With a focus on making the story cinematic, Dhadak loses its heart, wrath and social urgency

Societal opposition, manifesting itself through angry parents, have formed the backbone of classic love stories. In Sairat (2016), filmmaker Nagraj Manjule took the tried-and-tested Romeo and Juliet formula and placed it in a setting where the conflict rose from caste and socio-economic divide, firmly rooted in a region and its culture. The Marathi film’s Hindi adaptation, Dhadak, finds this resistance in class divide (between a heritage-haveli-residing girl and a boutique-cafe-running boy), mentions of ‘oonchi jaati’ (high caste) by the boy’s father and political campaigns where the girl’s neta father declares, “Udaipur ki izzat uske sanskaaron mein hai (the honour of Udaipur lies in its values)”. Filmmaker Shashank Khaitan displays a commitment to societal resistance but shows no interest in the social iniquity on whose back this extravagance is built.

The relevance of a love story like Dhadak lies in how relatable it can be, especially at a fickle-minded time where the idea of love isn’t limited to one true soulmate, even among the teens. But the film does very little to establish that connect, where love for the couple is at first sight. The detachment has little to do with its traditionally Bollywood larger-than-life format — which in numerous other cases has managed to make a film evocative — but more to do with the film’s emphasis on aesthetics than actual character-building. For instance, you understand that Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor) feels trapped in her ivory tower only when she confides in Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter) on the banks of Lake Pichola. Till then you barely get a sense of her stifling life under a tyrannical father and patriarchal brother.


  • Director: Shashank Khaitan
  • Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter, Ashutosh Rana, Ankit Bisht, Shridhar Watsar , Aditya Kumar, Kharaj Mukherjee
  • Story line: A young couple elopes from home in pursuit of a life together

Universally, teenage love is rebellious, radical and effective because of its tenderness. That sense of fragility is missing in Dhadak’s narrative. Instead, there’s a feeling of artificiality to their romance in Udaipur and when they elope to Kolkata, the realisation that ‘one can’t live only on love and fresh air’ isn’t hard-hitting. Even in tribulations, the film’s visuals are ones of grandeur, bordering on exoticising Kolkata, instead of depicting hardships and struggle. As well chosen as the Bengali metropolis is, with its burgeoning Marwari population, the film doesn’t do justice to its seemingly clever intentions. Instead, in the city, they are sheltered by a Christian couple who take them to church daily. Parthavi’s introduction to the Bible and morning mass makes you wonder if there is more to it than meets the eye.

In their ups and downs, Kapoor and Khatter are visibly comfortable with each other but as individual actors, they dodder. Even though they embody ordinary characters and are fresh faces, one can’t help but look at them as celebrities rather than actors — already. As for the aesthetics — which appears to be a priority — the film does have cinematic flair, but with a passionless and exotic gaze. The music finds its origins in Sairat, barring Dhadak’s title track, which manages to stand out, both in impact and picturisation. Despite a heavy focus on the visuals, there’s frequent brand placement, which you would least expect from a Dharma production, with a lavish budget at disposal. But the brands floating on the screen are a good reminder of how a studio takes a piece of art and turns it into business.

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