I took the trouble of watching first day first show of 'Dhadak'.
If you're reading this review, I assume you've watched or heard of Sairat - a sleeper hit that shook people up from their slumber. Made on a budget of 4 crores, the film went on to earn rave reviews and more than 100 crores at the box office.
Unlike most Indian films that claim to be about an ‘issue’, it does not take you to be stupid. It does not have long, dimly lit shots of philosophizing characters.
When I first heard that Karan Johar had bought the rights to the film, I was shocked. This doesn't seem like his film. May be Prakash Jha, may be Madhur Bhandarkar. But Karan Johar??
The two couldn’t be more different from each other. Nagraj Manjule is considered a unique, important voice in Indian cinema. Karan Johar is an expert in packaging love in a donut box.
Manjule’s films are about the dust, the fields, and the mud. Karan Johar’s films have the leads flying in to their ancestral homes on private choppers, and mothers who receive Bluetooth alerts when their sons reach the door. Manjule’s films are about society, Karan Johar’s films are from teenage fantasies. It is unlikely that Johar would pick this movie to remake.
That the film is a launch vehicle, is clear from the very first frame. Back in the 90s, you could sense if the actor was a newcomer. There was a certain awkwardness - debutants would either hold themselves back, or go full-on Dileep Kumar all over your ass. The other side of the nepotism debate is that today’s debutants are much more prepared than the debutants that we grew up with. The leads - winners of this year’s Karan Johar Bollywood Lottery - put in an earnest performance. Ishaan Khattar is all eagerness and earnestness, but Jahnvi Kapoor suffers from the Karanjoharisation of her character. It is difficult to take her seriously when she wakes up from bed in a poor house, her make-up spot-on, her hair perfect.
The film also provides an amusing peek into Karan Johar’s idea of poverty - a domain he rarely enters in his films. The leads look perfectly presentable at all times, and work in a call center! Kolkata is the cleanest I’ve ever seen it look. The icing on the cake (or should I say ‘the frosting on the pastry?) is a shot where Jahnvi is washing the clothes in a bucket, and hanging them to dry. We see that the shirt is from H&M. Hmmm…
It is to Karan Johar and director Shashank Khaitan’s credit that they do not try to water down the story, or escape the uncomfortable bits. But the reason Dhadak appears insipid instead of inspired, is the lack of any innovation. Whether you agree with the film's politics or not, Sairat knew how to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Shots rooted in extreme realism were juxtaposed with colorful, glamorous, slow-mo shots of the leads. The film was unpredictable, whimsical and indulgent.
Dhadak unfortunately, does not possess that quality. It does not stick out. It could have been set in any other city, any other love story. Any other film. The original had a stellar supporting cast; here, we are supposed to laugh at a dwarf who is made to sing, dance, is slapped, poked and abused. Just like any other Bollywood film.
Even the film’s message is not about caste discrimination but is watered down and replaced by ‘honour killing’ - a wider, vaguer concept, much like the film itself.
Ultimately, Dhadak feels like a pani puri. From a 5-star hotel. The ones in which the waiters wear gloves and serve you in disposable paper cups with spoons. The taste is the same, but the essence is missing. There are no germs, there is no brashness, that extra dash of lemon, or a careless spilling of chutney. It feels un-authentic. The kind of Indian fast food prepared for foreign tourists.
In the end, DHADAK ends up being too dramatic a name for the film. It should have been called Cardiovascular Functioning.
It’s that kind of a film.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Hriday Ranjan
Cover photo credit: bizasia.com