Do you believe in miracles? Director Nagesh Kukunoor’s delightful new film Dhanak rests on the idea that if you want something badly enough, the whole universe conspires to make it happen. If that reminds you of a line from a Shah Rukh Khan movie, well, the superstar’s king-sized presence runs all through Dhanak, as the man who will deliver the miracle. Yet the real stars here are Krrish Chhabria and Hetal Gada; they play blind 8-year-old Rajasthani boy Chhotu, and his older sister Pari, who set out on an impossible journey to get his vision back.
Salman Khan fan Chhotu and Shah Rukh Khan fan Pari are inseparable siblings, orphaned in an accident a few years ago. Left in the care of a hapless uncle and his heartless wife, Chhotu loses his eyesight due to malnutrition. When Pari sees a Shah Rukh poster that makes a case for pledging one’s eyes for donation, she believes that the movie star can help her brother get his sight back. This will fulfill her promise to show Chhotu a rainbow before his 9th birthday.
Pari and Chhotu run away from their home in a small village, hoping to catch Shah Rukh in Jaisalmer where he is shooting for a new film. But they must make their way across vast expanses of desert to get there, and it’s their naivety and sheer optimism that powers them. The two meet a bunch of stereotypical strangers along the way – an American hippie, a god-woman, a kind old man with nefarious intentions – yet the predictability is somewhat dialed down by the fact that Kukunoor keeps the tone light and the dialogues funny. You may roll your eyes at the obvious Indian exoticism (there’s even a blind clairvoyant gypsy, for heaven’s sake!), but the charming personalities of these two kids and the sheer ambition of their dream make you a willing participant in their journey.
Chhotu is a smart-mouthed tyke with a short fuse and lots of bravado. He may be blind but he’s full of spirit, and Chhabria plays him like an absolute natural, making it impossible not to root for him from the moment in. Chhotu’s strength is his sister Pari, and Gada plays her beautifully, as protective and loving, but also ready with a tongue-lashing when his appetite gets the better of him. Their fanaticism and bickering over their rival heroes will have you bursting into laughter.
I’m going with an easy three out of five for Dhanak. It’s a crowd-pleaser that drives the point home about seeing with your heart instead of your eyes. Shrewd message for a film that’s not perfect, but is all heart.