Directed by: Anil Mehta
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kunal Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Irffan Khan, Divya Dutta, Ranvir Shorey, Akshaye Khanna
There are things in this world that my brain simply cannot understand. Maths is one of them. I simply don´t get it. Or why every time I think I´m alone and can sing using a comb as a microphone, somebody just has to turn up. Or why did Aaja Nachle had so little success in India. That film had everything you could ask for. A perfect entertainer. It never promised to be anything else. And it worked. It worked great. So..... what exactly went wrong? The truth is that overseas Aaja Nachle did well, even became hit in Canada, and it seems it will be one of those unsuccessful movies, that will stand the test of time nontheless, after all it is one of the most sought out DVDs.
Madhuri Dixit is back was screaming the trailer. And the same thing decorated all the posters. After Devdas in 2002 Madhuri settled permanently in the US with her husband and gave birth to two boys, and Aaja Nachle was her „comeback“ vehicle. It is actually interesting to see parallels between Madhuri´s real life and the film story she has chosen to do after the hiatus.
|I´m back and my smile is more gorgeous than ever!|
New York is full of NRIs. Forget for a moment there are Saif and Preity running around somewhere while Shahrukh is singing Kal Ho Naa Ho, and focus on a certain dance studio. It belongs to Diya, who teaches others to dance. She is divorced, raising a daughter, and overally quite satisfied with her life. But then a call from India comes and it seems that the man who once taught her to dance (and live, as we come to know a bit later) is on his deathbed. Without a second though Diya packs her things and together with her child catches the next plane to India, uncertain of what she might find. Because eleven years ago, she secretly run away from her native, sleepy and dusty little town of Shamli, following her heart and an American man, who had promised to love her forever (yadda yadda yadda...... sometimes watching Hindi films doesn´t help in life). Her parents were forced to leave the town in embarassement, her fiancé suffered a heavy heart-break, her guru (largely blamed for seeding that silly stubborness and independence in her) ostracised and her name became a synonym of shame.
Upon her arrival Diya finds out her guru has just passed away, and left her a mission: to save Ajanta theater, a place that once was full of life, dance, songs, and was pretty much the only source of entertainment for the locals. But ever since Diya has run away, Ajanta remained empty, because other parents did not want their children to „be another Diya“. And now the old theater is to be demolished to make place for a new shopping mall (globalization, here we come!). Deeply disturbed Diya pleads (well, if you want to call it like that, because she is a rather tough cookie) with local MP Rajasaab, but he refuses to stop the demolition. However he is amused (and she outraged) and they make a deal. If in two months Diya manages to pull off a theatrical performance starring the local people, and will gain success from the audience, Ajanta will remain untouched. If not, it will be torn down. Diya is full of optimism, but it turns out her bad reputation is still too well known in the city, plus there seems to be not one talented person, whom she could use in her planned adaptation of Laila-Majnu...
|Just what did I want to say...?|
|Oh yeah. It´s cool to have five fingers.|
Sure she´s going to win in the end, against all odds. After all...... this is Madhuri Dixit we are talking about! And the villains are made of vanilla, especially the „bad guy“ Raja. None of the characters is primarily bad or evil. They just usually suffer from some shortcoming. One lusts power, other lusts money, and another lusts Madhuri (though that is not a shortcoming, that means he is a normal guy). There are many characters in Aaja Nachle, and you cannot help but to love them all. The main romantic subplot is happening between Konkona Sen Sharma in the role of a tomboy Anokhi and a goon Kunal Kapoor as Imran, and they both are excellent. Their chemistry is beautiful to watch and they compliment each other well, be it in acting or looks. Their jodi is one of my favourites, and I´m keeping a faint hope of seeing them again sometime in the future. They both go through a change. While Imran realizes that even strong macho guys can sing, dance, love and not be embarrased, Anokhi realizes that she doesn´t have to change inside to get her boy, but one should look after herself a bit, and she too matures, seeing that love just may not be a kid´s game. Especially Konkona was wonderful, very vivacious and full of energy, absolutely unashamed in her deglamorized avatar.
|Makeover no. 1 - not working.|
|Makeover no 2 . - hell YEAH!!|
|Don´t you ever dare to say again that Koko is not stunning.|
Then we have other loveable people out there. I´m a big Vinay Pathak fan, and he simply delivers quality in Aaja Nachle, as a nerdy, boring husband, who realizes his wife just might not be that hapy with him. There is excellent Ranvir Shorey, demure and devoted and still dreaming of getting married to Diya. There is Divya Dutta as opressed woman of a big businessman, who simply wants to dance and feel alive again. And others.... and others......
And there is Madhuri. No, the role was not a challenging drama, that would prove her acting ability. Why should it be so, in the first place? This is a woman who proved herself countless times. She didn´t make this film to prove to others how amazing she is. She did it, because she liked it. She did it for her fans. And she did it, because she wanted to do, what she does best: entertain and make you forget everything else for a moment. Even in this „non-challenging“ role she is brilliant. Her screen presence remained undiminished, her dialogue delivery and expression perfect, her dancing ability made everyone go wow all over again. Not to mention she was a heroine without a hero, carried the film on her shoulders. Although there is Akshaye Khanna as a possible love interest (and my, do they have amazing chemistry!), his is only a guest appearance and Diya´s lovelife is not even remotely the plot of the movie. That is theater, dance, culture, tradition. And it is all fun and beautiful.
|Mohan living his dream..... in his dream.|
|She smiled at me!|
The real gem of Aaja Nachle is the 20 minutes long play at the end. The legend of Laila and Majnu has been presented in a very short span of time, and visually it´s just wonderful. People kept complaining about the unrealisticly quick changing of the sets, but did any of them try to think? The play in „real“ must have been at leas 2 hours long. What we saw were only 20 minutes of it. Are you following me? Why didn´t anyone complain about the same thing in Om Shanti Om during the song Dastaan? In the end Aaja Nachle is a only film and some liberties were taken. So what? Did Salman flying over the roofs in Dabangg look realistic? Did Aamir Khan delivering a baby with a vacuum cleaner look realistic? Why they can allow to be unrealistic and Madhuri cannot? Aaja Nachle is in fact much more realistic then many hit films.
|Madhuri and the most dysfunctional theater company|
Some complaints against the story could have been very easily silenced, had the deleted scenes stayed in the movie. Because from those we learn that Diya is planning a big Broadway musical (hence obviously has considerable income plus knows how to do a producer´s job of getting money for a project), that she in the end finds her parents (hence its clear she indeed was looking for them) etc etc.... Agreed, it doesn´t make sense why her daughter has a strong Indian accent, and she also can be a bit annoying. Yes, it is weird that the policeman learns the whole role in mere minutes. It is also weird how all the extras learned their roles so well, since we have seen very little of their rehearsals......
The music was amazing. One of my favourite soundtracks, and definitely underrated. True the „Dance with me“ track leaves even me cold, but it only appears in the film to set the mood, introduce the character of Diya, and to show you Madhuri can do anything on the dance floor. O Re Piya, arguably the best track from the album, occupies a powerful spot among my most favourite Hindi songs. Aaja Nachle is already a legendary dance number (great job by Vaibhavi Merchant) and the song is very popular. And the Laila-Majnu music is wonderful, capturing and „decorating“ the narration perfectly.
|What you cannot take away from Aaja Nachle is amazing use of colours.|
|Whenever I hear about Laila-Majnu story, this is what I remember.|
Aaja Nachle did not deserve to be an all-time blockbuster. But it definitely deserved to be a hit. Performances were amazing, music wonderful, choreography great, story nice, cinematography beautiful, direction very able. And there was that lovely feeling that makes you happy, while you watch (something the post-2005 films largely lack). A perfect, bit fluffy, very much colourful entertainer with a message, that despite globalization, which is not all that bad and to an extent necessary, it is still important not to let go of your roots and to preserve what the ancestors preserved for centuries. Maybe it didn´t sink in well with traditional Indians, since the heroine was somebody who did not hesitate to run away from an arranged marriage, and now is divorced, single-mother, successful and obviously not in desperate need for a man. I don´t know. As I said, it´s on of the things on this earth that remains mystery to me.