There are two ways of watching Shashank Khaitan’s Dhadak, one – watching it as an independent love story featuring two young actors, and second – watching it as a remake of Nagraj Manjule’s milestone film Sairat that is bringing in two star kids under the Dharma banner. The challenge is that everyone who has watched Sairat cannot watch it the former way, because Sairat’s deep raw impact is still fresh and comparisons are inevitable, and we know before the film even starts that Dhadak will not be a Sairat.
The promos were indicative enough, it showed a perfect Dharma world where everything was spectacular and beautiful, even the struggling poorer boy was affluent enough, and that entire spark and freshness of Rinku Rajguru was nowhere to be seen. To add to it, Dhadak was starting on an unfair ground where a part of the world wanted the film to fail even before the rest of the world saw what it was. So, it is only fair to try and watch Dhadak the former way, a fresh new film and see how deep an impact it creates, at least that is what I tried this evening. I cannot say that I completely succeeded.
The issue is that even as an independent film, Dhadak does not catch the right rhythm of the beating heart as it needed to in order to silence the negative bias completely. To be fair, Dhadak is not a bad film, I have seen much worse this year and they have gone on to become money minters whether it was the completely incorrigible film about a set of veeres or the completely drab drama on a certain raid. This film gets quite a few things right – and the biggest thing that it gets right is that boy Ishaan Khatter! He is easily the best thing about the film and gets almost everything right about Madhukar, whether its his rustic charming infatuation (to the point of madness) for Parthavi, or it is his fear and helplessness of running away from Udaipur, or his days of struggle in Kolkata, his longingness, his frustration, his simplicity, his insecurity, everything! Ishaan doesn’t miss a beat, and I will certainly look forward to him shining in his future work too. Ajay Atul‘s music is definitely the next best thing about the film – Zingaat always works & Vaara re is fresh and beautifully done, Pehli baar misses being the Yaad Lagla though, Dhadak hain tu is too beautiful to be true, but the background score is a plus again and takes the film forward. As does Kharaj Mukherjee – in a small role, he is definitely a scene stealer and remains as endearing as ever. The cinematography is good especially for Rajasthan – Udaipur is beautifully shot, the colors are vibrant, and if not anything else, one would definitely want to go to Udaipur after the film. The same can’t be said about Kolkata though – we get to see the set pieces like Howrah bridge and Victoria Memorial, but where is the pulse of the city that a Kahaani had captured?
And thats what becomes a problem – its the rawness and the earthiness that you want to see in such a story but you don’t get. And one big reason of this disappointment is Janhvi Kapoor. No one expects her to be anything close to her legendary mother, but she is way too manicured and plastic. She is especially disappointing in the first half and just does not create any connect through Parthavi. Surprisingly, she is comparatively much better in some of the emotional scenes post interval – she laughs and feels the pain more freely, gets you emotional at times but still remains inconsistent and still pales significantly in front of Ishaan. Infact, Madhu and Parthavi lack chemistry for the most part because of her, and that is a real miss. Not that the writing and script help them much too. Shashank wants to add his personal touch and perspective to the adapted film but the changes he makes to the screenplay only makes the film weaker.
Have to bring the Sairat reference back here, for me the biggest differentiator in Sairat was not the fresh love story or the caste politics, what stood out was how Archie and Parshya’s characters almost challenged the status quo of role boundaries and societal character traits. Archie was the strength, she was the confidence, she was the clarity in the relationship in spite of being rich and delicate. Shashank’s writing changes of Dhadak only rob Parthavi of all that. She just remains the extrovert pampered rich girl, but lacks soul and hence the credibility of their uninhibited romance, striking dare and then the eventual struggles all get diluted. We can see that in other parts of the film too – like Ashutosh Rana‘s craft remaining totally unexplored unlike Humpty Sharma. We also miss the earnestness of Madhu’s friends as we had seen not only in Sairat but even in Shashank’s earlier films, and making a caricature of a vertically challenged friend here is as cringing as Varun’s comic molestation was in Badrinath. We also yearn for the striking images of raw unpolished treatment that was the lifeline of Sairat, and hence when the uncomfortable bleak end comes, its still sudden and grusome, its still the highest point of the film, but not as spine chilling as Sairat.
But in its entirety and devoid of a classic’s baggage, Dhadak should still be called an average film at least if not more. It is definitely a one time watch, is crisp with some carry away moments, and shines in the unassuming charm of Ishaan Khatter, who is its biggest asset, by a distance. Go and give him a chance!