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Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor Have a Winning Chemistry – Dhadak Movie Review

Washington DC (JOHN): A young fellow, having worked his way through a shared snack with his female companion, drinks from a mug of water in a plastic drum at the roadside food vendor. She crinkles her nose when he offers her the mug for a sip, prompting him to buy her bottled water instead. It’s a seemingly innocuous moment from Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat, but oh, so telling – the couple, their backs against each other, both drinking water. Yes water, that great leveler; required by both the rich and the poor, by those belonging to every caste and class, and yet the very clue at this moment that points to the yawning divide between this pair.

Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Kharaj Mukherjee, Shridhar Watsar, Ankit Bisht
Director: Shashank Khaitan

That scene – like many others – has been left out of Dhadak, the Hindi remake of Manjule’s excellent Marathi film from 2016 about the intensely gripping and ultimately tragic romance between a lower-caste boy and an upper-caste girl in rural Maharashtra.

Caste is a thorny, complex issue with a history of deep-rooted prejudices, injustice, and far-reaching consequences. When honestly explored, we get extraordinary stories like Sairat, Masaan, and Manjule’s own previous film Fandry. But the caste angle, evidently too hot to handle in a mainstream Bollywood film, is largely swept under the rug in Dhadak.

The story, which is robbed of texture and nuance when relocated from Bittergaon village in central Maharashtra to a tourism-brochure version of Udaipur, is centered on the romance between Madhukar aka Madhu (Ishaan Khatter) and Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor). She is the daughter of a rich, influential father who owns a hotel and has political ambitions. He is the son of middle-class parents who run a modest restaurant. Her family will have none of it. The young couple must flee.

Director Shashank Khaitan is faithful to the beats of the original film but makes some questionable decisions. The hero’s friends, so crucial to the plot in Sairat, are reduced to stock caricatures here, particularly a vertically challenged fellow exploited strictly for laughs. With the caste narrative reduced to a mere footnote, the villain too – Parthavi’s father (Ashutosh Rana) – is at best your standard disapproving parent, a role the actor already played in the director’s previous film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania.

In the original film, the action shifts to Hyderabad and the couple (Parshya and Archie) are put through the wringer as they go about building a life together. Madhu and Parthavi in Dhadak land up in Kolkata, but their struggle, relatively sanitized, can be best described as the Dharma Productions version of a hard life.

There’s also the matter of the film’s climax, a different one from the original. It’s chilling and devastating, not unlike Sairat. But again, given that the caste narrative is never integral to the story, it doesn’t feel suitably earned. Ultimately you could interpret it as the final move in a revenge plot.

But wait, it’s not as if Dhadak is entirely a waste of time. There’s something especially refreshing about watching young, raw newcomers discover their craft… witnessing the unpredictability of a performance, a new approach to a familiar emotion. Ishaan and Janhvi have a winning, charming chemistry, and they’re both extremely watchable even if they have contrasting styles.

Ishaan, who was especially impressive in his debut film Beyond The Clouds, once again radiates warmth and innocence and reflects both the grappling and the growing maturity of a boy on the cusp of adulthood. Janhvi, meanwhile, has less to work with, because Parthavi is never as well-defined as Archie in Sairat. But Janhvi, who’s making her debut here, has a fragility that makes her instantly endearing, and a soulful quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off her on screen.

Dhadak Movie Review

6.2 out of 10
Story The film has a rather sluggish pace in the start but manages to keep you hooked till the interval with ease. Sagas of first love and utterly adorable performances by Tirth Sharma who plays Insia’s not-so-secret admirer Chintan Parekh and Kabir Sajid who plays Insia’s kid brother Guddu adds to the overall charm of the film. Review In one of the early conversations between the lovers in Shashank Khaitan’s “Dhadak”, Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor) tells Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter) he’ll have to prepare meals when they get married. “And put a little less ghee on the rotis. I want to stay slim,” she says. Much like its heroine, “Dhadak” is a little too conscious of its outward appearance, of looking good, rather than staying true to its original inspiration - Nagraj Manjule’s fiery “Sairat”, which took the age-old tale of star-crossed lovers and turned it on its head. Khaitan’s Bollywood adaptation of the Marathi hit retains a lot of the plot points, reduces run-time significantly, and ups the wardrobe budget of both lead actors, but these are cosmetic changes at best. Parthavi and Madhukar are college-mates in the throes of young love in the picturesque city of Udaipur. He is the son of a small-time restaurateur and she is the daughter of a local politician. They meet on the sly, tease each other and whisper sweet nothings on the banks of the Pichhola lake. But when her family finds out, the dream shatters, and the beauty of love gives way to harsh reality. Madhukar and Parthavi find themselves on the run from her father’s henchmen. In Udaipur, their love was a many-splendored thing, full of possibilities. But in Mumbai and later Kolkata, as they fend for themselves, they find that togetherness doesn’t always bring happiness. Director Khaitan brings in the sharp difference between dreams and reality, but even there, he stops short of going all out. Even the ending lacks the gut punch and almost feels like a cop-out. In “Sairat”, film-maker Manjule chose to show rather than tell. The economic and caste difference between Archie and Parshya was obvious, even though no character spoke about it. In “Dhadak”, Khaitan does the opposite - Madhukar’s father says several times “woh oonchi jaati ke hain” (they are from a higher caste). A street scene in Kolkata has to have a couple of nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, and if you live in Udaipur, then clueless foreign tourists have to be milling about in the background. “Dhadak” operates on such clichés and loses some of the potency of its original material. But what does work to its advantage is the freshness of the two leads, especially Khatter, who is a natural in front of the camera. Kapoor falters in the emotional scenes and her Mewari accent sounds more American than Rajasthani. But she’s earnest and her chemistry with her co-star makes up for the rawness on the acting front. The Bottom Line There will always be comparisons with “Sairat”, which is no doubt the superior film, but it was one that was restricted to one state. For all its flaws, “Dhadak” is the vehicle that will bring more audiences to this important story and for that alone, it’s worth it.
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