Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter in 'Dhadak' Image Credit: Supplied

As actors Janhvi Kapoor, daughter of late actress Sridevi, and Ishaan Khatter, half-brother of actor Shahid Kapoor, gear up for the release of Dhadak this Friday in the UAE, there’s no overlooking the obvious detail.

The two K’s — Kapoor and Khatter — paint a fetching portrait of nepotism and privilege, a charge that Bollywood filmmaker and Dhadak producer Karan Johar has been attempting to swat over the last two years. But Khatter, who made his Hindi-language debut with director Majid Majidi’s festival-friendly drama Beyond The Clouds, implores you not to adopt a reductive approach and write them off too soon.

 I do feel that it is wrong to give somebody an opportunity unfairly because they come from a certain background. But it’s also unfair that you reject a person because of their privileged background.”

 - Ishaan Khatter 

“A lot of people who are involved in that discussion are judging people without any prior knowledge about them. There are so many labels enforced upon people and so much of generalisation happening,” says Khatter in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! over the phone.

While he played a drug hustler in Majidi’s film, his second film is a story about a young couple from Rajasthan who are hopelessly in love, but they encounter caste and class divides that threaten to tear them apart.

“I auditioned for my first film and Majid Majidi didn’t know who I was or what my familial background was… Even if he did, it would have just hurt my chances of getting that role. He took his time to find out if I was capable of playing that role or not. And these are people with vast experience behind them. They don’t make decisions based on convenience. I think it is important to trust their knowledge, their faith, their instinct and trust in me over my own inhibitions about my skills,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Kapoor claims she had multiple readings with producer Johar before being chosen for her debut role.

It’s safe to say that all eyes are on them. While, director-producer Johar plucked them from thousands of acting hopefuls to play the young lovers, Kapoor might have to deal with the baggage of filling up her mother’s shoes.

The legendary actress Sridevi died due to accidental drowning in Dubai in February, sending shockwaves across the entertainment community and her fans worldwide. So does Kapoor feel bogged down by the weight of such staggering legacy?

“I remember while I was filming thinking that I need to act like her. She has got so much love, respect and admiration from so many people. I have so much gratitude for that and I know that she did too. I want to make them [her fans and well-wishers] happy and proud as much as I want to make her proud. The validation that I looked from her, I would now be looking from them,” says Kapoor, adding that everyone felt a certain kind of attachment to her mother and that it was valid.

The 21-year-old debutante had to also grapple with her mother’s death while she was filming for Dhadak, directed by Shashank Khaitan. She was grieving while filming and its makers have hailed her professionalism because Kapoor swung back to work after the funeral.

“I think that acting and being on set was one thing that gave me the courage to move forward and pick myself up. It gave me more strength and I was forced to deal with it. Acting was cathartic for me,” Kapoor says.

Dhadak is based on the critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Marathi film Sairat, directed by Nagraj Manjule. The trailers indicate that it’s a glossier version of the original and the original has been tweaked generously. While Sairat, set in Maharashtra, prided in its simplicity, Dhadak comes with the razzle-dazzle. Traditionalists aren’t happy with the updated Hindi version and feel the original has been bastardised to fit the sparkling Bollywood musical mould. Small-town Maharashtra in Sairat has been transplanted to Rajasthan. Khatter is eager to settle the misgivings.

Dhadak is an adaptation of Sairat and not a remake of it. I wouldn’t call it a Bollywood remake at all. I don’t think that was ever the intention. Setting of our film [in Rajasthan] dictated a lot of choices. Udaipur has this aura of grandeur [and] beautiful royalty about it and locals have this feeling of pride and royalty. I think that reflects in the film. Dhadak wasn’t meant to be a glossier version of Sairat, just an honest adaptation of a story that is very relevant in the entire country,” Khatter says.

Dhadak is a searing showcase of how caste divides are deep-rooted, says the actor.

“The film isn’t state specific and will appeal to all… Our film definitely touches upon classism and class divides. Even in the most developed metropolises in our country, caste and class system is prevalent. It wouldn’t be surprising if it exists in Western countries too… Dhadak is more about spreading love over hate,” he adds.

For Kapoor, the prospect of dealing with a sensitive topic such as love with such boldness was what made Dhadak (which means heartbeat) appealing.

Dhadak has a strong message on classism. Even today, it’s prevalent in every section of our society. I remember speaking to many people about whether they have ever come across classism and all of them said yes… The underlying theme of Dhadak is how caste and class spreads hate,” Kapoor says.


Janhvi Kapoor gives her take on…

Her mind-space right now: “I am nervous right now, although I didn’t feel so nervous during the making of the film. Now, I feel it’s all becoming very real and we are putting ourselves out there. We have spent the last one year of our life into this film.”

Whether attending film school helped her prepare for her role in Dhadak: “I learnt a lot more on the sets than in a classroom in my film school. Also, I don’t agree with method-acting so much. It works for some people, but not for me. I prefer to live in the moment and reacting spontaneously as per the situation as opposed to drawing parallels between you and the character.”

On her relatively experienced co-star Ishaan Khatter: “One film is equivalent to a lifetime of experience. He has learnt so much by working with a director like Majid Majidi. He is a talented actor himself and he is very passionate about his work. It was inspiring to watch him work and be a part of the journey with him.”

Whether she auditioned for her role and if her connections helped her get the role: “I don’t know if the fact that they knew me worked in my favour or not. They have seen me at social gatherings, but I still had readings with Karan. I think he wanted to see for himself if I was capable or not. Was I worth his time? When he picks someone, he puts in a lot of personal time with that person and so I did a few readings with him.”

Her role in Dhadak: “Parthavi is inherently different from who I am. Parthavi is more commanding and assertive. She’s a lot like my sister [Khushi Kapoor] and I looked to her for preparing for my character.”

Whether acting was her first career choice or not: “I have always been inclined towards films. I have been very involved in the world of films from my mom. I knew I always wanted to do something creative. For a long time, I was beating around the bush and finally I made the call for acting.”

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Dhadak releases in the UAE on July 20.