Dhanak, meaning ‘rainbow’ is a film with children as the protagonists but which adults will also enjoy and learn from. It is an entertaining and charming little film where the ‘rainbow’ is a metaphor which the children do not get to physically see but they can see it with their ‘inner vision’ colored by the innocence and naïveté that only children have.
Chhotu (Krrish Chhabria) is a little blind boy of eight who lost his vision when he was four because of negligence. But his sister, Pari (Hetal Gada), takes very good care of him though she is only ten. They live with their uncle and aunt in a village in Rajasthan. Pari is a die-hard fan of Shah Rukh Khan while Chhotu can die for Salman Khan. Pari suddenly chances upon a poster that announces that actor Shah Rukh Khan will be coming to Jaisalmer for his shooting and also be attending an eye camp. The brother-sister duo set out clandestinely one night to reach Jaisalmer to request Shah Rukh Khan to fund her little brother’s eye surgery. The journey becomes the film and the film charts this journey.
In Dhanak, Nagesh Kukunoor explores several issues while joining the journey along with the children. Somewhere along the way, the wonderful charm of the two kids is so infectious that we, the viewers, get sucked into the journey. Instead of turning the story of a small blind boy into melodrama, Kukunoor glosses over the tragedy and tries to vest it with fun and the comic, thanks to the brilliant performance of Krrish as Chhotu. His lip-synching to the songs is natural. He peppers his act with childish tantrums while his ceaseless hunger for everything edible or his breaking into a dance or squabbling with his sister are all matched perfectly by Pari’s motherly act that takes away a part of her childhood. Hetal Gada, a familiar face on television, is very good as the nurturing, caring older sister who, though very good at academics, deliberately fails her exams so that she can be in the same class as her kid brother.
Dhanak also takes an empathetic perspective on the guardians of the two kids. The uncle, a good-for-nothing fellow, loves the kids. The aunt is burdened with the financial responsibility and is not very nice to them but repents and helps her husband locate them when they go missing. The sibling bonding is sweetly peppered with the normal tiffs and intimacy where the brother is blinded more by the feeling of his sister getting married than by his challenged vision. The truck driver who gives the kids a lift and the crazy man who never talks and walks about holding the steering wheel in his hand are very good cameos. The same goes for the hippie who strums his guitar and sings for peace and love and harmony thereby adding to the entertainment value.
The cinematography wanders across the expanse of the dry, arid landscape of Rajasthan as the two children make their way through adventures, mostly good and rarely bad. The music is good specially the rekindling of the famous Jhulelal number and the fusion song belted out by the hippie and Chhotu. The ‘one-song-too-many’ factor is undercut by the Rajasthan scenario that overflows as much with the sand dunes and the camels and the tents and the bus rides as it does with its versatile music. The editing by Sanjib Kumar Datta keeps pace with the narrative, is slick and well-cut with touches of the surreal.
The most outstanding feature of Dhanak is the way it brings out the charisma of Shah Rukh Khan. He is presented as the super star, a microcosm for all Bollywood superstars and a metaphor for the dreams of the small girl Pari who is convinced that it is only Shah Rukh who can cure Chhotu’s blindness. Kukunoor takes care not to allow Shah Rukh Khan’s image to dominate the scenario. He never appears in the film except through a torn poster Pari carries with her. But his image and he as a star keep haunting us as we discover the magic and mesmerising appeal he holds not only for a ten-year-old girl who thinks he is God but for a major slice of rural Rajasthan, distanced miles away from Bollywood culturally, politically, socially and financially.
On the flip side, two journey experiences that stick out like a sore thumb are – the halt at the God Woman, Sheera Devi’s fair which is overdone and superfluous made worse by the young trafficker and the gypsy episode. If Kukunoor wrote this to add the glamour potent, then it’s aesthetics and design work against the film.
A much awarded film, Dhanak bagged the Crystal Bear Grand Prix for Best Children’s Film at the 65th Berlin International FilmFestival where it competed in the Generation KPlus section. It also won the Crystal Bear Grand Prix for Best Children’s Film, and Special Mention for the Best Feature Film by The Children’s Jury for Generation Kplus. The film has also won the Best Film Award in the Children’s Film Competition at the Sneakers Film Festival and the Best Film Award at the Montreal International Children’s Film Festival amongst others.
Hindi, Drama, Comedy, Color