Saturday, December 01, 2007

Aaja Nachle 

There is this strange long-haired guru, who teaches the girls of a town called Shamli to dance. It's some kind of pop-classical pirouetting made to pass off as "kala" (art). The town also has the resources to put up lavish productions at its open-air theatre called Ajanta. But when its star dancer Dia (Madhuri Dixit) runs off with a foreigner, the town is so shocked that the theatre shuts down and the teacher boycotted.

Anil Mehta's Aaja Nachle, is set in just such a god-knows-where-and-when neverland, plot idea borrowed from Brazilian film Xuxu Requebra and credited to producer Aditya Chopra.

Years later, Dia, now divorced, mother of a daughter, and teacher of aerobics, or maybe Bollywood dancing, in New York, gets a call from the theatre's old manager (Raghubir Yadav) informing her that the guru is dying and Ajanta is in danger of being turned into a shopping mall.

Dia returns to save Ajanta, and is challenged by suave local MP (Akshaye Khanna) to either put up a stage production in two months with local actors, or ship out. Dia is the heroine of the film after all, and all it takes is a bare-backed, mujra style dance number (where do the chorus dancers come from?) to convince at least some of the townsfolk to take back their hostility and participate in her production of Laila Majnu. This, she insists represents "sangeet-nritya-sanskriti" and gets local political hopeful (Akhilendra Mishra) to help her.

The rest of the cast is a rag-tag bunch of locals—Majnu is a goonda Imran (Kunal Kapoor), Laila is a snot-nosed tomboy Anokhi (Konkona Sensharma) who loves him, and the rest are randomly picked—including Dia's jilted at the alter fiancé Mohan (Ranvir Shorey).

She has no real problems putting up the show, the town obviously couldn't care less—except for the businessman who wants to construct the mall (Irrfan Khan). She doesn't even have any shortage of funds. So the whole scenario is lacking in any pulse-pounding conflict or suspense. The theatre she wants to save is not some great heritage structure, but just some pillars in space so vast, that it could accommodate several malls and a theatre.

There is an admirably idealistic point somewhere in the rubble—that art is more important that commerce. Be that as it may, but then, can the huge kitschy, full-on Bollywood-style production she puts up be called Art? Any town that can consistently produce plays like that could possibly do without a mall, but would need a proper auditorium.

One could also take offense to the fact that it takes an NRI to teach Indians about Indian culture—dubious though it may be—just like it took an NRI to teach us stupid Indians how to generate electricity (in Swades).

Okay, so there are some bursts of humour here and there – in the romance between Imran and Anokhi for instance, but the drama remains mostly at simplistic soap opera level. Considering that small town India fuels reality TV and the television industry, this Shamli seems way behind the times.

Finally, does Madhuri Dixit deliver? Yes, she does – looks great, acts with conviction. She could, however, drop some of those cute, eye-rolling mannerisms that don't suit her any more. If the film works, it will be a triumph for her—except for Madhuri, there isn't much to see in this film.


Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

eXTReMe Tracker