Rating – 6/10 There’s a scene in Dhadak where Kharaj Mukherjee’s character tells a group of three youngsters the reason why he and his wife chose not to bear young. Dismissing that it was because of a “medical issue”, he says, “why should I bring a child into this society and torture it?” One of the youngsters does not seem to understand it as he goes and does the opposite a few minutes later in the film. Director Shashank Khaitan explores “the society” in his third feature film and succeeds in narrating a story about innocence, love, and the horrors of caste discrimination in modern India. Set in the serene city of Udaipur, Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor) and Madhukar (Ishaan Khattar) are two college-going lovebirds who are not too wary about the consequences of their blooming young love. They know they are from different family and financial backgrounds, with Parthavi being from an upper rung in both social and caste strata, but do not allow that to affect their romance where the former also seems to be dominant. Things take a virulent turn when the obvious happens, considering it is Bollywood, and Parthavi’s politician father (played by the phenomenal Ashutosh Rana) cultivates his wrath on the two wrongdoers. He even goes ahead and proclaims for the sake of politics that he will sacrifice his daughter, who tries to elope with her equally courageous yet powerless partner to start a life that neither have any idea or plans for. Dhadak starts like a tasty romance but gets serious towards the second half after it succeeds in attracting you to the hunky-dory climate of young love. Khaitan both adapts and directs the story and tries to Bollywood-ise the source, written by Nagraj Manjule for his 2016 path-breaking Marathi-language film Sairat. The cheesy ‘Dulhaniya’ vibes take the front seat in this remake as Madhukar regards the affection towards his vanity-filled classmate as the only aim of his life, not even heeding to his father’s warnings about hobnobbing with the upper caste or paying attention to his studies or the family restaurant business. Khaitan directed two films in the ‘Dulhaniya’ series starring Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt between 2014 and 2017, and tries to make Dhadak look like the third film in the series but does not succeed because of the source content. There is a huge conflict in Manjule’s story and that’s what makes Dhadak an important film, one that takes an emotional toll in its viewer while highlighting the plight of men and women who find themselves at the center of caste politics. Madhukar and Parthavi are a naive lot fighting the tyranny of a society led by a generation that puts caste above natural human sensibilities of love, relationships, and emotions. Rana’s character is a loving father yet he has no qualms in generating angst against his daughter who has not even committed a mistake. Of course, Janhvi Kapoor commits one too many mistakes while portraying her character. With an expressionless face, she puts all her might on the face and backs it up with her choreographed dance moves to match and fail while competing her co-star’s electric performance. Ishaan Khattar plays Madhukar like a glass of chocolate milk, diving into the character and swimming in it with all his energy. Unlike Kapoor, his face is full of expressions, which makes him display what looks like the epitome of young love. Rana is the fearful patriarch who acts and scares off with his eyes, but the film does not give him much screen space, even though he plays a major role in its proceedings directly or indirectly. It’s a show of Kapoor and Khattar, who drive the film on their shoulders and make it worthwhile, with support from some new actors and Mukherjee. Even though the original source helps Khaitan, the vapid music again shamelessly borrowed from the original soundtrack, does not add anything to the plot. There is a Maharashtrian tinge in the original soundtrack, which today boasts of wild popularity, but when it gets sampled on a Hindi film based in Udaipur, it does not gel. Even if you have not watched the original, which is highly likely, the music may not uplift your mood. Khattar’s expressions and jawline will. When he smiles, with an exotic Udaipur lake in the background, you will experience a tug in your heart that will replicate his Madhukar’s love for Parthavi, and that is arguably the biggest achievement in Khaitan’s film. Yet, the final minutes of Dhadak still look like it was contrived in a parking lot by a man who had to submit the script to the producers in the next five minutes. The conflict that was saving Dhadak from suicide ends up disfigured as it is awarded a backhanded farewell, sans logic or sense, to eventually fade into black. What could have numbed your soul for at least a week dilutes itself and reinforces the myth about Bollywood: realism is still too far away. All in all, Dhadak is a well-executed romance drama that survives because of the crime quotient and the cast performance. It is a natural and important story that must reach a bigger audience, which is why I am validating this remake. Despite its shortcomings, it succeeds in what it sets out to do, and for that, a weekend ticket price wouldn’t be a waste. Go for it! If you understand Marathi, catch Sairat instead.