Cast: Jahnvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khattar, Ashutosh Rana, Kharaj Mukherjee, Shridhar Watsar, Ankit Bisht, Aditya Kumar, Aishwarya Narkar
Director: Shashank Khaitan
Rating: * * ½
Caste wars and Khap issues have been done to death in Indian cinema, but none so dynamically underlined as in Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi language super hit ‘Sairat.’ The film was a prime example of how style, superb characterisations, and unpretentious content can triumph even when the basic storyline highlights a romance gone wrong, replete with the regular pot-boiler entailments. ‘Sairat’ stands tall as an example of how commercial elements can be incorporated in cinema without hurting the overall objective of the narrative. The same though, cannot be said of the Hindi Language remake, ‘Dhadak’ top-lining Sridevi’s daughter Jahnvi and Shahid Kapoor’s brother Ishaan Khattar. This project by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, directed by his ‘Dulhaniya’ series director Shashank Khaitan, is basically meant to pave the path to a viable career in films for the two Bollywood progeny. Both actors are given the rich treatment bestowed on future stars, but the slavishness to adornments and the cumbersome prettifying basically ends up as an albatross to believability.
Madhukar (Ishaan), a lower caste, middle-class boy totally enamoured by Parthavi (Jahnvi), a girl brought up in the luxury of a Palace Hotel and upper caste airs, finds himself out of his depth when confronted by her politically powerful father Ratan Singh (Ashutosh Rana). The couple, along with two other friends Gokul and Parsuram (Ankit Bisht and Shridhar Watsar) are forced to flee, going from Udaipur to Mumbai, to Nagpur and finally settle in Kolkata.
Dhadak fails to arouse emotions or set your heartbeats to race even with a narrative template and musical score (Ajay Atul) that largely mimics that of the original. The character names are changed, the setting has moved from small-town Maharashtra to touristy Udaipur and the socio-political set-up leans to political shenanigans rather than caste/class turbulence(mere lip service).
The Dalit-Muslim-differently abled subtext of Sairat is replaced by obscure glossing over. The dialogue, characterisations and narrative style fail to get the audience invested. And the performances though likeable, appear to be working at cross-purposes with the original storyline. While Ishaan is robust and vigorous in his protestations, Jahnvi appears to have been reluctantly persuaded into the romance. She carries an air of fragility that contradicts the spirited label meant to be Parthavi’s meter.
The risky romance bit seems entirely forced and there’s nothing affecting about the couple’s so-called attachment to each other. The insincere, inconsistent and synthetic nature of this telling doesn’t provide enough provocation to be bothered about the eventual outcome. The atmosphere, post the couple’s escape, is rather limpid and sanguine – not the heart-heavy dread that should have followed. Manjule’s ‘Sairat; was scathing in its attack on small-minded extra-judicial vigilantism, ‘Dhadak’ looks on that aspect like an alien being, never knowing how to take it forward or use it to appropriate the right amount of fireworks or passion. Dhadak loses beat on tone, tension, and momentum and represses the social fault-lines that highlight the fragmentation in society. It’s the pretty affectations that overwhelm here – not the penetrating ‘Sairat’ assault on a social system that permits murder.