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Business News/ Money / Personal Finance/  Dunki: 4 key money lessons you can learn from the Shah Rukh Khan film
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Dunki: 4 key money lessons you can learn from the Shah Rukh Khan film

The film 'Dunki' explores the contrast between Bollywood's idyllic portrayal of Punjab and the harsh reality faced by its characters. It follows three friends who are scammed by visa agents in their quest to emigrate to England.

While 'Dunki' may have throwback scenes and lackluster storytelling, it offers valuable money lessons. (X/@iamsrk)Premium
While 'Dunki' may have throwback scenes and lackluster storytelling, it offers valuable money lessons. (X/@iamsrk)

Shah Rukh Khan's much awaited ‘Dunki’ hit theatres earlier this week. 

The movie, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, is a tale highlighting illegal immigration and families at the centre of it. The issue is a global in nature as it is local and being set in Punjab, it is an all the more important subject given the state's long history ‘Dunki marna’ at Canada and the UK. 

The film has opened to mixed reviews on Thursday with the first two days collection at nearly 50 crore. It is also SRK's weakest film this year. Although, following Pathaan and Jawan in the same year isn't a mean feat. 

Bollywood has created a mythical version of Punjab that’s all-unending mustard fields, water flowing through canals, homes where elderly ‘beeji’ and ‘bauji’s word is law, brothers live happily with brothers, their wives make gigantic glasses of lassi and alu ke parathe and gajar ka halwa… Don’t forget that omnipresent tractor in the big courtyard of their ‘khandani’ haveli, and the one gurudwara that looks after the rest of the ‘pind’…

In this picture-perfect Punjab, the arrival of an outsider usually causes an upheaval a la Dilwale Dulhaiya Le Jaayenge or Namastey London, but you never really see the seamier, reality-based version of a people battling real life problems like Udta Punjab.

Trouble arises when directors like Rajkumar Hirani attempt to merge both. The result is like being held down by the scruff of your neck in a bucket of sweet lassi by an evil grandma possessed by this need to get to ‘Kaneda’. Only that the filmmakers are not following real life events and the story feels late by at least 40 years.

What money lessons can this half-baked ‘pieces of cake’ film teach the savvy investor?

Scams surround the unwary investor

Dunki is about three friends who are down and out of luck who think that they must get away to England to better their lives. Their need seems to be real: Tapsee Pannu is Manu Randhawa who works at a dhaba because her home has been taken over by the creditor; Vikram Kochhar is Buggu Lakhanpal who hates seeing his mum being ogled by men because she wears trousers at her job as a security guard and Anil Grover is Balli Kakkad who is fed up of hearing the sewing machine which is mother is practically stuck to. 

All around them are Emigrate to England Visa scams. From agents who will help them get fake degrees to agents who promise instant resident visas should they marry a British citizen. Each of them loses their life savings to the scamsters who vanish in the middle of the night.

Whether you are looking at emigrating to another country or parking your hard-earned money offshore, know just one thing: Do not trust anyone with your money. The film is set in a small town, so the scamsters seem simplistic. But the cities abound with such scamsters too: visa agents who are smooth operators, fast talking and better dressed who promise you the moon.  

Remember, the only way to a sound financial freedom and security is diversification. Imagine, if Buggu hadn't given his mother's entire saving of 1.5 lakh to the visa operator, how different his life could have been? 

…but not at 50% off!

When you’re like Buggu Lakhanpal, who is obsessed with the idea of wanting to get to the UK, you will even leave your grandmother’s funeral procession because the neon sign says 50% off visa fees. 

There are people who will always try to find your weakness and try to scam you for it. Remember how nowadays the ‘Fedex’ scams are in the news? Given how much we all order from e-commerce websites, scammers now use those to make us part with our money. Or the matrimonial site scams where men force women to give them money on one pretext or the other.

The savvy investor should never fall for neon lit signs that offer 50% off. It should immediately sound alarm bells! 

Educate yourself! 

Just as there are people who want nothing more than to emigrate to ‘London’, there are people who will want to ‘help’ themselves by helping you get there. Boman Irani plays Geetu Gulati who runs this ‘Learn English in 90 days’ school where people manage to attend after taking out loans on their homes and farms thanks to the promise of ‘Birmingham, here I come!’

But, what happens in the end? Clearly, it isn't possible to learn English in 90 days. Especially if your aim is to crack English language exam (IELTS) to secure admission at a University in England. This is what happens in Dunki as well. The important money lesson to learn from this is: There are many ‘financial experts’ who will offer to ‘double’ your money in a short time. They will entice you with all sorts of schemes and dreams. They will show you their ‘past returns’, or people who earned handsomely with them. Do not fall for it. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Safeguard your money, be sensible and smart. 

Remember, it is okay to earn a couple of points less on your money than let greed takeover and lose your entire savings! 

Dunkis die in the pursuit of their happiness

‘Dunki’ or ‘donkey’ are people burdened with their dreams of a better life. Once they travel in containers and trek across perilous terrains to make it to their country of choice they think everything is going to be good. But the reality for illegal immigrants is awful. They’re constantly living under the shadow of deportation and do small menial jobs to survive. In fact, the film shows how Sukhi (played by Vicky Kaushal) is a poor lad who only wants to save his girl from an unhappy marriage to an NRI lad in London, kills himself trying to get to his beloved.

Not commenting on how immigration can be tough on those who don’t have the money, but a lesson here is important.

If your goal is clear - that you wish to travel abroad to study, to visit as a tourist, or even emigrate - then you must plan carefully. Open an account to save money that will grow by the time you qualify to study (as the dunkis realise, just passing that IELTS exam is not all, you need a college admission as well). Do not be sidetracked by ‘easy visa’ scams and ‘break’ that precious ‘FD’. It would be smarter to invest your money in better yielding financial schemes, and there are many. And yes, any pursuit of happiness is not going to be easy.  

Even though this film had throwback scenes like Shah Rukh arriving on a train or running to save the girl - which ought to have made every die-hard fan of the actor melt, this film showed how every Bollywood star, given unbridled freedom will only ham it like this were a senseless high school play…Thankfully, the money lessons make sense!    

Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. She can be reached on Twitter at @manishalakhe.

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Published: 23 Dec 2023, 11:53 AM IST
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