‘I was moved and disturbed by Sairat ’

On a rainy afternoon, Dharma Productions office in Andheri is abuzz with rounds of promotional interviews for
Dhadak
. In between the chatter, actor Ishaan Khatter’s voice booms down the hallway outside as he gushes about Alex Wolff’s performance in horror film
Hereditary
, as he takes a break between two interviews. Sometime later director Shashank Khaitan cheerily strides into the room. Explaining the rowdy banter beyond the door, Khaitan shares that the crew grew close over the course of shooting
Dhadak
, becoming much like a family.


Reimagining a story

What quickly becomes clear is that the sense of familiarity between them seemed to have drawn some of its strength from Khaitan’s relationship with the city they were shooting in – Udaipur. “Right from the first recce,” says the director about showing his actors around the city, “for me it was [like] showing them my home.” It was during the making of
Badrinath Ki Dulhania
(2017), that Khaitan decided he wanted to remake the Nagraj Manjule’s 2016 Marathi hit
Sairat
. “I saw the film [
Sairat
] in Nashik with my mother, and it was so impactful,” he says. “I was so moved and disturbed, [that] my mother and I didn’t speak to each other.” Khaitan adds that he knew then that he wanted to recreate Manjule’s story in a region he understood.

While Khaitan grew up in Nashik, the city of Udaipur has for long captured his imagination. He first visited the city with his wife a few years ago, “I remember entering [Taj Lake Palace],” which he later explains was the pleasure palace built in the 18th century for Maharana Jagat Singh II. “I started crying. I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. And I told [my wife], ‘I feel like I’ve been here before.’” This was the beginning that marked Khaitan’s exploration of the ins and outs of the city, he shares. “It [has] this great contrast,” he continues, “because it [has] royalty on one side, and people making ends meet [on the other]. But the beauty [is] that every human being [there is] saying ‘I am very proud to be born in this region.’”


Shifting sands

It was against this backdrop that Khaitan wanted to remould
Sairat’s
Archi and Parshya into the characters of Parthavi and Madhu that Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter will be essaying. “I haven’t tweaked much of it,” the director says about
Sairat’s
dark themes. “There is a certain disparity in terms of class, caste and socioeconomic structure which is true to the region [of Udaipur],” he adds.

Aware that comparisons will be drawn to the original, the director did not let it change his creative process. “I needed to be honest,” Khaitan says about his retelling, “I cannot fake or manipulate it to seem like
Sairat
, nor unnecessarily try to change it so it does not look like
Sairat
.”

With each film of his, Khaitan says, he is consciously trying to deal with more challenging themes. While
Humpty Sharma
and
Badrinath Ki Dulhania
were much more light-hearted, he says that with the latter he explored the issue of gender inquality, “And with this one I have stepped into a darker territory, with a far more serious conflict. I’m trying to grow as a storyteller.” However, Khaitan will be returning with Karan Johar and Varun Dhawan for the third time with his upcoming film
Rannbhoomi
, a project that he’s tight-lipped about.

“I saw[
Sairat
]in Nashik with my mother, and it was so impactful

Shashank Khaitan

Director

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