Friday, July 01, 2011

Movie review: Dhadkan

Okay, so I'm late to the party.  People whom I respect (most especially my wife) have been singing the praises of Bollywood to me for years.  But until now, I hadn't gotten aboard the Mumbai cinema train.  Well, last night, Maty and I plugged Dharmesh Darshan's 2000 flick, Dhadkan, into the DVD player and I got initiated.

Dhadkan ("Heartbeat," in English) is the story of a young Indian woman, Anjali (Shilpa Shetty), the only child of a wealthy family, who must choose between her first love, Dev (Sunil Shetty), and the man whom her parents have arranged to be her husband, Ram (Akshay Kumar).  Dev, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, is dashing and passionate, but also irreverent and disrespectful toward Anajli's father, Mr. Chuahan (Kiran Kumar).  Despite her promise to Dev's mother, Anjali finds that she cannot disobey her father's wishes and agrees to marry Ram, who is a successful businessman and comes from a respectable Indian family.

The marriage of Anjali and Ram gets off to a rocky start when Ram's scheming stepmother and jealous siblings create complications.  Further, Anjali cannot forget her first love despite Ram's noble and sincere efforts to win her trust.  Matters come to a head when Dev reappears on the scene, no longer a pauper, but a successful businessman in his own right. 

Folks, Dhadkan is a fantastic flick. 

Visually, the film moves from one fascinating set to another.  Viewers are treated to scenes of rich Indian gardens, of festive and exotic ceremonies, of breathtaking Himalayan mountainscapes.  The costumes are dazzling; the actors, beautiful and talented.  The film uses musical numbers to relate the inner feelings of the main characters as they struggle to find their way through a love triangle complicated by centuries of tradition.  (And, by the way, the tambour-rich music is irresistible.)

Darshan demands a lot from his cast.  The choreography, the singing, and the acting itself are intricate. 

Most of the dialog is in Hindi, with occasional passages in English.  And while I generally dislike dealing with subtitles, I found that the translators did a superb job for this flick.  The translations are eloquent and moving.  (Most cosmopolitan Indians, after all, are fully fluent in English.)

Put aside any qualms you may have about accessibility.   Dhadkan exquisitely touches on many of those universal themes that we recognize in all great works of art:  fealty, ambition, jealousy, forgiveness.

Like many Bollywood flicks, Dhadkan runs long, at 161 minutes.  But the story never dragged, nor was it burdened by unnecessary scenes. 

As I stated, this was my first Bollywood flick.  It opened my eyes.  Slumdog Millionaire provided a clue, but Dhadkan proves it:  Hollywood's got nothing on Mumbai when it comes to making great flicks.

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

Brother I have sat through parts of the Bollywood but will say that "Monsoon Wedding" was in a league of its own but may not qualify as Bollywood since the director, Mira Nair (wife of Professor Mahmood Mamdani) may have made it in India but with outside money/inluence.

Her 'Salaam Bombay' is just as amazing. Check 'em out at the video store ... been around for a long time and I bet Maty knows them well anyway.

Not too much fantasy but biting social/political critique in both.