Elahe Hiptoola, the producer of the Nagesh Kukunoor film Dhanak has not got the hang of Twitter. When the trailer of Dhanak released, she started getting notifications on the social media network, and things suddenly changed when she got a Tweet from the handle @iamsrk: “My best wishes to these beautiful kids & to Nagesh & Elahe (sic).”
“I thought it was one of Shah Rukh Khan’s fan’s pages, because there are so many! But I took a screenshot and sent it to my team. It was then that I realised that it actually was the original Shah Rukh Khan who tweeted about the film,” says Elahe.
The film, which is about two siblings, Pari and Chotu, going in search of Shah Rukh Khan, was shot in 36 days. It was a fulfilling project, but also challenging. “Nine-year-old Krrish Chhabria plays Chotu and Hetal Gada plays the doting older sister, Pari. They have been part of TV shows before but this is their first feature film,” she says.
“But they were thorough professionals! The temperature in Rajasthan wa soaring and the schedule was crazy because we wrapped up in 36 days, but the kids never complained. They shot, played together and even did their homework on the sets,” says Elahe.
While shooting for the film, Krrish was an eight-year-old. “He had to learn all these dialogues and say them perfectly, and at eight, kids can’t even form sentences very well, but here is a kid saying all his dialogues well and even acting like a visually-disabled child, that is truly something great,” she says.
Dhanak is the story of how siblings Pari and Chotu set out hand in hand, on a journey to help Chotu get his eyesight back before he turns nine. Across unfamiliar territories in Rajasthan, through muddy roads and a path that introduces them to the most colourful characters, Pari and Chotu set out from their little village to a far off hamlet in search of Shah Rukh Khan, who was supposedly shooting there. “Because Pari finds a poster about eye donations that has SRK on it and she’s convinced that he is the only one who can help her brother,” says Elahe.
Hetal has appeared in a few reality shows and TV serials while Krrish has done a few ads. “The kids were like an actual brother-sister pair. They bonded instantly and throughout the shoot, Krrish would constantly be stuck with Hetal. He would ask her for help with his homework and he would keep going, ‘Pari this, Pari that’ every time,” explains Elahe.
Dhanak was recently honoured with The Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury for the best feature-length film at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. And for now, the team is soaking in all the praise that is coming their way.
She says, “We showed two hours of the film in the two minute trailer. The story is so beautiful and the actors have all done such an amazing job that it translates on to the screen. The story will make you laugh, cry and get worried for the kids...but it will also stay with you.”...