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A word of caution for those who haven't watched Dhadak yet. Some major spoilers coming your way ahead! To begin with, the year 2016 was a turning point for Marathi cinema when a low-budget film 'Sairat' helmed by Nagraj Manjule went on to break several records to become the biggest sleeper hit of the year. Later on in one of his interviews, Nagraj said, "It was my answer to Bollywood". Of course, it was!
The filmmaker had found his lead pair in the unlikeliest of all places. Akash Thosar was a fledging wrestler. On the other hand, Rinki Rajguru was accompanying her mother to see a film shooting and caught Manjule's attention Sairat was made on a shoe-string budget and most importantly, it dealt with a sensitive theme which very few dared to explore!
But what happens when Bollywood decides to make a high-profile remake of it calling it a 'homage'? Scroll down to read-
Eye To Eye
Sairat begins with a cricket match where everyone is waiting for their captain (Akash Thosar) to arrive on the field. Our hero, on the other hand busy is stealing glances at his lady love Archie (Rinku Rajguru). Parshya wins the match but loses his heart. The cricket match gets replaced by a bizarre eating contest in Dhadak where Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter) just can't take his eyes off Parthavi who has just arrived at the scene with her politician father.
Love At First Sight
You felt the flutter of first love when you watched Parshya dive into the water when he hears Archie's name or when he went 'Yed Lagala' dancing madly amidst the sugarcane fields. Ishaan Khatter too gets to recreate a similar moment in Dhadak and well, he does pull it off. So far, so good.
Parshya vs Madhukar
However in Dhadak, Shashank Khaitan reduces the blossoming romance between his two protagonists to mere eye stares and some cute banter. While Ishaan Khatter-Janhvi Kapoor share some electrifying chemistry, you long for Archie-Parshya's innocent romance. Remember that scene in Sairat where Parshya tries to convey his feelings to Archie in a letter and sends it through a kid? It lits your face with a smile and makes you feel that pangs of infatuation.
Dhadak gets Madhukar to sing, "How do I tell you, How much I love you" in his broken English. All it evokes is just a few laughs!
Parshya looks every bit of a lad who has been through oppression. Madhukar on the other hand, comes across more as a happy-go-lucky teen.
Archie vs Parthavi
One of the places where Dhadak falters is Parthavi's character. You never get to really see her assertiveness barring a scene or two. Archie on the other hand, never missed to depict her swag. Be it riding a bike or a tractor, being a shining knight in armour when Parshya gets beaten up by her cousin Mangya or saying 'I love you' to Parshya in the sugarcane fields. Sairat also celebrated the female gaze with its classroom scene. Parshya may be smitten by Archie but it was she who took the lead when it came to wooing. How often to we get to watch this in Bollywood?
What's Bollywood's Obsession With Stereotypes?
Pradeep Bansode who played Langdya in Sairat had an integral role to play to the plot. The scene where he realises that the girl he desires, hates him because he is not good looking enough, touches you heart. You want to comfort him when he cries his heart out at first but then laughs it off. He tells Parshya then it doesn't matter if he doesn't get a fair chance at love but he will make sure that Parshya gets Archie! Such warm depiction of friendship!
While in Dhadak, Madhukar's vertically challenged friend Purshottam is used to throw in some comic relief. Grow up Bollywood, it's 2018!
If Sairat gave you candy-floss Bollywood style romance in the first half, it pulled the ground beneath your feet post the interval, when Parshya-Archie eloped to Hyderabad only to burst the bubble of their dream world with a prick of reality. The makers of Dhadak restrict Madhukar-Parthavi's 'middle-class' struggle to merely scrubbing the floors of a modest hostel home in Kolkata, cooking their food, washing their clothes and having a common bathroom. That's Karan Johar's level of poverty for you! Mind you despite all the struggles, Janhvi Kapoor's glossed hair looks Insta-perfect right from the first frame to the last!
What's In A Caste?
Sairat had a social commentary running all through the film in the subtlest way possible. It spoke about the horrors of caste system in our country but never spelt it out loud. Instead, Dhadak has the lower-caste hero's dad corner him and warn, "Woh log oonchi jaati ke hain." Chalo, if you thought Bollywood finally spoke about the topic of casteism, well then my friends, I am sorry to disappoint you here. Because that's the only time when you get to hear the word 'jaati'. For the rest of the time, Shashank keeps this social evil under the designer rug. You chose to make a film on caste divide but prefer to turn a blind eye towards it until the finale. Dhadak- 0, Sairat- 1.
One of the most touching scenes in Sairat is when Archie decides to leave Parshya after he humiliates and slaps her in public out of jealousy and insecurity. She sits in a train to go back home when a blind beggar couple comes to her seeking alms. Parshya on the other hand, after failing to locate Archie tries to hang himself but immediately shrugs off the thought. That's the moment when they realize that they are truly in love with each other and decide to wade through all their imperfections and misunderstandings.
Shashank replaces this iconic scene with a mere dialogue exchange between Madhukar and Parthavi near the Hoogly river. It simply fails to tug your heartstrings unlike Sairat.
The Final Word
Last but not the least, the climax. When your eyes fall on Parshya and Archie's dead bodies lying in blood and their baby walking into the room to discover the horror and then leaving behind his tiny, bloody footprints outside, the gut-wrenching silence shakes you to the core. It comes across a slap on the face!
Shashank fiddles with the climax and gives his own take. But intead ends up confusing honour killing with revenge. If Sairat conveyed the message through its blood-curdling silence and the haunting music in the closing credits, Dhadak throws in some statistics about honour-killing.
It's almost like it finally dawned upon the filmmaker that he has goofed it up, but then realized then it's too late to be undone!
What could have been a turning point in Bollywood story-telling ends up as a lost opportunity!