Khaitan has adapted the source material to achieve two positives. Firstly the running time is reduced to a manageable 130-odd minutes. Secondly he has brought out the best from two inexperienced actors. Dhadak may be missing the frenzy and infectious energy of the Zingaat hit tune of the Marathi original, the grit and grime of Archi and Parshya’s struggles, and a feisty lead like Rajguru, but Khaitan’s sanitised drama does have its own strengths. Top of the list is Khatter who owns the affable, silly, wide-eyed Madhu from frame one. Plus there are commendable supporting performances by Ankit Bisht and Sridhar Watsar as Madhu’s BFFs. The dewy Kapoor has her moments too, but wobbles in the most dramatic scenes and often drops her Rajasthani accent.
The newcomers have an inherent likability and exude oodles of charm. Ishaan's electric dance moves are in perfect tandem with Zingaat's infectious zeal. As seen in Beyond the Clouds, the lad has a knack for persuasive portrayals. He never seems out of his depth no matter how silly the setup. Janvhi's dialogue delivery evokes a mix of Karisma Kapoor and Hema Malini, but her Chandni eyes have their own stories to tell. There's a gentleness to her that should find its own place in time. As a remake of Sairat, Dhadak is a travesty. As a standalone, Dhadak is standard Bollywood boy-meets-girl drivel. As a showcase, Dhadak is a promise that will take some more effort to fully fulfil.
Shashank Khaitan’s film has gloss and brightness. Vishnu Rao’s postcard images in Dhadak are soothing, charming and in sync with Dharma Productions’ popular perception. Janhvi’s accent aside, she has been beautifully presented. It seems like a very urban view at times, but then Janhvi and Ishaan were probably misfits for a rural setting. Credit should be given to Ishaan, who seems to be enjoying the situation. He displays a wide range of emotions but the lack of depth in the narrative holds him back. Actually, what hampers Dhadak the most is the pressure to look striking. This becomes really funny when Ishaan and Janhvi are expected to lead a tough, middle class life in Kolkata.
The problem with Dhadak isn't, however, limited only to a weak ending or to the immediate lead-up to it. From its awkwardly farcical opening sequence in which a bizarre kachori-eating contest replaces the village cricket match with which Sairat kicks off all the way down to the couple's relocation to Kolkata in the second half to escape the fury of the girl's livid father and belligerent brother, nothing that writer-director Khaitan rustles up is able to pitchfork Dhadak out of its comatose state.
Forget the caste angle, director Shashank Khaitan (Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya, Badrinath ki Dulhaniya) doesn’t seem to have fully comprehended the relevance of Sairat in terms of cinematic language. He hasn’t recognized that the film he “adapts” is actually designed as a sardonic comment on the excesses of heightened Bollywood films like…Dhadak.
Ishaan and Janhvi are both immensely watchable. He is the better actor by a mile. Ishaan goes from besotted lover to confused and afraid runaway without missing a beat. His performance combines innocence and maturity. Janhvi’s range is less but she is endearing and assured. Shashank is the successful maker of frothy romances. Here he steps out of his comfort zone but not enough to tackle head-on, the ugly truth of caste. The hurdles are more palatable and consequently, synthetic. I had described his second film Badrinath Ki Dulhania as a dose of feminism-lite. Well, think of Dhadak as Sairat-lite.