Ishaan and Janhvi have chemistry but lack charisma Image: Twitter/Dharma Productions
If there's a debate that can put the chicken and the egg argument to shame, it's whether to compare a film to the original or not. Don't compare it to the book, they say. Don't compare it to the film it is copied from, they say. But how do you control that involuntary 'tch tch' when you see a particular scene unfold and are reminded of how effortlessly it was done in the original? Well, they don't tell you that. And that's exactly the case in this Sairat vs Dhadak debate.
Ishaan Khattar as Madhukar is no Akash Thosar (who played Parshya). Where Akash's innocent soul-piercing stares at his beloved stole our hearts, Ishaan's come across as borderline creepy. Full points for his inherent goofiness, though. Debutante Janhavi Kapoor as Parthavi, on the other hand, has no such inheritance to boast of, except for a sweet note to mom Sridevi added in the start credits of the film before Dharma Production's "We miss you" note to Yash Johar. What Janhvi lacks in acting skills, she makes up with her makeup — contoured and highlighted to a point that Kim Kardashian would go "Daymn, girl!" She does reluctantly pull up her metaphorical acting socks in the second half, but the damage is done.
To be honest, it is most unfair for Shashank Khaitan who had the task to fill Nagraj Manjule's (director, Sairat) rather large shoes. Although he's pretty much the master of the boy-meets-girl-and-trouble-hits-paradise-but-life-is-still-kitschy genre, Sairat was a coat too big for his cloth.
But kitsch, he did give us. Much like his previous outings — Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania — Dhadak is a fashion statement worthy of Lakme Fashion Week. But the screenplay is clumsy — he hurls in Bandhni, Ikat, Phulkari, Kalamkari, sequins, zari all into one, with little thread left to tie them together, just like the film itself.
The problem with Dhadak is that you go into the theatre knowing how it's going to end. So, it doesn't even matter. Now, it's just a hurdle race to see how this director-actor trio performs against Sairat's high score.
And then the storyline takes a detour. The conflict of the second-half of Sairat that still makes me bawl like a baby is missing from Dhadak. Archie (played by Rinku Rajguru) doesn't know how to peel garlic, let alone cooking, but Parthavi is a closet cook and has no problem doing the dishes after either. Is there a subliminal message there that women need to know their kitchen shit?
When Archie talks to her colleague about the family she's left behind, you can see her face go from feeling proud to clouded with regret, and finally overshadowed by dejection for Parshya. But Parthavi has no such humane moments, she cries but doesn't leave Madhukar's side — idealistic, but not realistic.
Sairat's riches-to-rags spectrum was much greater than Dhadak's, and that made it difficult for me to sympathise with the lovers.
Ishaan and Janhvi have chemistry, but they lack charisma. If only Shashank and Karan Johar had not raised the scale of the film, it might have worked better. Now, Ishaan and Janhvi lack Akash and Rinku's simplicity, too, and end up being reduced to wannabe Varun Dhawans and Alia Bhatts of the Dulhania series, which shouldn't really be the goal of any actor.
The story of Dhadak has been credited to Nagraj Manjule and I'd like to believe that he's currently polishing his very large shoes with a smug smirk on his face because he may not know if the egg came first or the chicken, but he knows who won the original vs replica debate.