“Dhadak”… The biggest sin of this ‘Sairat’ remake is its blandness

Posted on July 21, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

You can read my review of Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat here — so I’m not going to cover the basics, again. With Dhadak, directed by Shashank Khaitan, I did not expect anything close to Sairat — nothing in this director’s career has suggested he’s capable of channelling that kind of rage and passion and despair. (Khaitan is a competent bathroom singer. You can’t expect him, overnight, to become Rafi.) But equally important, I was not interested in a faithful remake of Sairat. I’ve already seen the original. Why would I watch it all over again, with just different people mouthing different lines in different settings? My hope for Dhadak, therefore, was that it would give me a glammed-up young-love story, like the very films Sairat subverted: like Bobby or Love Story, but with a bit of rootedness. To achieve honesty in that OTT mode is not easy, and I thought Manjule’s strong foundation and Dharma Productions’ money would give us the kind of new-star-kids romance we haven’t seen in a while.

But Dhadak is unforgivably bland. Every adapter picks and chooses the things he wants from the source material, so I wasn’t exactly crushed that the caste factor was smoothed out into an “honour killings” angle. But even such a development has to register at a primal level, otherwise we are just watching a fashion parade. Dhadak is set in Udaipur, which, of course, means bandhni-wearing people going thaare-mhaare. (It’s like how a south Indian household is unimaginable without Kanjeevaram-draped wives and husbands with sacred ash on the forehead.) It goes on. When the story moves to Kolkata, we get a mention of maach. Some film industries deploy armies of skilled workers to create a world. Bollywood settles for name-dropping. We see the leads — Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor) and Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter) — “suffer”. We don’t sense it, not even when Parthavi is terrorised by a… lizard. Don’t laugh. This happens with rich people, whose houses don’t have lizards.

So the only matter of interest is: How is Sridevi’s daughter? Not bad at all, I’d say. She’s shaky in the emotional stretches (especially the end, where she looks frozen), but in the scenes where her character toys with Madhukar, there’s the sense she’s enjoying these adaa-s. She doesn’t overplay it. If nothing else, based on Dhadak, we may have a good commercial-film heroine, the kind of actress we thought Sonakshi Sinha would become after Dabangg. The scene where Parthavi gives Madhukar her telephone number made me smile. That’s the film I wanted Dhadak to be. Ishaan has one mode: boyish eagerness. But he’s not bad, either. Given the perfunctory writing and direction, they do about as well as you can expect. But then, who would have been a good choice to Bollywoodise Sairat? Ali Abbas Zafar, who brought a fine Old Bollywood sensibility to Gunday and Sultan? Dhadak left me wondering at the irony that, in the most archetypal sense, Nagraj Manjule has made a better Bollywood movie than Bollywood does these days.

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi