Dry Day is the kind of finger-wagging film best consumed with a Patiala peg (while it is still permitted).

Pro-Prohibition and anti-subtlety – Saurabh Shukla’s Hindi movie shares many of its ideas with a health ministry advisory. The Prime Video release is set in the fictitious North Indian town Jagodar, where tempers run high, profanity flows more forcefully than alcohol, and a young man goes to extremes to become a corporator.

Gannu is a serial sozzler who begins imbibing early in the day and continues until dusk. He’s unmindful of his pregnant wife Nirmala (Shriya Pilgaonkar) and deaf to her remonstrations. Gannu is shaken up only after he earns the wrath of his political mentor Omveer (Annu Kapoor) at a public event.

Gannu seeks to reform his image. A bit like Dev Anand’s Raju from Guide, Gannu adopts the ways of the ascetic. While the town’s women are ecstatic, Omveer and liquor vendor Balwant (Shrikant Verma) plot to expose Gannu as a charlatan.

The critique of small-town political chicanery, while predictable, is preferable to Gannu’s imminent sainthood. The 128-minute movie rails against hypocrisy and expedient policy-making, but can’t escape the charge of sanctimony either. Any attempt at nuance in examining the problems caused by alcoholism is forgotten in the melee to deliver a message at high volume.

Jitendra Kumar is the saving grace, parleying his skill at playing cussed, obdurate men into a character who starts out as being interesting but soon becomes as dull as the movie itself.

Dry Day (2023).