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Rajkumar Hirani explains ‘donkey flight technique’, details how 276 passengers on plane grounded in France intended to enter Europe

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Despite facing tough competition at the box office from director Prashanth Neel’s Prabhas-starrer Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire, director Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki, starring Shah Rukh Khan in the lead role, has been showcasing a commendable performance, and has so far earned a global gross of over Rs 340 crore in just nine days.

Centred around the illegal immigration technique known as ‘donkey flight’, the film has sparked significant discussions on the topic since its release. A recent incident involving a charter plane carrying 276 passengers — mostly Indians — being grounded in France for four days due to suspected human trafficking, before being sent back to Mumbai, has once again brought attention to the subject.

Opening up about the technique and the incident, filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani recently told NDTV, “Such reports surface every month. Not a single month goes by without reports of people crossing borders in such ways. Since we are more aware of this now, it immediately captures our attention when it makes the news.”

“In Dunki, the flashback is set in 1995. Nowadays, several countries provide Indians with visas upon arrival. So the method to illegally immigrate has changed. In the past, people used to physically cross borders from India to Pakistan, then to Afghanistan, followed by Turkey. From there, they would travel by boat to Greece, then move on to Italy and then France. This was one of the donkey routes. Sometimes people also went through Russia,” he explained.

Mentioning that the 276 passengers grounded in France were en route to Nicaragua — a country that grants Indian passport holders visas on arrival — Hirani remarked, “Once they reach there, they would then cross borders and go to Europe.” He added, “But if you go to Punjab and say ‘Dunki lagani hai’ (Want to commute via the donkey route), they will immediately understand what you mean. Everyone in that state knows what it signifies.”

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Hirani said that while researching the subject, he spoke to people who either knew somebody who’d ‘done the dunki’, or was in the process of doing it themselves. He spoke to a man from Punjab who was in Mexico, and was sure that he’d made it across the border in a few months.

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