If a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, what do four women riding motorbikes want?

Although Tarun Dudeja’s feel-good Dhak Dhak doesn’t have any fresh or compelling answers, the film sputters along on the strength of its cast, observational comedy and patches of sharp writing. The heart skips a beat at the sight of the bikers vrooming from Delhi to Khardung La, only to settle down when they face the obstacles typically found in the female empowerment saga.

It begins as a professional project for social media influencer Sky (Fatima Sana Shaikh). Sky, Mahi (Ratna Pathak Shah), Uzma (Dia Mirza) and Manjari (Sanjana Sanghi) form an unlikely quartet. Each of them has different reasons to embark on a difficult, potentially hazardous journey.

Sky is battling the repercussions of an ugly scandal. Mahi is relegated to a dahi bhalla maker by her family. Uzma’s husband similarly dismisses her aspirations. Manjiri wants at least one adventure before she is bound by matrimony.

In attempting to crash a male bastion, must women always be overcoming a crisis? The shambolic screenplay, by Dudeja and Parijat Joshi, is fond of making its women leap over avoidable hurdles and veering off course. But there isn’t enough clarity on how at least two of them learnt to ride bikes in the first place.

If Sky, a sassy and urbane type, is instantly believable for her choice of transport, Mahi has a cute back story too. However, neither Uzma’s conservative family background nor Manjari’s orthodox upbringing and her tendency to jump at the slightest sound makes them convincing riders.

The movie is better at examining the present than the past. Once the women meet, sparks fly, wires get crossed, and pop philosophy is rolled out on the road from Delhi to Ladakh. Despite choppy editing, irregular pacing and scenes that run on forever, the individual and collective journeys of the women is fun enough, and even inspiring in an Instagram story kind of way. The four principal actors are wonderful, conveying their yearning for freedom with warmth, humour and sensitivity towards others not as fortunate as them.

Dhak Dhak (2023).