With Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter’s Dhadak, small town will once again come back to prominence

Small towns have untouched and unique stories. Dhadak will bring back the focus on such stories.

With Dhadak releasing this week, the focus on small-town romance should be back, but why does Bollywood value such themes so much? The Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter-starter is set in Udaipur. One reason could be the need for new scripts. For decades, Mumbai ruled the themes of Hindi films. It was either about a new guy coming to megacity to change his fortune or it was an already established ruthless business functioning out of the beach city.

Mumbai as a city of dreams was beautifully used in Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya. The striking feature of Satya’s character was that he didn’t have a backstory. He was from nowhere yet he imbibed the essence of Mumbai, a fast-paced city with millions running to gather more gold.

Then it was replaced by Delhi, a city with a dark underbelly and fascinating vibrancy. It was rugged, aspirational and politically charged. It was also the time when many actors, directors, and technicians from Delhi started finding prominence in the film city.

Things changed one more time in the last couple of years. Landing a job in Bollywood became more accessible for writers from smaller towns. Then there were filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj who knew the nuances of small-town stories and their emotional impact on multiplex audiences.

The trend continues and a glance at films released in the last two years reveals that even big pocket filmmakers are willing to invest in small town stories. Among the successful films released in 2017, projects like Secret Superstar, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Jolly LLB 2 were just a few of the films based in small towns. Even a substantial part of films like Raees and Barielly Ki Barfi was set in semi-urban areas. And, these are only among box office hits.

Shashank Khaitan, the director of Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Dhadak, said in an earlier interview that setting up films in a small town brings a fresh feel to it. He said, “As a result, the language, milieu and characters become more appealing too.”

In 2018, films such as Raid and PadMan showcase non-metropolitan culture. However, it may change soon as most of the commercially successful films in 2018 belong to big cities. For example, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Sanju, Race 3 and Veere Di Wedding have their base in big cities.

But small towns have stories and they’re unexplored. Plus, the filmmakers have found a way to make semi-urban and rural areas as lustrous and bright as big cities. On top of it, cities like Mumbai and Delhi have almost completed their transition. The cycle of change has come a full circle, but it’s still in the nascent stage in smaller places. Such a situation generates paradoxes that further inspire good stories, and that’s what matters.