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No Spark No Fire

Saturday, July 21, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Shashank Khaitan
Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter, Ashutosh Rana, Kharaj Mukherjee and others
Rating: * *

There was a reason why Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi film Sairat was such a big hit. It took typical Bollywoodian young love tropes and pushed them into the muck of rural reality, where caste and class differences are so pronounced, that the smallest ember of rebellion can lead to a conflagration.

Karan Johar and his director have pulled out Sairat from that ditch, dusted it down, prettified and made Dhadak so bland and fake, that it is neither a respectful remake of Sairat, nor a blazing departure. Bollywood simply does not know how the other half lives and makes no effort to understand. Caste was the big issue in the Marathi film, in Dhadak there is a throwaway line about the girl belonging to a higher caste. But how much lower is the boy’s caste, is never explained.

The problem with making a film with star kids is that you can’t show them in really squalid surroundings, and god forbid, they should have to live in a hut even on screen!

So, Madhukar (Khatter) is the lively son of a lakeside restaurant owner in touristy Udaipur (makes for pretty visuals), not poor by any stretch. Parthvi (Janhvi Kapoor) is the daughter of a princely hotel owner (Ashutosh Rana), the stereotyped, bloodthirsty Rajput seen in so many films. He is an aspiring MLA, who does not stop in playing dirty with the opposition candidate. In that milieu, the women are repositories of the clan’s izzat, and would not be paraded around like Parthvi is; she would be leading a sheltered existence quite aware of her place in the family hierarchy.

But she is seen as a perky, flirty young woman, who has no idea when she proclaims her love for the already bedazzled Madhu, that it will imperil their lives. The two are forced to flee from her father’s murderous goons, including cops on the payroll. But capturing the tragedy of their situation or the despair of exile is beyond the scope of this film. They end up in Kolkata, where an avuncular lodge owner-- named Sachin Bhowmik (Kharaj Mukherjee) for some reason, after a prolific screenwriter-- offers them a tiny room and gets a restaurant job for Madhu; meanwhile his wife gets a call-centre job for Parthvi. (In the original she got work in a factory and he with a roadside stall.)

Far from suffering, they look like they are going through some minor discomfort; to keep them company, his two irritating friends also turn up, not in the last rancorous about the fact that the runaway lovebirds wrecked their lives too. None of them can return to their families in Udaipur, but, hey, no worries, life in Kolkata is a picnic!

There was really no reason for making this watered down film (with some of Ajay-Atul's orignal music), which is also boring and lacking the spark the fresh leads of Sairat had brought to the screen. Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor seen to have been given no other brief than to look cute and get teens into the multiplex— he at least aims to get some depth into his part, she just pouts and sulks through it all.

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