That’s Nagesh Kukunoor’s ‘Dhanak’ for you - a captivating road film, packed with ample life’s lessons. Based on a story idea by Yusuf Shaikh, it is the tale of a blind boy, Chotu and his devoted sister Pari. ‘Dhanak’ is a sweet, unpretentious story of how to, “see the world not with your eyes, but with your heart.”
It also speaks of how anything is possible if you have faith. Orphaned and living with their uncle and aunt in rural Rajasthan, Pari with child-like innocence, promises to take care of her younger brother and help him regain his eyesight before he turns nine years old.
Just two months before Chotu’s ninth birthday, Pari is reminded about the promise when she notices a poster about eye donation, endorsed by her idol Shah Rukh Khan. Soon she learns that Shah Rukh is shooting in Jaisalmer, which is about 300 kilometres away. And knowing fully well that they won’t be supported by their uncle and aunt, the duo sneak out from their home and set out to meet him.
They travel across Rajasthan, in the belief that he is their only saviour who could help Chotu regain his eyesight. The plot narrated in a straightforward, linear manner is uncomplicated and simple. It captures the innocence of the children and takes you across the state in all its glory. The characters too are distinct and well etched.
Their banter is real and full of innocent wit. There is warmth and understanding in the depiction of the sibling relationship. Their little squabbles and differences - Chotu is a Salman Khan fan and Pari likes Shah Rukh Khan - and their inescapable closeness is depicted lovingly. The tale becomes doubly endearing due to the brilliant and uninhibited performances of the cast.
Every actor plays their part to perfection. Hetal Gada as Pari and Krrish Chabria as Chotu steal your heart with their flawless rendition of their characters. They are natural and completely at ease before the camera. They are aptly supported by other actors in one scene roles, namely; Suresh Menon as the, “naata bhala aadmi” (a short good man) who helps them during their time of need, Bharti Achrekar as the gypsy clairvoyant, Ninad Kamat as the tout who makes money by fooling people, Vibha Chibber as Mata Sheera Wali, and Chet Dixon as the foreigner walking through the globe for peace. On the technical front, the film is colourful, vibrant and appealing.
DOP Chitranjan Das’s camera work is remarkable. He captures the locales - which include the sets designed by Production Designer Devika Bahudhanam, the costumes designed by Aparna Shah and the finer nuances of the actors - with precision. Overall, ‘Dhanak’ is an enthralling film that makes you smile.