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.”
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.”
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.”