Dhadak: Janhvi Kapoor & Ishaan Khattar are the ‘next big things’

I’ve watched Sairat, and naturally, I’ll have a lot of comparisons to draw, but let’s just keep that aside for now. I’ll talk about it, but first I want to state the brilliance of Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar.

The story of Dhadak is the same as Sairat – boy and girl fall in love, are from different castes and hence there is a problem and so they elope. Madhu played by Ishaan Khattar and Parvathi played by Janhvi Kapoor (okay, I think I’ll have to talk about Sairat simultaneously) replace Parshya and Archana in the original Sairat, which was a sleeper hit. Sairat was not just a landmark in Marathi cinema, but in cinema as a whole.

Sairat was raw, innocent, and like the small village in the film, it was earthy. Dhadak, on the other hand, is much like the 2-minute sequence it has in Mumbai – it’s congested and above everything else, it doesn’t have so much time to stop and breathe. Even a city like Bombay has a heart, but unfortunately, Dhadak doesn’t. The only heart that lies in Dhadak are the brilliant performances by Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar.

It’s difficult, almost impossible to watch Dhadak without remembering Sairat. The brilliance of the Marathi film was that it was devoid of vanity. The problem with Dhadak is that it promotes vanity. In this sense, Dhadak is to Sairat was OK Jaanu was to OK Kanmani (only in this sense). We see Kapoor’s Parthavi casually roaming about in Manish Malhotra lehengas and salwar suits, even when they don’t have money. Of course, the embroidery on her kurta reduces, but it doesn’t say that she’s poor. The struggle that Madhu and Parvathi go through in the second half of the film is a very polished version of struggle. When I watched Sairat, even though I barely understand the language, I could sense Archie’s resentment, I could see that she’s uncomfortable, but Parvathi isn’t so well written. She’s given a cringe scene, but it comes and goes.

While watching Dhadak I particularly missed two scenes from Sairat. One, in which Parshya drinks water from a plastic tub but Archie cannot have it and urges him to buy her mineral water. In this very scene, both Parshya and Archie look away from each other and drink their respective waters, showing the class divide very beautifully. This scene is completely ignored in Dhadak. Madhu casually gets a bottle of mineral water for Parvathi and she drinks it. In another, before knowing her, Parshya dreams that Archie has sneaked out of her house and into his, while his parents are sleeping right beside him. The beauty of this scene is that Archie comes in a sparkly, silver dress, her hair isn’t made, but to him, she’s the most beautiful woman. In Dhadak, in her Manish Malhotra lehenga, Parvathi is beautiful to one and all.

Coming to the performances, both Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar are superstars of tomorrow. Ishaan has previously shown his skills in Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds and he doesn’t fail to wow again. He brings out the transition of Madhu very brilliantly, as he moves from being a boy madly in love to a man in despair.

Janhvi, on the other hand, is a revelation. Parvathi isn’t as written as well as Archie, in fact, she’s a weak character, but Janhvi doesn’t let that come in the way of showing her skills. The weak link in her character is that like Archie, Parvathi too is a rebel, but unlike the former, Kapoor’s character is the kinds to depend on Madhu for every little work she may have. There are moments when Kapoor steals the show, even from a brilliant Ishaan Khattar. The shrill in the voice, the rebellious attitude in her eyes and the love she has for her man, all add to her charm. In one particular scene, when Madhu and Parvathi are fighting in the middle of the streets, Kapoor’s hold over her dialogues and voice are to the T. If I may predict, Lil Miss J is the future of tinsel town, probably the next Alia Bhatt. Yes, she is as natural as Bhatt. Of course, Kapoor lacks the poise and nuance of Bhatt as an actor, but that’s something that only comes with experience.

But even such great performances cannot save a below average script. In filmmaking, writing is the key. The rest can be modulated as and when needed, but even a Ranbir Kapoor can’t deliver with a Besharam, Deepika Padukone with Chandni Chowk to China or Alia Bhatt with Shaandar. Director Shashank Khaitan changes the raw and edgy nuances of Sairat to make Dhadak a legit “Dharma Productions” film. Had Dhadak been a frame by frame remake of Sairat, I wouldn’t have complained. Even here, when he had copied situations, scenes from Sairat as they are, he succeeds in creating an impact, but the moment he goes aloof from the original, the cracks begin to show.

Also, Sairat was a film that revolved around the caste problem in India. Though Khaitan tries to touch that issue, he casually ignores it throughout the film, except these two times, when Madhu’s father says “woh ooche jaat ki hai”. This difference between Parshya and Archie was the heart and soul of Sairat, but when ignored in the lives of Madhu and Parvathi, it becomes a curse for Dhadak. I also don’t know why he changed the ending for worse. Please let me know in the comments below what you take out of it and why was it changed.

For Khaitan’s last film, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, I had said, “Director Shashank Khaitan has used the idea of feminism to show patriarchy, which is good, but there is too much of sexism and very little feminism to defy it.” Even though this film isn’t about feminism, the sexism in intact. There are instances when Khaitan shows us that Madhu is a boy, Parvathi is a girl and both of them need to be treated separately. While the former goes out to work, the latter has to stay home, cook food and wash clothes.

Like the film, the music too is not as appealing. I do not understant Marathi, but the music of Sairat was soothing, and most importantly, rooted, but that of Dhadak is made to top the charts. It is nice, but just not as much.

All in all, as a film, Dhadak didn’t impress me so much, but the performances by Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar are to look out for. They are the future of Hindi Cinema.

If I had to rate the film, Ishaan and Janhvi are 22 and 21 (respectively), which is my age. I don’t think I can ever express like them! Sad.

2 Stars

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