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Aaja Nachle – a movie review

December 4, 2007

‘Aaja Nachle’ (Come, let’s Dance) is a happy, feel-good film, the way I like films to be. And it’s not boring, not at all, and this leaves me a bit puzzled as to what most reviewers are talking about. Lack-lustre? Oh no, not even in parts. Average music? No, I would say above average. Predictable story-line? Well, this sure isn’t a suspense thriller!

Madhuri Dixit as Dia is riveting, with her sex-appeal of yore intact. In fact, it’s right in your face. Madhuri may be 40 and a mother of two kids but she can still break hearts.

The story is a simple one. Young Dia (Madhuri Dixit), a dancer, elopes from the small town of Shamli (looks more like a village), leaving her reputation in shreds. The story opens at a point when Dia, a well established dancer and choreographer in New York decides to come back (with her daughter who is a tween) and do the very thing that had got her into trouble in the first place…dance. Not just dance, but revive the tradition of theatre and dance in Shamli, because as she tells Raja, the M.P. of the area (Akshaye Khanna), it’s not just money that people need. They need soul food too – they need theatre, dance and music. He is skeptical, wanting to build a mall there, quite convinced that theater is dead in Shamli. There is no way that Dia was going to let a mall come up at Ajanta, the old theater at Shamli. She wants to keep her promise to her dying Guruji.

However, she realises that though Shamli hasn’t forgotten her, it hasn’t forgiven her – not that this dampens her indomitable spirit. Raja throws her a challenge – do it in 2 months or see a mall come up there. The old theatre is aptly named Ajanta and the symbolism is clear. Ajanta represents the Indian cultural tradition and the mall represents the new consumerist culture of the west. When one of the characters tells her not to bring the ‘western’ culture of dance and music here to the village she gives it right back – dance and music is our culture she says, not theirs.

In the first half of the movie it is all Madhuri. But the second half has a myriad of characters – Kunal Kapoor, Konkana Sen Sharma and Ranvir Shorey being the most prominent. They come to participate in her Laila Majnu ‘drama’ which is going to be held at Ajanta at the end of two months. Kunal is Majnu and Konkana is Laila. It is great fun to watch the rehearsals and as for the final show at the end of the movie – it’s an absolute joy. I wasn’t too impressed with Kunal Kapoor’s acting, but Konkana is fantastic as usual. She plays the simple village belle to perfection. It was wonderful watching her with Madhuri and where acting was concerned, Madhuri and Konkana were equally good. I remember that in ‘Laaga Chunriya mein daag’ Konkana had eclipsed Rani in the scenes they had together, but here inspite of her brilliant acting Konkana doesn’t quite manage to eclipse Madhuri.

About the story, what struck me as very odd is that Dia doesn’t seem to be too concerned that her parents are missing, that they fled town after she ‘shamed’ them…in fact Dia doesn’t even think about them…so engrossed is she in her upcoming ‘show.’ There were some other fairly unrealistic parts too, particularly as to how easily Dia manages to roughshod over opposition – in fact it was almost like a fairy-tale. Including the character of the squeaky clean M.P. Raja. The extravagant set was out of a dream too and one is agog as to how Dia manages to create such a mega-set in a small village in such a short time. Realism would have helped the movie a great deal…but then it would have been a brilliant movie, which it isn’t.

However the story does manage to carry you along…after all Dia was quite a diva before she left Shamli, and her magnetism pulls them in again…

What I find amusing is the New York Times review which says that the director of the film, Anil Mehta, “denies Dia, who is divorced with a daughter, a love life.” True, Dia doesn’t have a love life, but does every divorcee (or for that matter, everyone, divorcee or not) man or woman, need to have one every month of their lives? After all the movie takes place in the span of just two months…and the fact that some chemistry is shown between Dia and Raja is good enough. Dia had come to India with a purpose, and that was to revive Ajanta and it was natural that she wouldn’t think of romance. And from the audience point of view, the romance between Laila and Majnu is satisfying. In fact the second half of the movie is all about love because of the theme of the play. The director has tried to delve a little into the real-life relationships of some of the actors in the play, but it’s a superficial job. And as for Dia, a love-life is very much there for her….waiting in the wings.

Most of the characters in the movie are not properly etched out…although Mohan’s (Ranvir Shorey) character is an interesting one. He is the man who Dia almost married before she eloped with a stranger and he carries a torch for her still…

This movie is a musical and you can read a music review by blogger Joginder here. Overall, the movie is a must-watch for anyone who likes Madhuri, Konkana or Kunal. I like all these three actors, and I certainly liked the movie much better than OSO (Om Shanti Om). At least Aaja has a message, a meaning…I think only those who cannot enjoy a movie without suspense or dark scenes will not enjoy this movie…and ofcourse those who do not like musicals. But I must mention – there is a fight scene, done very naturally and fitting in very well with the story. And I’ll say one more thing – I loved this movie.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2007 9:28 am

    I was so sad that movie was criticized so much.. nice to hear its worth a watch..

  2. December 4, 2007 9:40 am

    @Rambler:

    I think many reviewers criticize for the sake of it, and I don’t quite understand why. A movie is supposed to entertain and Aaja Nachle does a good job of it.

  3. December 4, 2007 10:07 am

    But Nita, you don’t tell us if you heard the sacrilegious line that besmirches all Dalits in one fell swoop….?

  4. December 4, 2007 10:15 am

    @rambodoc:

    I don’t see the connection between entertainment and Dalits. Perhaps it matters to you, or perhaps you are being sarcastic, I don’t know. But to me entertainment is entertainment which I think is clear in all my movie reviews.
    sure I shall write a post on the subject of freedom of speech one of these days, but this is purely a movie review, it’s not about politics.

  5. BruinGirl permalink
    December 4, 2007 12:51 pm

    Indeed the movie is good- it’s a simple story line, implemented as a fast-tracked, uncomplicated, feel-good, very trendy musical. And it more than works!
    Madhuri Dixit is the extraordinary element in the movie and how !

    Apparently, she is causing major jitters for some well-estabilished male actors and the anti-aaja nachle media machinery must be on an overdrive. No wonder despite packed audiences, highest blog rating acroos various sites and good word-of mouth response, some blocks are calling it an underdog. It is amazing and not fair.

    I for sure am watching it a second time !

  6. December 4, 2007 1:52 pm

    The movie got all the pubilicity for free !!!

    Nowadays its not just the movie scenes or script that is comes under the ‘moral police’ radar.
    Like in the movie Bhool Bhullaiyya the song “hare ram hare krishna” (coz there was half naked gals dancing in the background). Or the tamil song (Kalyanam than kettikittu oodikalamma …………….” { Translation : lets get married and then run or let me deliver your kid and then get married)….. someone filed a case to ban this song !…..
    I wonder who is getting the publicity, the person who filed the case or the movie song???? ( that song was repeatedly aired in all the channels) :)

  7. December 4, 2007 6:34 pm

    Hello Nita,

    I have a hard time watching movies, for a variety of reasons, but mainly my attention span. Or lack there of. I enjoyed your review, it explains everything important about the movie.

  8. December 4, 2007 6:58 pm

    BruinGirl, I agree there is something fishy about the way the critics go overboard in criticizing movies. I found the same with Laga chunri mein daag, one of the better movies of the year. OSO on the other hand is below average, but many reviewers gave it 3 stars. The critics ratings always remain a mystery to me because if you cannot see it from the point of view of the audience, what’s the use? After all, you are writing for the audience.

    Xylene, I agree the furore about one line in a song gave the movie the much needed fillip.

    Brian, thanks. :)

  9. Vipul permalink
    December 4, 2007 10:33 pm

    “OSO on the other hand is below average, but many reviewers gave it 3 stars.”
    Nita, you would be naive to think reviewers provide ‘independent’ opinion. Big budgets and marketing can drive a lot of the reviews (especially in widely circulated media publications).

  10. December 4, 2007 10:44 pm

    @Vipul:

    yeah you are right, but a streak of idealism does remain in me I guess! I have always preferred to think that the reviewers are inept, rather than corrupt!

  11. Captain Sharks permalink
    December 5, 2007 12:43 am

    aaja nachle is d best bollywood movie of d year after chak de…..n its nice to see that d movie got a good opening n that too bcoz of madhuri dixit…..maybe i think it is d first time its happening in bollywood that an actress is attracting huge public in d opening itself……

  12. Madina permalink
    December 11, 2007 4:27 pm

    I think this movie was absolutely beautiful in every aspect!I just finished watching the movie and I was reminded why I love indian cinema so much. I am not of south asian decent but I always loved indian movies, but as the yrs went on i merged in with the crowd of people that made fun of indian movies, but with this movie i can proudly say, indian cinema is unique. This movie has the indian culture people love to see with a western twist, the twist is quite minimal though, the culture is still the fundamental part. The dances in the movie were amazing and I believe the movie is quite satirical.I say this because it seems like in a time where all bollywood movies are either comedy based or just cliche shit, she came back from America like a saviour and gave us this magnificent peice of work, once her shoot wrapped up she went back home. The storyline of the movie goes along the same lines. Once again…brilliant..

  13. December 12, 2007 9:36 am

    With all due respect Nita, I did watch the movie, against my better judgement (thanks partly to all the reviews!!) and boy was I disappointed. If this movie has received so much negative criticism, I must say, these critics must be as big on the film review scene as I am… I haven’t heard any of these ghost negative reviews.

    But in the event that I have just been too engrossed in school work to have noticed these reviews, I think it deserves every bit of it.

    I would tell you why, but then I might as well take over this blog!!! :P

  14. December 12, 2007 10:17 am

    @The Depressed Doormat:
    :) Each to his own! :D

  15. December 13, 2007 12:12 am

    That is quite true… but I couldn’t resist voicing my opinion anyway… I spent two and one half hours on that!! :(

  16. jia permalink
    June 4, 2010 8:48 pm

    i loved the movie but i was so dissapointed at the end, i thought she would marry mohan and live in india, thats so sad, he loved her so much
    other than that konkona was fantastic, she isnt as pretty as all the other actresses, but she just has a great personality

  17. Nadia permalink
    March 27, 2011 3:52 pm

    i have seen this movie aaje nachle only about 100 times!! does that tell anyone critic anything at all!!!

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