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At ‘Dhadak’ trailer launch, ‘Sairat’ comparisons, the nepotism question and ‘Zingaat’

Starring Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter, Shashank Khaitan’s film will be released on July 6.

Cheers filled the auditorium at a multiplex in Mumbai on Monday afternoon as Ajay-Atul’s timeless number Zingaat began. But the song on the screen was not from Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat it was from the trailer of its Hindi remake, Dhadak, and all eyes were on its young leads Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter.

Sairat (2016), a tragic inter-caste love story, had achieved record-breaking success aided by the stellar performances of newcomers Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar. It is the highest grossing Marathi film till date.

Dhadak, produced by Zee Studios and Dharma Productions, tries to recreate that novelty with debutante Kapoor and Khatter, whose second starring role this is after Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds (2018). Directed by Shashank Khaitan, Dhadak will be released on July 6.

“I still remember the day Shashank walked in and told me that he had seen a film that had blown his mind and that film was Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat,” Johar said at the Dhadak press event. “When you adapt a film from a brilliant source material, you always know that no matter what you do and try, there will be comparisons. But all you can do is pay homage to that film.”

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Dhadak (2018).

Dhadak shifts the film’s setting from rural Maharashtra to Udaipur in Rajasthan. Kapoor and Khatter play star-crossed lovers Parthavi and Madhukar, but the makers have not specified if theirs too will be an inter-caste romance. Ashutosh Rana will play Parthavi’s father and Aditya Kumar, her brother.

“I am a Marwari myself and I have some knowledge about the community,” Shashank Khaitan said. “I am aware of the conflicts there. We have tried to be true to the story, but at the same time we haven’t consciously tried to be too different. It is a great film as it is. We have to be sensitive to adapt a story like that. I am extremely nervous, but I am also excited to show it to Nagraj.”

Johar said Kapoor and Khatter were natural choices for the film. “Sairat was about innocent love and to depict that you need fresh talent,” Johar said. “When I first met Ishaan [Khatter], I instinctively knew that he had a great personality. And in Janhvi, I saw the enthusiasm. Both of them come from terrific actor lineage.”

Kapoor is the daughter of leading actress Sridevi, who died on February 24 this year, while Khatter is the son of actors Neelima Azeem and Rajesh Khattar and half-brother to Shahid Kapoor.

However, Karan Johar said the talent of both actors was the only consideration behind their selection. “The main responsibility was to help the actors go beyond their names,” Johar said in an apparent reference to the debate about nepotism in Bollywood. “It is not easy to face the camera and the media. We keep using the word [nepotism]. But people are not here because of that word but because of their talent. The film is rightfully titled Dhadak because this is a piece of their heart.”

Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor in Dhadak (2018. Image credit: Dharma Productions/Zee Studios.
Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor in Dhadak (2018. Image credit: Dharma Productions/Zee Studios.

Kapoor said she jumped at the chance to make her debut with Dhadak because of her fondness for the Marathi film. “I remember watching Sairat with mom [Sridevi] and told her that I wanted to star in a film like that,” she said. “She also wanted that for me. And a few months later, I got the call.” Kapoor said she learnt the art of channelling every emotion while performing from her celebrated mother.

Khatter described the film as a fresh take on Sairat. “Shashank told us not to watch Sairat again and again as it could influence us,” he added.

Dhadak also hopes to recreate the magic of Sairat’s exceptional soundtrack by Ajay and Atul Gogavale, who were brought on board for the adaptation as well. The composer duo have retained Zingaat and Yad Lagla from the original, but the songs have been translated into Hindi, with lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya.

“We usually hear a lot of composers come to us and ask us what the secret behind Zingaat is,” Ajay Gogavale said. “They tell us that most directors want a song like Zingaat and a brief to do a song like Zingaat. But in this film, we actually have Zingaat.

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Zingaat from Sairat (2016).
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.