The first thing that stuck me about the very endearing enormously zestful trailer of the prolific Nagesh Kukunoor’s new film Dhanak is that the children,though poor and one of them blind, are happy souls.
So after Vamshi’s Oopiri another happy film about people who have much to unhappy about given their physical disadvantage.
Dhanak radiates joy. It’s about two very curious and determined kids in Rajasthan who take off on a cross-country journey to meet the little blind boy Chotu’s idol Shah Rukh Khan.As he says with heartrending irony at one point, “For four years I’ve been pleading with God for my eyesight. Now I’ve to find some other way.”
Chotu’s wise-beyond-her-years sister Pari decides Shah Rukh Khan could be the one to give her brother his vision.As they undertake the journey of a lifetime on foot we encounter various eccentrics including a godwoman, a wacked-out man who pretends to be driving a truck,and a policeman who asks the blind boy if he is blind.
“Why are you asking? Are you also blind?” the boy shoots back
Altogether Dhanak promises in a curious way , to show us the other, more desirable side of the star-fans relationship. Curiously Dhanak will release a month after Maneesh Sharma’s Fan where anobessesive fan creates havoc in Shah Rukh Khan’s life. Here in Dhanak are the kind of fans who make stardom worth the while in spite of the million glitches encountered on the road to being fortune’s favoured one.
The very prolific and influential filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor whose last film Lakshmi on child prostitution left fans and admirers of his works despondent, travelled through Rajasthan to shoot this film about looking for Shah Rukh Khan.Dhanak(rainbow) Nagesh’s new film is a bright happy fable, almost like an antidote to the dark Lakshmi that came before.
Says Nagesh, “It’s the story of a 8-year old blind boy in Rajasthan who is promised by his 9-year old sister that he’d get back his eyesight before his next birthday. It’s the fable-like story of the journey undertaken by the two children to meet Shah Rukh Khan who’s shooting somewhere far from the kids’s village. The superstar would apparently restore the little boy’s eyesight.”
Like most fables the idea came to Nagesh from a random conversation. “I was told by someone about this blind 8-year old boy. I wanted to turn it into a story of hope and happiness.This is a bright fable filled with sunshine.”
For the role of the 8-year old protagonist Nagesh cast a wonder-child named Krish Chabria.
Krish has done television before. But Nagesh is not bothered. “We auditioned 150 boys before selecting Krish. He’s an absolute natural. We needed a boy who could act and also look naturally blind.”
Nagesh had a harrowing time directing children in Rockford. “After that film I decided , never again. But this story just sucked me into itself. I had to make Dhanak.”
Nagesh did a month’s workshop with Krish. “We took him to spend a day in blind school just to see and feel how blind children live.We also put blindfold on him and made him walk around with it. Krish is amazingly dedicated.And he has a kind, sensible dad who doesn’t behave like normal parents of star-kids.”
The other central role of the blind boy’s sister is played by another extremely talented child actor named Hetal Gada.
Nagesh says he is very happy to have found the protagonists he was looking for. “The thing is, the two kids are shown to be in the cusp of growing up. They have to be 8 and 9 and not a year younger or older.”
The director of such highly-acclaimed film as Hyderabad Blues, Dor, 3 Deewarein, Iqbal and Lakshmi had a tough time shooting in the simmering desert. “Weshot in the deserts of Rajasthan for 35 days. It was scorching hot and we had two children playing the lead who couldn’t be pushed to work like adult actors.So I had to shoot around their moods and convenience in hostile weather. But I enjoyed the challenge of doing something unexpected. It is what gives me my identity as a filmmaker.”