A little boy, who has lost his eyesight, and his sister Pari set out across Rajasthan on foot. Their mission, spearheaded by Pari’s determination, is to restore Chhotu’s sight.
It’s hard not to be moved by these kids and their heart-warming story. Kukunoor clears the biggest hurdle by lucking into the right performers for his young pair — both the little boy (Krish Chhabria), a die-hard Salman Khan fan (he wears the agate-stone bracelet on a wrist just like his beloved Bhai) and the slightly older girl (Hetal Gadda), who plays the SRK-loving sister, make us believe that they are indeed, siblings.
If Chhotu had been asked to look straight ahead, instead of keeping his head constantly cocked to one side, and had been a little more loosened up while delivering his lines, it may have served the character better. But still, this is a real boy, and the interactions between the children lend the film real charm.
The other problem, and this is the bigger one, is exotic Rajasthan being peddled in the name of naturalism — the ‘leheriya safas’ are too pristine, the clothes are too ‘costumey’, the huts the children live in are too constructed, they look like sets. A female bandit who looks like she’s walked straight off the ramp fiddles with a pretty pistol. The Rajasthani accents are mixed up too, and really, not everyone has to have a “sa” added to their names. Blame it on those TV serials.
But Kukunoor should know better, because he has been in these parts before (remember Dor?). Fortunately for him, and for us, the children are winsome enough to keep us with the film, and while some of the characters are clunky, a couple do come off as funny as they are meant to — a ‘saadhvi’ (Vibha Chibber) with a painted face, who is obviously a fraud, is a hoot.
Then there’s the solo backpacker who’s walking around the globe for world peace. He’s white, of course, and wearing a splash of ‘baatik’, and working up to quite the stereotype when you hear him say his name out loud. And I am Douglas Adam (remember that name from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy?) he says, and you laugh out loud.
These two make up, somewhat, for the Wicked Aunt, the Evil Pundit, the Noble-Hearted Merchant, the Wise Old Woman, and the Eccentric Man, all playing to type.
But Chhotu keeps the rhythm going. And the best tune comes from Hetal, who is an amazing little performer, displaying just the right beats, who doesn’t keep a foot wrong. She is the real star of this enterprise.
And, yes, there is a rainbow at the end.
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Dhanak star cast: Krish Chhabria, Hetal Gadda, Vipin Sharma, Gulfam Khan, Vijay Maurya, Vibha Chibber, Ninad Kamat
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