Akele hain toh kya gham hai chahein toh humare bas mein kya nahi? (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak)
Humne ghar choda hai rasmo ko toda hai. Door kahin jayenge nayi duniya basaayenge. (Dil)
The optimism in these lines is hard to miss. Once young romance and rebellion looking at life with rose coloured glasses defined the course of condemned love until Bollywood made it a yardstick of sorts.
But no one considered the practicality of such fervour or tested its endurance after first flushes of love wear out until film-maker Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi blockbuster, Sairat.
An epic love story combining an effective commentary on the evils of casteism, Sairat‘s raw realism and heartfelt portrayal is memorable even when its characters exhibit problematic behaviour.
Producer Karan Johar may have procured the rights to ‘adapt’ Dhadak but none of its underhand politics, authenticity of its milieu, the unfeigned, unchecked, unwise impetuosity of teenage love too young to know otherwise or the implications of the brutal final scene can be found under Shashank Khaitan’s direction.
This is quite simply a launch pad designed to bring to view two star kids and their potential. It’s unfortunate that the project already comes with its baggage of expectations given Sairat‘s overwhelming success.
What matters then is how well they carry it.
Not a hair out of place, not a patch of skin unattended — Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter are far too groomed and self-aware to impress the rustic appeal and rash impulses of Sairat‘s Archie and Parshya. Khaitan’s need to glam things up is just as dire. And so Sairat‘s cosy, provincial setting makes way for Udaipur’s tourism-friendly ambiance and the catchy Solapuri accent is displaced for gratuitous Marwari.
He’s a smitten kitten. She’s an entitled brat. Parthavi (Janhvi) appears in Madhukar’s (Ishaan) dreams and then before his eyes at a local competition while he’s munching on chillies and the sun’s highlighting her porcelain complexion. He wins the prize. It’s not long before he wins her heart too. Why not? Madhu’s wardrobe of custom-made lehariya and bandhini shirts is on par with Parthavi’s sartorial numbers.
The class distinction is almost invisible while caste-related issues are crudely forced into the narrative after one father growls ‘Oonchi jaati‘ and another threatens to offer ‘beti ki bali.’
Khaitan regular Ashutosh Rana returns to his snarling roots — imagine Duryodhana in jodhpurs — as the power-mongering bigot running for elections. As the perpetual symbol of disapproval, his hostility comes as no surprise on discovering daughter Parthavi and Madhukar’s liaison. Nothing in Dhadak does.
It does many things differently from Sairat for the sake of misplaced individuality. One of them is to reduce its running time considerably. Love doesn’t quietly bloom but zooms, zaps and Zingaats between the twain against Ajay-Atul’s soaring soundtrack.
Instead of bashful smiles and coy charm, caricaturish pals and pedestrian humour flanks their inseparable ardour and half-hearted revolt. Forced to flee town, the starry-eyed lovers wander Mumbai, Nagpur and, ultimately, Kolkata to start from scratch.
The heartbreak of shabby treatment from one’s own family, the struggle of employment sans proper qualification in an alien city, the resentment, doubts and insecurities spawned by unending challenges hardly registers in Dhadak‘s superficial, clueless worldview.
If anything it just shows how little Bollywood steps out in the real world and what a mockery it makes of everyday hardships.
Dhadak is lacking in basics too.
A prudish approach to intimacy ensures Ishaan and Janhvi’s carefree chemistry is never explored beyond the first kiss.
The fights are equally dull. One of the most volatile moments of Sairat is when the guy’s jealousy gets ugly and irreversibly shatters the rosy picture. In Dhadak, it plays out in such a contrived fashion, it makes Ishaan’s discomfort and Janhvi’s confusion all the more glaring.
How do they fare overall? The newcomers have an inherent likability and exude oodles of charm. Ishaan’s electric dance moves are in perfect tandem with Zingaat‘s infectious zeal. As seen in Beyond the Clouds, the lad has a knack for persuasive portrayals. He never seems out of his depth no matter how silly the setup. Janvhi’s dialogue delivery evokes a mix of Karisma Kapoor and Hema Malini, but her Chandni eyes have their own stories to tell. There’s a gentleness to her that should find its own place in time.
As a remake of Sairat, Dhadak is a travesty. As a standalone, Dhadak is standard Bollywood boy-meets-girl drivel. As a showcase, Dhadak is a promise that will take some more effort to fully fulfil.