“Dug Dug”

The outrageous religious satire “Dug Dug,” named after the sound of a puttering motorbike, is as funny as it is bizarre. The film is over-the-top eccentric in a Wes Anderson-meets-Quentin Dupieux sort of way. It’s smart and sarcastic, offering a biting critique of the blind faith people have in their gods, and their desire to seek answers about their existence.

Thakur, a 40-year-old alcoholic, loves to drink, smoke, and ride on his motorbike. After a night at the bar and the poor decision to drive drunk, Thakur dies in a gruesome highway accident. The next morning, Thakur’s bike disappears from the police station and somehow ends up at the exact same spot where the man died the night before. The village’s police department collect the bike, lock it up, and the same thing continues to happen. After the third time, the villagers begin to believe that Thakur is sending a sign from above, and they begin to worship him (and his motorbike) as a god.

It’s a very funny (and smart) premise, from the initial set-up (there’s something inherently amusing about bumbling law enforcement, a gag that transcends all language and cultural barriers) to the ridiculous offerings that the villagers bestow upon an inanimate object. As the new religion quickly spreads, miracles begin to happen in the form of (supposed) answered prayers. The more success people find in their lives, the more Thakur’s status rises among the faithful. It doesn’t take very long for things to get completely out of hand, awash in an uncontrollable religious fervor and commercialism.

This film is visually attractive from start to finish, with its neon-colored cinematography, clever framing and Ritwik Pareek‘s confident eye for directing. I really love the stylish look of this movie. Sometimes the flashy images become overwhelming, however, like a too-long montage that shows how quickly Thakur’s idolatry spreads that goes on (and on, and on) for almost 20 minutes.

The biting irreverence hits its peak as people flock to pray to an inanimate object (in this case a motorcycle), which is no sillier than praying to an imaginary “god.” The script is witty and at times can seem uncomfortably acerbic, but “Dug Dug” delicately balances this out with an acknowledgement of the power of belief and blind faith.

This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

By: Louisa Moore

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