Dhadak review: Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter film is refreshing but weak

Dhadak Review: The film is set in Udaipur where an upper caste girl (Janhvi Kapoor) falls in love with a lower caste boy (Ishaan Khatter).

Dhadak
Cast: 
Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter
Director: Shashank Khaitan
Rating: 2.5/5

Udaipur in Rajasthan functions as a battleground in Dhadak, the remake of Marathi hit Sairat (2016). Beneath its shining heritage hotels breathes a population that’s not free to fall in love, at least not outside the bounds set generations ago. The high domes of erstwhile palaces and the deep lakes are only a facade to conceal the real identity of its people that is defined by caste.

Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor), daughter of hotelier and political strongman Ratan Singh (Ashutosh Rana), refuses to abide by these rules.

She is strong-willed, evocatively boisterous and definitely not subtle. In true ‘90s style, she taunts and challenges Madhukar’s (Ishaan Khatter) masculinity and the lower caste boy decides to tread a difficult path. It’s a familiar set-up. We have seen many such stories, but there is a reason Sairat clicked immediately and Dhadak lacks that instant appeal. Actually, it’s the difference between what you know and what you feel.

Sairat might have impressed Shashank Khaitan, the director, for its symbolism and it’s penetrating yet unpretentious tone, but when he decided to remake it, he focused on aesthetically shot scenes instead of building up a life-threatening conflict. The complexity of relationships in Sairat was more natural and it went well with the locales. Nagraj Manjule, the director of Sairat, emphasized on getting the milieu right. He set things up step by step.

First, Archie and Parshya met, weighed up their options and then jumped into it with everything they had, only to find that reality is not rose-tinted. The adaptation suits Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter in the beginning. An easy-breezy love story makes the audience laugh, mostly because of Ishaan’s innocent frolics. He keeps it simple by not going overboard. He is not filmy. In fact, he is like any other urban teenager who aspires for better things in life and isn’t on the same wavelength as his parents.

He understands social intricacies but decides to look beyond them. Another tonal difference between Sairat and Dhadak is its treatment of male leads. The shy Parshya was a by-product of years of oppression, but Ishaan’s Madhu is more or less vocal. He is from a well-off family who never expects things to escalate beyond their control. How closely you witnessed the harsh realities of life formed the base of Sairat.

Dhadak tries to replicate it but doesn’t go all guns blazing to address pertinent questions related to caste. It’s more of a class distinction than caste in Dhadak. Shashank Khaitan’s film has a gloss and brightness. Vishnu Rao’s postcard images in Dhadak are soothing, charming and in sync with Dharma Productions’ popular perception.

Janhvi’s accent aside, she has been beautifully presented. It seems like a very urban view at times, but then Janhvi and Ishaan were probably misfits for a rural setting. Interestingly, the songs work in Dhadak, but emotional scenes don’t, especially in the first half. Humour also follows a familiar curve. When a drenched boy encircles the girl in a pond with eyes passionately locked, you know it’s going to end with him falling in love. Old Bollywood tricks are leisurely employed.

Further, Dhadak is not about caste ideologies and how people are defined by them. Though Khaitan has tried to deliver subtle messages by showing Janhvi irritated when she fails to get simple household chores right or by presenting Ishaan as a working-class hardworking youngster, in the end, all this boils down to launching two potential future stars. Credit should be given to Ishaan, who seems to be enjoying the situation. He displays a wide range of emotions but the lack of depth in the narrative holds him back.

Janhvi’s character, on the other hand, isn’t exactly a feminist, but a tinge of rebellion is always visible. She is better in scenes with typical Bollywood arches like a build-up to song sequences or hero-heroine dialogues but fails whenever it’s about enacting pain induced by personal experiences.

Actually, what hampers Dhadak the most is the pressure to look striking. This becomes really funny when Ishaan and Janhvi are expected to lead a tough, middle-class life in Kolkata. There are good tunes thrown in between but they don’t serve the purpose as Dhadak, overall, barely skims beyond the obvious. At 137-minute duration, it’s not as powerful as the original, but could be a good watch for audiences looking for decent fresh faces.