part). The camaraderie between Fatima Sana Shaikh and Ratna Pathak Shah is the highlight of the film. Dia Mirza and Sanjana Sanghi perform their parts well, and together the four of them have great chemistry.

Detail from the poster for Dhak Dhak
Detail from the poster for Dhak Dhak

Dhak Dhak starts to lag at some point, succumbing to the second half curse. None of the feminist politics that the film explores seem on the nose but eventually, Dhak Dhak starts to lose the sheen it promises in the beginning, which is a pity. It made me wonder if this would be better suited as a limited series, broken down and compartmentalised to retain the viewer’s attention span. The stories of Sky, Mahi, Usma and Manjari definitely deserve an immersive deep dive, but I do want to admit that it was a treat to watch Dhak Dhak on the big screen. The experience would not be the same watching it in your living room. The cinematography by Sreechith Vijayan Damodar is striking, and coupled with Rishi Dutta’s soulful background score, offers a visceral audio-visual experience that is best suited to a cinema hall. I am not sure why Dhak Dhak didn’t get the requisite marketing push (the trailer dropped merely a few days before the film’s release) but it’s not an OTT film just by virtue of having four female protagonists (aka “low stakes” perhaps, according to the studio). Dhak Dhak is definitely worth a trip to the theatres.


    Get the latest updates in your inbox