Janhvi Kapoor's much-hyped Bollywood adaptation just doesn't leave you feeling like you've been kicked in the gut
Dhadak makes a gritty story glossy, which was a bad decision
In 2016, Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (Wild) went on to become the highest-grossing Marathi-language film of all time – and even won its lead actress, Rinku Rajguru, a National Film Award in the Special Mention category. But it is safe to say that Janhvi Kapoor’s much-hyped Bollywood debut in Shashank Khaitan’s Dhadak (Heartbeat) will be winning no such accolades.
There is really nothing extraordinary about the story – rich girl Parthavi Singh (Kapoor) falls in love with poor boy Madhukar Bagla (Ishan Khattar). Her father (Ashutosh Rana) leaves no stone unturned to nip the romance in the bud, but the two young lovers run away to the big city to make a new life, facing many challenges in the process. What is meant to make the biggest impact, however, is the film’s shocking climax – which traverses the taboo subject of honour killings – the result of casteism in India.
Barring a few disparate scenes, Dhadak faithfully follows the template of 2016’s Sairat. That said, the rustic little village is swapped out for the picturesque lake town of Udaipur in Rajasthan, and the big city action is set in Kolkata rather than Hyderabad. Had these been the only changes to the script, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but in making the film glossy, the director has lost its charm.
Manjule’s film was gritty, realistic, made on a shoestring budget and used students instead of established actors. Its layered portrayal of caste issues made it seem more real, evoked sympathy for the lead characters and, as a result, made more of an impact. Dhadak on the other hand, fails to form that connect with the audience. All you are left feeling is mild sadness.
The first half of the movie is enjoyable, though, as the romance builds up between the lead pair. Khattar impresses with his performance and his ability to showcase a range of emotions, while Kapoor needs to work on her acting skills for her next outing. Madhukar’s two friends, played by Ankit Bisht and Shridhar Watsar provide comic relief.
South Asia film
The second act is leaden. In attempting to add drama, the director seems to have gone off in different directions, and no amount of Khattar’s cute Bengali dialogue and Kapoor’s blank stares can salvage that.
While the ending is no secret, the filmmakers have given it a slight twist, so those who may have already seen the Marathi version can expect something new. Even so, it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the gut as you do at the end of Sairat. It is hard to match the heartbreaking effect of a toddler running out of the house with bloody footsteps.
Overall, it is not the worst film this year, the music is enjoyable - Zingaat is the highlight, and the character actors definitely make the film more enjoyable. But if you want to watch the better film, then watch Sairat.