Judging by the TIFF description, which promised a “striking and musically infectious satire,” as well as my expectation for extravagant Bollywood musicals, I certainly had an inkling what Dug Dug would deliver well before starting the film. The reality is that Dug Dug is void of characterization and narrative, focusing its multi-colored laser-pointer instead at strobing effects, the worshiping of idols, and one big metaphor for commercialism. I have no doubt the right subset of audiences will enjoy this Indian romp from director Ritwik Pareek. For everyone else, prepare to join a long line of confused moviegoers.
Thakur becomes the most unlikely of cultural icons after a freak accident on a highway. He is riding a bike for a long stretch, someone is honking behind him, then he gets severely injured. Just when it seems like things will be okay, he is brutally run over and killed. Thakur’s name prevails—his beloved Dug Dug brand motorcycle is recovered and stored. However, it keeps disappearing over and over again each morning, even when chained up tightly. It ends up in the spot of Thakur’s untimely death, directly underneath a mysterious billboard with what looks to be a fortune teller bestowed upon it. The mythical motorcycle and Thakur become the stuff of legend. The locals pour out alcohol all over the bike, leave tributes beneath it, cover it in leis, and wait in line for hours to see it. Colorful, borderline-manic montages are littered everywhere during Dug Dug, and this is just our first taste.
The creation of a town, economy boost, sprouting of stores (including electronics and a meat shop), and more all around this motorcycle is both zany and preposterous. My favorite thing of all is a random salesperson who keeps inflating a pink spotted balloon larger and larger to an obscene extent. In the wild-paced montage ridiculousness, Dug Dug is the most enjoyable; when it veers off into cosmic metaphorical meanings, the film basically flatlines.
I knew something was awry when over an hour deep had given not a single full-on musical interlude. When we finally do get one, it is a title song where the words “dug dug” are repeated to a cartoonish extent. To make matters worse, it is completely auto-tuned. At least we have the line “dug dug moped” to get stuck in our head, right? It was quickly clear that Dug Dug just is not that type of movie at all. Too silly for its own good, and too aligned with religious intent to draw in the casual viewer, Dug Dug is a goofy meta-mess that nevertheless remains entertaining once it gets past the long slog of its opening crawl.
Dug Dug displayed its ever-expanding, pink inflatable bubble when it screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.