The International Movie Review

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Aaja Nachle – MADHURI MAGIC

Posted by harino1 on December 8, 2007

She’s back in all her glory. The magic and the mystique is unfurled in full potency as the last Diva of Hindi cinema – Madhuri Dixit – zooms in with a tailor-made role as Dia in this film. In fact, few films in the busiest phase of her career were as perfectly tailored to a mix of the real and reel Madhuri.

It is impossible to separate the film from Dixit in the broader sense of the term. Not only does Madhuri give the role her all (and that’s really saying something!) but Jaideep Sahni substitutes as the hero in this film that has no lead actor! For without pandering to the lowest common denominator, Jaideep spins a screenplay and writes lines and lyrics that instantly connect across the complete audience spectrum.

Aaja Nachle is in a way Chak De! India with Indian fine arts replacing hockey. Check the similarities – the disgrace of the protagonist in her hometown due to no fault of hers, her exit and her determination to remove the stigma attached – and the final victory. In the last film (also scripted by Jaideep for YRF and another superstar) it was about the nation as well as vindicating the hero’s honour. Here it is about waking up the town to its own potential – Dia could not care less what the people feel about her.

The refreshing part of Aaja… is the complete lack of melodrama. As in similar films like Lagaan, Iqbal and of course Chak De…, the path to victory is beset with not just hurdles but also defeats. But the element of luck is removed almost entirely, though because of this the film seems a shade tame and less dramatic even if in a way even more believable.

And so the film delivers – and how! Dia (Madhuri) returns to Shamli, her hometown, from where she had run away with an American boyfriend who turns out to be a cad. It was her dance and music guru (Darshan Jariwala) who had encouraged her to make her own choices, even at the cost of his school going into decay when the disapproving town stops their children from joining it after Dia had eloped.

Eleven years later, Dia is running her own dance school in New York, divorced and with a daughter. And a call comes – her guru is dying, and if she does not do something, Ajanta will be razed to make way for a shopping complex.

Dia returns to Shamli to obvious hostility. She meets the MP responsible (Akshaye Khanna in the cameo of an endearing bad boy) and strikes a deal – in two months, she has to present the mother of all shows with a troupe made up of the town folk, in which case the school can be saved. Obviously, any seasoned film buff knows that she will succeed. But how she does is what the engrossing film is all about.

There are no rules in this feel-good triumph-of-spirit tale. The MP is young, educated, makes pizza and is principled. His political foe is also a man with a soft side, whose chief hoodlum Imran (Kunal Kapoor) becomes Dia’s ardent supporter and the hero of her ballet. The heroine is unkempt, immature Anokhi (Konkona Sen Sharma) whose standout characteristic is her running nose!

The diverse characters are indeed interestingly etched, and if the village characters learning dance and acting in a short span is a shade unrealistic, it is all made to look convincing, and stresses the fact that within all of us, regardless of background and occupation, there lies a hidden artiste who can do so much for preserving our cultural treasure.

The sets (Sukant Panigrahy, Fali Unwala) do not look too artificial, and the choreography (Vaibhavi Merchant) is a shrewd mix of modern and traditional. Anil Mehta’s direction is artless – you do not realize that a director too is around for the film – and therein perhaps is his triumph. The camerawork (Mohanan) is skilled, but the songs and background score could have been more evocative and creative and less cluttered and obtrusive.

Madhuri Dixit is of course a dynamo of terrific emoting, superb dancing and amazing expressions and body language. Kunal is good even if miscast but Konkona though competent seems unambitious in her role.

Divya Dutta and Irrfan Khan are their usual selves. But Ranvir Shorey as Dia’s silent lover, Vinay Pathak and Sushmita Mukherjee as the new occupants of Dia’s old house, Akhilendra Mishra as the rival politician and Yashpal Sharma as the cop are superb. Akshaye Khanna’s performance is truly accomplished for a basically far-fetched character.

So does Madhuri succeed in her comeback? And does the film make it? The answer to both, happily, is a resounding “Yes!”. So don’t waste time. Book your ticket for the new Madhuri show. Come on folks, Aaja Nachle.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Banner: Yash Raj Films
Cast: Madhuri Dixit,Akshaye Khanna,Konkona Sen Sharma,Kunal Kapoor,Ranvir Shorey,Irrfan Khan,Divya Dutta
Direction: Anil Mehta
Production: Aditya Chopra
Music: Salim Merchant, Sulaiman Merchant

 

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