When did you last see a dance movie which made you go Wow?
I saw one just the other day. Its called Yeh Ballet. It has been directed by Sooni Tarporevala and produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur. Bless this new SRK!
Yes, Yeh Ballet made me go WOW! Its the unconditional WOW that comes out when we watch the likes of Gopi Kishan , Padmini and Ragini .
There have been many graceful dancers in Indian Film Industry . Dancers and actors who dance with a sense of fun and abandonment. Some of them are trained for a few years in an Indian Classical dance form. Some are smart enough to learn certain popular and trendy western dance forms too. Thus they are reasonably skilled. They are good actors and they emote well when they move to music. However, they don’t make people sit up. Gorgeous screen artistes , good movers and shakers but not great dancers.
Then there have been some pop “western” dancers in Indian Film industry. The hip Cabaret Dancers, Disco Dancers, Street Dancers, Break Dancers etc brought in some novelty in erstwhile pre-liberal Indian Film Industry. These dancers had style, energy, good sense of rhythm and designer costumes. However, I wouldn’t compare them to their contemporaries world wide. They would be considered low on originality, skill and craft. Their range is nothing to write home about.
I am talking about the WOW you feel while watching Fred Astaire, Jean Kelly, Uday Shankar and Sanjukta Panigrahi. They would get a bravo on any stage and for any dance sequence on camera.
I felt that WOW for Achintya Bose and Manish Chauhan of Ye Ballet. They seem to have it all in the place they are right now. They are scintillating artistes. Dancers who have worked hard with their mentors. Punched in many hours for many years. Watched performances. Heard stories about dance. And most of all performed on screen with dexterity, joy, freedom and gratitude.
And what range! Oh yes. Achintya is seen bee boing in his first scene. He is thrill personified while he performs on a platform meant for drying fish. Manish flies and floats in his first scene as an aerial silk performer. I couldn’t help but gasp at his core strength. Both the boys perform as sensational dancers in the film even before they start their ballet classes. This part of the film is Sooni’s tribute to the self trained street dancers of Mumbai.
Yeh Ballet is inspired by the story of Amir Shah and Manish Chauhan. If you watch the documentary with the same name directed by Sooni a few years back, you would know Yehuda Maor discovered their talent. A scholarship to study at New York’s prestigious Joffrey Ballet School didn’t materialize after they were rejected for US visas. Without giving the rest of the story away I would just say watch it on NETFLIX on the 21st of February! The two main leads Achintya Bose (plays Amir) and Manish Chauhan (plays himself) are such delight to watch as dancers! They also shine as actors. To the extent that you feel like you are watching real people on screen.
I wish Netflix and Siddharth Roy Kapoor had considered releasing this film in theaters. Its written with deep honesty. Its more authentic than the likes of Slumdog Millionaire. It tactfully makes us relive our present socio-political realities. Sooni Tarporevala’s eclectic taste and talent reflects in her artistic collaborations. Rarely will you listen to such background score or watch such a range in dance in one movie.
This story has been told many a times before- poor but hardworking and talented boys transcend all hurdles to reach their goal. The film however spends most of its time on the craft and motivation of the protagonists. The two leading dancers are not stars but artistes from the beginning till the end. Their effort is to be better dancers and people. Even when they achieve one of their goals we can feel that there is a long road ahead to feeling safe and successful. What stays with the audience is their dance and if I may add the struggle of the working class.
I did think about Billy Elliot, the film made in 2000 on Ballet. Largely because of the social class of the main leads and their choice of Ballet. However, that’s where the similarity ends. There is no comparison between the dance sequences shown in both the films. For once an Indian movie has done equally well if not better. Yeh Ballet may inspire many children in South Asia to learn Ballet and aspire to be in big International Dance Companies.
Ye Ballet can be our choice for the Academy Awards! And I hope it is for its writing, direction, cinematography, Background music and of course on screen performances.
Reviewed by Rukmini Sen. Editor Hillele.org, Former Editor (Entertainment) of Aaj Tak, Headlines Today and Star News.