A no-holds barred political satire, Dasvi (Tenth) makes its point in a way we understand how corrupt our leaders are and how they twist the system in their little fingers to feather their own nests and more. An unforgettable takeaway from this Netflix film is the lack of respect for education in this country. It is a battle between literacy and illiteracy, with hundreds of thousands of adult men and women still unable to go beyond merely signing their names or using their thumbs.
Abhishek Bachchan, who essays a haughty Chief Minister, Ganga Ram Chaudhary, in an imaginary State, Harit Pradesh, is an exception. He has not gone beyond his eighth-grade, and is firmly convinced that education is a sheer waste of time and energy, but yet is part of the privileged class.
Scripted by Suresh Nair, Ritesh Shah and Sandeep Leyzell from Ram Bajpai’s story – and directed by Tushar Jalota (actor in 2007 Showbiz) — Dasvi in an early scene shows Chaudhary’s disdain for lettered men when he ridicules his Principal Secretary, an Indian Administrative Service topper, Tandon. "What is the use of this education," Chaudhary tells his cronies with an arrogance he wears on his sleeve. . "I have no such qualification, but Tandon is my slave, not the other way round…Build shopping malls, not schools…One will bring in money, the other unemployment."
But when the axe falls on Chaudhary’s head and he is sent to judicial custody for a scam in the education system, his pride crumbles. Denied any kind of privilege in prison by the tough-talking Superintendent, Jyoti Deswal (Yami Gautam), he finds himself in a tight corner. When ordered to make wooden chairs – because he is not fit for anything else – Chaudhary realises the value of formal education and sets about trying to get through his tenth grade or Dasvi.
In the meantime, the man has placed his wife, Bimla Devi (Nimrat Kaur), on the Chief Minister’s chair, and power corrupts her pushing her to overrule her husband’s orders from the jail. So drunk is she with the newfound authority that she even gets a statue of herself installed, and dreams of being at Madame Tussauds! A striking reflection of what we have been seeing in the higher echelons of political power.
One would be tempted to give Dasvi a little concession, because it is a spoof, although it could have been more evenly tempered, and paid greater care to performances. Bachchan is far better than what we have seen of him in earlier works. Yami Gautam, however, is still to come anywhere near her style and substance of her debut outing, Vicky Donor. However, Kaur is splendid, transforming from a meek housewife to a haughty politician, who quickly learns the ropes of the game and understands how the system can be twisted for personal gains.