Five years back, I stepped into a theatre in Hyderabad to watch a Marathi film called 'Sairat'. I had heard about the immense love the film was getting from the audience - not just in Maharashtra but also in other states where it had been released. I had not even seen the trailer of the film and went into the theatre without any pre-conceived notions. Three hours later, I walked out of the theatre and resolved to catch up on Marathi cinema. That was the kind of impact the film had on me. 'Sairat' has already been remade into a few languages and now, it has a Hindi adaptation in the form of 'Dhadak'.
Madhukar (Ishaan), a teenage boy from a lower caste family is besotted with Parthvi (Janhvi), an upper-caste girl from a wealthy political family. A few attempts by Madhukar at drawing Parthvi's attention towards him bears fruit when she, too, finds herself drawn towards him. When Madhukar's father (Govind Pandey) gets a whiff of the romance brewing between the two, he strongly advices him to stay away from Parthvi as it would only end up getting him into trouble. Madhukar promises his dad that he will keep distance from her but fails to keep that promise for long. Madhukar and Parthvi's love gets stronger with time and it puts them in a situation which leaves them with no choice apart from eloping away from their families.
In its three hour long runtime, 'Sairat' wonderfully brought to the fore the kind of issues a lot of young couples face when they fall in love in a largely orthodox country like India. The film touched upon subjects like caste prejudices and honour killings in a nuanced manner that came across on the screen effectively. 'Dhadak' is shorter by forty minutes. That gives Shashank Khaitan, who apart from directing the film has also adapted the script in Hindi, lesser time to explore all these elements. This costs the film dearly as a lot of events do not unfold in a seamless manner. This is in sharp contrast to 'Sairat' where every scene seemed believable and relatable. There was a natural and organic flow in the screenplay of 'Sairat'. The basic plotline was bereft of any surprises or novelty and it was writer-director Nagraj Manjule's treatment of the written material and hiss eye for detail that made all the difference. In 'Dhadak', some of the crucial sequences look staged or superficial. While 'Sairat' brought out the caste politics in the situations very well, in this film we are reminded of it only when the hero's dad says repeatedly 'woh unchi jaati ke log hain' (lit: they belong to a higher caste).
Shashank has made two vastly engaging films ('Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania' and 'Badrinath Ki Dulhania') in the past. He was solely responsible for the script of those films as well. This time, he was given the responsibility of adapting the script of a much loved film. When the film was announced, some people feared that being a Dharma Production, 'Dhadak' would have a more upscale look to it which would take away the essence of its original source material away. There are a few things that would definitely give these people's fears some validation. In the original, the lead actor belonged to a poverty stricken family. In this film, he belongs to a family that owns a restaurant. While the lead pair landed up in a tiny house in a slum in the original, here they manage to find shelter in a hostel. But, Shashank has used incorporated these change quite convincingly. Despite 'Dhadak' not matching up to cinematic splendour that 'Sairat' offered, the film is replete with several moments that alternate between showing the resplendence of young romance and the trials and tribulations of falling in love in a country like ours. The lead pair, on their part, follow the instructions of their director well and contribute significantly towards bringing those moments alive on screen. Ishaan, who made a condiment debut earlier this year in Majid Majidi's 'Beyond The Clouds', shows yet again that he is truly a fine performer. Janhvi is easy on the eyes and acts well too. That anglicised accent needs to go though.
'Dhadak' is not a patch on 'Sairat'. If you have seen the far more superlative original, it is difficult not to draw comparisons between the two. Having said that, as a standalone film 'Dhadak' is far from being disengaging and manages to keep you entertained throughout most of its duration. The ones who have not seen the original are bound to enjoy it more than the ones who have.