“If I could see the world
Through the eyes of a child
What a wonderful world this would be
There'd be no trouble and no strife
Just a big happy life”
The famous lines of Miss Patsy Cline’s song is revisited by filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor, though not verbatim rather symbolically. Kukunoor’s Dhanak reverberates these lines as he tells the tale of two orphaned kids staying with their uncle and aunt in Rajasthan. Their lives may be difficult but the kids—Pari (Hetal Gadda) and Chotu (Krrish Chhabria) don’t see negatives—even when they have an evil aunt, even when Chotu has lost his eye sight because of poor nutrition and even when after many promises, their uncle hasn’t been able to save enough for Chotu’s eye treatment. And even when the film establishes these problems in the lives of the two kids, it is sans any melodrama which makes it a delightful watch.
There’s a strong bond between the two film-buff siblings whose rivalry comes forth while talking about Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Every morning while walking to school, they play head or tail to decide whether the conversation to their destination would be about Salman or Shah Rukh. They fight and argue about one actor being better than the other, but then agree to weave a story around the one who wins the toss. It’s their love for these actors that drives the story further. The two kids embark on a journey of 300 kms to Jaisalmer to meet Shah Rukh Khan, where the actor is shooting for his next film, after Pari discovers a poster of the actor advocating eye donation. This is the last hope of the protective, loving sister to fulfil her promise of getting Chotu’s eyes operated before he turns nine in a few months and show him Dhanak (rainbow).
As adults, we may anticipate a mishappening but not these kids. As Chotu remarks in one of the scenes, thoda bharosa karna chahiye. They believed and they walked. Everything is hunky-dory for the kids as they walk on and meet many people on their way—a truck driver who gives them water and turns his truck the other way to make the journey a little easier for the kids; a truck full of people going to attend a marriage where Chotu befriends Samsher Singh, a kid his age; a Godwoman/Sheera waali Maata (Vibha Chibber) who wish them the best and also reveals that she was the star’s classmate in theatre; and a Californian wanderer (Chet Dixon) walking across the world to “give love a chance” with whom Chotu creates a fusion of Duma Dum...—until they are tricked by traffickers. But in the world of these happy kids that is hardly a setback as gypsy women (Flora Saini and Bharti Achrekar) rescue them from the trouble.
Kukunoor, who touched many hearts with the story of Iqbal (in the 2005 film of the same name) about a deaf and mute boy’s aspiration to become a successful cricketer, hasn’t come close to making anything similar. This story (written by Yusuf M. Shaikh) brings him very close to it but somewhere it lacks the emotional punch. However, what stands out in this two hour-fifty seven minute fare is the convincing acting by the two kids and by the many actors who make cameo appearances as the kids walk through the sand dunes and sun-kissed roads of Rajasthan which are beautifully captured.
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Actors: Hetal Gadda, Krrish Chhabria, Vipin Sharma, Gulfam Khan