Towards the end of the movie ‘Dhappa’, a Tv presenter quips that if any adult plans to watch the climatic kids play, they are advised to be accompanied by someone below 18-year old. The wisecrack works well to establish the overall essence of the movie, which is an avant-garde of sorts. I will not segment Dhappa as a children’s movie, simply because it would be a myopic observation of a larger canvass used by director Nipun Dharmadhikari to drive home a pertinent observation of our society. Yes, Kids are the protagonists of his movie and the movie is made from their point of view. But sometimes, an unadulterated view of life and society is way more matured than the murky ways of us adults. Dhappa won the Nargis Dutt award for movie based on National Integration for 2018. It is one of those few movies which knits social messaging with a competent script to deliver an enjoyable 2 hours of movie viewing experience.
The premise of the movie revolves around a group of kids in a Pune housing society who plan to perform a play for the annual Ganeshotshav. What they are not prepared for is the sentiments of a few entitled religious guardians who have taken it upon themselves to shove their beliefs down people’s throats. A local politician and his goons take offense to the portrayal of Jesus in a play during a Hindu festival and they torment the society dwellers, specially the innocent kids who were simply planning to enact a play on environmental conservation. Vrushali Kulkarni plays the director of the play and a motherly figure of sorts who has been writing and directing the kids for this annual show every year. The kids are absolutely endearing as they take this up as another of their little missions. Each of the child actors bring a certain quirk to their characters which makes the movie a study in the functioning of children’s minds. Director Nipun Dharmadhikari manages to create a lovely chemistry among the kids and lingers his camera on the daily shenanigans of the group as they go through their lives in that society. Sharavi Kulkarni & Akash Kamble are the level headed brains in the group while Akshay Jadhav is the prankster who is upto some antics daily. Their innocence is captured in it’s full bloom by Nipun right from the first scene where we see the kids engage in a water war while on their way back from school. Akash particularly shines in scenes where he shows command and as the wise leader of the pack. A particularly hilarious scene between him and the aforementioned politician and his goons is both funny as well as impactful.
The movie succeeds in taking a simple concept and weaving a story which is both universal as well as appealing to viewers of all ages. In fact, the pseudo moral high ground of some of the adults is shaken by these very kids who were supposed to be too young to understand the societal functions. Dhappa is a very relevant movie in today’s time and age. With all the talk about intolerance plaguing the country, we see a bunch of kids displaying considerable courage in taking a stand against the status quo when even the adults around them struggle to raise their voices. The movie also benefits from a stellar cast which includes Girish Kulkarni, Iravati Harshe, Shrikant Yadav among others. But to the credit of the director, it is the kids who shine in every frame and eventually make us ponder at our shortcomings as a society.
Nipun, who is also the writer of the movie sprinkles the right amount of humour into the sequences which makes us both laugh and also relate to our childhood days. Dhappa is a delightful movie with a message which will surely get you thinking while having a constant smile on your faces. We were lucky to catch a special screening of the movie during the Lost the Plot’s Film Caravan Festival in Pune, but surely enough we will visit the theatres to catch it again when it releases on the 1st of February. Hope to see you there!