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Dhadak Review

T J Reddy /
Can watch again
Good for kids
Good for dates
Wait for OTT
Ah, young love! I've known it, too. In 1994, at only 5 years old, I remember watching Yamaleela on the silver screen, and I was entranced at first sight. I could not keep my eyes off it. I have loved the big screen for over two decades now and, if anything, my love for it has only increased over time. I have skipped classes and tests in school, and meetings with friends, and absorbed endless amounts of criticism in service of my first love. I was the Romeo and the screen was my Juliet - or heck, I'd follow the Dhadak route and reverse gender stereotypes just so that I could spend my time watching more movies.

With that said, I do understand why Madhukar (Ishaan Khatter) and Parthavi (Jhanvi Kapoor) have such a deep and unexplainable sense of affection for each other. But like my parents, their's too don't see fit to keep them together. Their parents use the age-old barrier of caste to drive a wedge between them. The kids almost immediately sink into despair, and the measures they take to stay together get more desperate as well. Soon after, we are subject to a tame version of both Sairat and Premisthe.

We say this because throughout its run-time Dhadak is fighting a battle with itself. The primary antagonist of the film, Ratan Singh (Ashutosh Rana), spends his time living in affluence, contesting elections and stepping down on "sub-humans" from lower classes. While none of the corrupt officials dusts many of Ratan Singh's crime scenes for prints, we can confidently say that if we did the same with Dhadak, we would find a giant Dharma Productions logo smack-bang in the middle of it. A Karan Johar production warrants gloss and fluff in exchange of grit and realism, and this overpowering need for being larger than life undermines the many subtle nuances a human story like this one requires.

Take, for example, the son of the owner of a restaurant working as a waiter in another one. Regardless of caste, the instant demotion in social strata will result in a shock. This is something most of us have experienced when we are subject to the first bout of unbridled rage from our superiors at the workplace. The feeling we experience while absorbing this moment in its entirety is personal, visceral and raw, and shows us our place in the world when we exit the comfort and protection of our homes. Dhadak shies away from these moments of discomfort and self-discovery, not by tempering them with an upbeat score or visual gags but instead eliminating them from the conversation entirely.

This is doubly frustrating because, firstly, writer/director Shashank Khaitan illustrates his handle on the finer aspects of filmmaking in the scenes that precede and follow the interval card. During these moments, the score dies down, the silence shared between the two leads is deafening, and their personal realization of the implications of their actions mimic that of the final shot in The Graduate. There is genuine craftsmanship on display in small spurts, but not enough to make the film compelling on a whole.

Secondly, Jhanvi Kapoor and, to a much larger extent, Ishaan Khatter are throwing everything including the kitchen sink at us in hoping that we empathize with their characters' plights and joys. Holding the nepotism debate at bay for the time being, this duo is a welcome addition to the world of cinema. While Kapoor has some ways to go before she matches the legendary mother, Ishaan Khatter seems more at ease as he is allowed to perform with a lot less pressure. He is both likeable and heart-breaking in all the right ways.

The shot the duo share and the expressions they portray while in a compartment of a train adds so much more to their characters than the shoddy writing ever does. Sadly, this does not extend to the other characters gracing the screen. Madhukar's and Parthavi's friends are played for laughs, and Ashutosh Rana is such a textbook pantomime villain that he comes out of the box with a handlebar moustache. This is a showcase to introduce the young actors to the Indian audience rather than a window into the ugly caste and class system that lurks in our country's underbelly, and that is exemplified by the weak and often forgettable supporting cast.

As we have now learnt, Dhadak takes the easy way out more often than not - and this extends to the movie's auditory and visual departments, too. The film rarely lets itself catch a breath as it inundates itself with score from end to end. Dhadak wants its audience a feel a certain way before something happens on screen that warrants those feelings. The overbearing score is offset by the joyous songs which are peppered with some soon-to-be-iconic shots depicting young love.

But soon enough, the shots start losing their appeal as the film makes the audiences passengers in a sight-seeing tour of Udaipur and Kolkata instead of making them live in the locales the characters inhabit. The beautiful shots never cease, and they soon become the visual embodiment of Sachin dada and Promila aunty shielding the audiences from any discomfort they might have experienced. And that makes the movie's message one to take home but makes the movie itself a take-it-or-leave-it affair.
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Dhadak (hindi) reviews
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  • Cast
    Janhvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter, Ankit Bisht, Shridhar Watsar, Godaan Kumar, Aishwarya Narkar, Aditya Kumar, Kharaj Mukherjee, Mustaqeem, Ashutosh Rana
  • Music
    Ajay-Atul, John Stewart Eduri
  • Director
    Shashank Khaitan
  • Theatres
    Not screening currently in any theatres in Hyderabad.
The Common Movie Goer on 23rd Jul 2018, 4:33am | Permalink
Who's the target audience for weepy teen (emphasis on teen) loves stories? Also, Premisthe is, hands down, one of the worst movies to have ever been made. Abomination of a movie. Premam (Telugu) and Sammohanam are how love stories should be.

Saw Mamma Mia 2 and Equalizer 2 yesterday. I had the weirdest time because I actually enjoyed the movies, but there wasn't much substance in there. Will you be reviewing either of them?

What did you think of Chinna Babu? I thought it was horrible, but I ended up watching it all the way to the end anyway. That movie felt like 4-5 episodes of a Tamil-Telugu Gemini serial were cobbled together.
TJ Reddy on 23rd Jul 2018, 6:27am | Permalink
TCMG!!!! Long time no C (C for Comment. lol)

I used to be on the same boat with teen romances too as I wasn't a huge fan of the grandad of all teen romances Romeo and Juliet. I won't defend many of them because they are very poorly constructed stories but when writers get teen romances right, they get them very right.

I once read a dissection of Romeo and Juliet which argued that their story is compelling not because they have things in common and are the ideal reflection of a romance but simply because their connection is one of unabashed emotion that you feel only when you are a teenager. The only phase in your life when you are untouched by the cynicism the world infuses into you and you simply are in love because your biological processes say you are.

The fact that this simplicity is used as cionduit to tell stories about the evils of casteism and religious bigotry is what makes these movies bearable. Sairat (the film Dhadak is based on) and Premisthe too has a whole lot of this undercurrent because the guys who made those movies lived those lives. The director of Sairat is a Dalit and the unique perspective he offers comes in because it is his very personal take on life as a member of the lower caste.

The same goes for Pa. Ranjith (Kaala, Kabali, Madras etc). He is from the Dalit community too and hence his unique worldview and political inclinations imbue his art with a sense of purpose that a glossy Karan Johar produced effort just can't muster. And hence, many teen romances with no subtext feel super hollow.

Neither Mamma Mia nor The Equalizer is released where I live just yet and neither is Chinna Babu. Hope to catch them soon.
Pasya on 3rd Aug 2018, 10:37pm | Permalink
"The director of Sairat is a Dalit and the unique perspective he offers comes in because it is his very personal take on life as a member of the lower caste.

The same goes for Pa. Ranjith (Kaala, Kabali, Madras etc). He is from the Dalit community too and hence his unique worldview and political inclinations imbue his art with a sense of purpose that a glossy Karan Johar produced effort just can't muster."
-This was exactly what I said as I watched Sairat, to my husband the other day!! He was not quite pleased with my comment - but I am glad someone shares that view! Btw, I did not like Sairat. It is painfully long (for me) and found it largely boring. I started liking it after they reached Hyderabad, which is already half way down!
TJ Reddy on 9th Aug 2018, 10:34am | Permalink
I understand someone finding Sairat's first half boring. It takes its time and in the grand scheme of things what it achieves narratively can be completed in half the time it actually takes but the world building and immersion the film creates is very good.

And glad to see we concur on the fatal flaw of Dhadak
The Common Movie Goer on 23rd Jul 2018, 9:29am | Permalink
I actually wanted to write a detailed review for Sammohanam but I just didn't think my review would do justice. I loved that movie to death, even though it had its issues. Issues that the director actually owned up to in an interview with TNR (Youtube personality, great researcher, arrogant interviewer).

Ever since then, I haven't too many telugu movies. I don't think many have even been released in the first place. I tried watching Tej, I Love You, but the movie seemed a little boring.

Work's been crazy as well, I just hit a personal milestone by working a 90-hour week for the first time. Whatever time I have left is going into watching FDFS Hollywood movies (early release on Thursday!) at AMC close to where I work.

I loved your Race 3, Skyscraper, and Ant-Man reviews, but personally felt you were a little harsh on Ant Man. It was solid entertainment, kept me not-bored for its runtime. It was no Black Panther, though. The analysis in this review was superb as well, but your trademark savagery-based humor was missing.
TJ Reddy on 24th Jul 2018, 2:50pm | Permalink
That's the issue I had with Ant-Man though. When every other film around it is trying something fun and new, it just reverts to something so tepid. I disagree with people who've convinced themselves that they needed a palette cleanser after Infinity War. A palette cleanser needn't be water. it could be something more appetising. I wasn't bored by it, neither was I captivated in any way. It translates to background noise when all is said and done.

I've wanted to watch Sanmohanam though. I've heard opinions from people on both sides of the fence. Really wanted to judge it for myself.
The Common Movie Goer on 24th Jul 2018, 11:00pm | Permalink
Totally agree with you. Don't think we needed a palette cleanser. But hey, I hated Infinity War for its not at all shock ending and the general blah content. In fact, I liked Ant Man way more than I did Infinity Way, even though Ant Man was strictly average.

Given how you judge structure and consistency to be vital aspects of a movie, I am positive you will hate Sammohanam like Veturi did. I was in the Swaroop camp when it came to the movie. It was thanks to him that I ended up going to the movie even though most reviews gave it average ratings. It's only halfway through the year, but I am positive it'll be the best movie of the year after Mission Impossible: Fallout.
JayZ on 22nd Jul 2018, 10:55pm | Permalink
Hi Mr Reddy y no reviews of Telugu films released since last friday
TJ Reddy on 23rd Jul 2018, 6:28am | Permalink
I moved out of India a few months ago and Telugu movies are at a premium where I currently live. I try to catch as many as can but can't get around to all of them.
Jai on 27th Jul 2018, 5:02pm | Permalink
What happened to Josh and others?
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