Dhadak Movie Review: Janhvi and Ishaan’s film is off to a great start

All eyes have been on Dhadak for a while now. Not only does the film mark the much-awaited debut of Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s elder daughter Janhvi Kapoor, it is also the remake of Nagraj Manjule’s iconic Marathi blockbuster Sairat. Needless to say, the expectations were sky-high.

Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Kharaj Mukherjee, Shridhar Watsar, Ankit Bisht

Director: Shashank Khaitan

That scene – like many others – has been left out of Dhadak, the Hindi remake of Manjule’s excellent Marathi film from 2016 about the intensely gripping and ultimately tragic romance between a lower-caste boy and an upper-caste girl in rural Maharashtra.
Caste is a thorny, complex issue with a history of deep-rooted prejudices, injustice, and far-reaching consequences. When honestly explored, we get extraordinary stories like Sairat, Masaan, and Manjule’s own previous film Fandry. But the caste angle, evidently too hot to handle in a mainstream Bollywood film, is largely swept under the rug in Dhadak.

The story, which is robbed of texture and nuance when relocated from Bittergaon village in central Maharashtra to a tourism-brochure version of Udaipur, is centered on the romance between Madhukar aka Madhu (Ishaan Khatter) and Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor). She is the daughter of a rich, influential father who owns a hotel and has political ambitions. He is the son of middle-class parents who run a modest restaurant. Her family will have none of it. The young couple must flee.

With the caste narrative reduced to a mere footnote, the villain too Parthavi’s father (Ashutosh Rana) is at best your standard disapproving parent, a role the actor already played in the director’s previous film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania.

In the original film the action shifts to Hyderabad and the couple (Parshya and Archie) are put through the wringer as they go about building a life together. Madhu and Parthavi in Dhadak land up in Kolkata, but their struggle, relatively sanitized, can be best described as the Dharma Productions version of a hard life.

But wait, it’s not as if Dhadak is entirely a waste of time. There’s something especially refreshing about watching young, raw newcomers discover their craft… witnessing the unpredictability of a performance, a new approach to a familiar emotion. Ishaan and Janhvi have a winning, charming chemistry, and they’re both extremely watchable even if they have contrasting styles.

Ishaan, who was especially impressive in his debut film Beyond The Clouds, once again radiates warmth and innocence, and reflects both the grappling and the growing maturity of a boy on the cusp of adulthood. Janhvi, meanwhile, has less to work with, because Parthavi is never as well-defined as Archie in Sairat. But Janhvi, who’s making her debut here, has a fragility that makes her instantly endearing, and a soulful quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off her on screen.

The director utilizes them well, giving them scope to perform drama, the odd bits of comedy, and really puts their dancing skills to test in the madly infectious Zingaat number, which composers Ajay-Atul and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya successfully refashion in Hindi.

Dhadak is ultimately a homogenous Karan Johar production that offers comfort in the familiar…for those seeking it. For the rest of us, it’s just baffling why the folks involved would choose to remake a film about the horrors of caste supremacy, but erase practically every mention of caste from the film.

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