Remakes are a difficult path to tread upon. Especially if its premise is borrowed from a blockbuster film like Sairat which wasn't just a Marathi film but had eventually turned into a phenomenon. When Shashank Khaitan chose to adapt this film as Dhadak, people expressed divided opinions. Some felt the classic shouldn't be touched, others said a retelling of the tale on a larger canvas would work in its favour. So, does the film-maker succeed in winning over your hearts? Well, the answer is both yes and no.
Instead of the interiors of Maharashtra, Shashank's doomed love story shifts its base to Udaipur, Rajasthan where Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter) loses his heart to an upper-caste girl Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor) who is the daughter of an affluent political kingpin. Eventually, she reciprocates his feelings. While the young hearts beat for each other, the caste divide raises its ugly head and forces them to take a bold step against the societal norms. Will their forbidden love stand the test of time? More importantly, will they have a happily ever after?
Tragic stories of doomed love have always been popular in Hindi cinema. But rarely does one get to watch a film which talks about love between castes! You can almost count them on your fingertips- Masaan, Ankur, Acchut Kanya amongst the few ones. Another film is Bimal Roy's 1959 classic 'Sujata' which had a Dalit girl (Nutan) falling in love with a Brahmin boy (Sunil Dutt). Of course, this film had the prejudice overcome by the lovers towards the end. In that way, Dhadak is brave enough to address inter-caste love in a more realistic way.
But before you break into cheers, it breaks my heart to say that while Dhadak is a well-intent film, it eventually succumbs to the usual rich girl-poor guy trope. Shashank ends up brushing the topic of caste under the rug for most of the time until the film reaches the climax. On the other hand, that's exactly where Sairat scored brownie points. Also, the filmmaker skipped a few sequences from the original which I felt was crucial to depict Madhukar and Parthavi's starkly contrast personalities and upbringing.
You crave for Sairat's rawness and simplicity in Ishaan Khatter-Janhvi Kapoor starrer Dhadak but find none! The frothy first half does make for an engaging watch for Ishaan's lovely camaraderie with his friends and his budding romance with Janhvi. But post interval, when the film is supposed to go high on intensity, things start crumbling. The depressing reality is supposed to hit you hard. But oops, we ain't so lucky on that front!
SPOILER ALERT- Shashank tweaks the climax to prevent the film from being a replica of the original. For me, this was one of the biggest letdowns. While the climax does manage to jolt you; it fails to have a lingering effect, unlike Sairat, where those 10 seconds of gut-wrenching silence after the tiny, bloody footprint cuts of the child leaves you numb for a very long time along with the haunting theme music during the closing credits.
Sairat's Parshya was a lanky lad, the kind who would get bashed all the time. But here, the camera doesn't fail to give us a glimpse of Ishaan's six-pack abs even if it's for a few fleeting seconds. Instead of the slums and shanty, you get to see a decent looking lodge. The exquisite harem salwars and malmal ghagras make way for simple but pretty kurtis. Well, that's Karan Johar's version of poverty for you in the second half.
Speaking about the performances, Ishaan Khatter is one of the reasons why you would want to forgive KJo & Co. for their flaws in the film. After a terrific debut in Majid Majidi's Beyond The Clouds, the young lad pulls off yet another winning act. From ecstasy, sorrow, sentimental to comedy, Ishaan has a tight hold on all the emotions to make you fall in love with his character Madhukar.
Janhvi Kapoor has a great screen presence and does a fairly good job as a debutante when it comes to displaying her acting chops. However, there is still room for improvement especially when it comes to dialogue delivery. Having said, one of the strongest points of Sairat was Rinki Rajguru's character Archie who was hailed as the 'hero' of the film. In comparison, Janhvi's Parthavi stands pale when it comes to characterization.
Sridhar Watsar who plays Madhu's sidekick Purshottam tickles your funny bone. Ankit Bisht fares well. Unfortunately, a powerful actor like Ashutosh Rana doesn't get much to chew upon.
Monisha Baldawa's editing goes well with the film. The camerawork by Vishnu Rao perfectly captures the beautiful locales of Rajasthan and the hustle-bustle of Kolkata.
Musically, Dhadak manages to leave a mark. Ajay-Atul have cleverly recreated Zingaat and Yeh Lagala from the Marathi version as Pehli Baar here. But our pick from the album is clearly the soul-stirring Dhadak title track which leaves you impressed to the core. Vaare Re too makes for a good listen.
At an important juncture in the film, Janhvi's Pathavi tells Ishaan Khatter's Madhukar, "Bari Kothi Nahi Chaiye, Mahne Mara Ghar Chaiye, Apna Ghar." That exactly sums up the feeling for those who have watched Sairat before. Dhadak gives you all the grandeur and some noteworthy performances, but fails to keep the soul of Sairat intact. On the other hand, those who haven't seen the Nagraj Manjule directorial might end up accepting Dhadak with open arms with its cleverly-plotted climax. I am going with 2.5 stars.