It’s a tale as old as time: A boy and a girl fall in love, but the circumstances around them present obstacles that disrupt their happily ever after. In recent times, Bollywood has taken a few swings at adapting the idea of forbidden love to more modern and relatable contexts with films like “Ishaqzaade” and “Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela.” This year, it’s Dharma Productions and director Shashank Khaitan that have re-envisioned this evergreen subject for the big screen with the film “Dhadak,” starring Ishaan Khatter and presenting Janhvi Kapoor in her debut.
While riffing on popular tropes of tragic love stories, the film is an adaptation of the 2016 film “Sairat,” which earned critical acclaim for its authentic portrayal of the challenges of an oppressive caste system and became the highest grossing Marathi film of all time.
In “Dhadak,” Madhukar (portrayed by Khatter) is the son of a restaurant owner in Udaipur who falls in love with his college classmate Parthavi (played by Kapoor), a young woman from a powerful political family of a higher caste. Their first experience of true love makes life feel magical, especially with a backdrop as breathtaking as Udaipur, but as their relationship develops, reality sets in. The rules of society and the expectations of their families attempt to keep them apart, putting their commitment to each other to a dangerous test.
The biggest problem facing “Dhadak” is that of comparison. The filmmakers surely must have realized the film would be compared to its Marathi predecessor. Also, Kapoor is the daughter of legendary late actress Sri Devi, with whom she shares a strikingly obvious resemblance. Khatter is the younger half-brother of actor Shahid Kapoor, who has made a name for himself through memorable roles and his skilled dancing abilities. All parties involved are left with large shoes to fill.
The most disappointing element of the film was the screenplay, written by Khaitan. It feels choppy and scattered, especially in the second half. The film runs about 150 minutes, yet the time is not used effectively.
A good portion of the first half of the film is spent going back and forth between Parthavi and Madhukar as she challenges him to win her affection, but there is nothing extraordinary about the way the characters are written or the relationship they share, other than their commitment to stay together. However, there are a few heartwarming moments between the two leads that will bring a smile to your face and remind you of your own first love.
Though the film is titled “Dhadak,” meaning heartbeat, it’s really the heart that is missing from the film. Even Madhukar’s favorite uncle, who tries to open their eyes to the repercussions of choosing to love each other, can’t be bothered to house the young, scared lovers because his pregnant wife doesn’t want additional stress before giving birth. Madhukar’s friends vanish from the film at one point, and when they reappear, they don’t play any crucial part in the plot. The loyal bond of friendship from “Sairat” is completely lost in this adaptation, which is surprising because Khaitan’s previous films, “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania” and “Badrinath Ki Dulhnia,” were appreciated for the heart of the characters and of the stories themselves.
And if the heart is in the details, those are missing as well. While Udaipur is beautifully captured in the film, it’s the small details emphasized in “Sairat” – like the family pictures on the wall at the end of the film – that makes the audience care about the fate of the characters.
“Dhadak” plays up the shock value, and glossiness is clearly more important than creating an authentic reality. Their smartphones and beautiful, neatly pressed clothing make it easily forgettable that Parthavi and Madhu come from different castes and financial backgrounds. Because of this, the ending seems out of place, falling flat rather than hitting hard. The choice to change the ending from the original was both unnecessary and puzzling.
However, “Dhadak” is still worth a watch for a few reasons. The lead performances by Kapoor and Khatter are promising, though one clearly shines more than the other in this film. Khatter is able to evoke an emotional response, demonstrating maturity and impressive acting skills.
Kapoor, on the other hand, has trouble acting convincingly in the emotional scenes, contributing to the faulty ending, but she shows potential for greater work in future roles as she experiences more life, refines her skills and evolves as an actress. There is no doubt that she is captivating to watch on screen, and together, Kapoor and Khatter have a chemistry that makes you want to root for them — to a point.
Lastly, the music and background score give life to “Dhadak” and is likely to be the part of the film that you revisit more than once. “Dhadak” is a film to watch on a rainy day when you have nothing else to do, but it is the young leads that you will remember, eagerly awaiting what they do next.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.