- BOTTOM LINE: A Poignant Tale About the Power of Dance
- Rating: 2.75/5
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Drama|
What Is the Story About?
Yeh Ballet, inspired by true incidents is a story of two young boys, Asif and Nishu with an innate passion for dance. Despite hailing from economically challenging backgrounds, living amid the biggest slum in the country with their families not being receptive to their ambitions, they dream of making a career out of dance. While Asif is a natural at the form, Nishu works his way towards perfection – both being the blue-eyed-boys of a moody, Israeli dance instructor Saul. This is a tale where art and hope triumph against every barrier that comes in the way of the talented duo.
Manish Chauhan, playing a fictionalised version of himself Nishu, with his chocolate boy-looks and an innocence that radiates in his yes, is a delight to watch. There’s a simplicity in him that makes him very accessible to the viewer. There’s a joy in his dancing (though isn’t as effortless as his other actor counterpart Achintya Bose) and he makes the viewer empathise with his part at every step.
Achintya Bose is a fireball of raw energy (reminding one of Siddhant Chaturvedi’s screen presence in Gully Boy) who brings an effortlessness into his moves. His nonchalance, dialogue delivery and comic timing hit all the right notes. Jim Sarbh in a rare supporting role appears surprisingly comfortable in taking a backseat with a cheeky role that nudges the story forward. Julian Sands, like a character in the film points out, gets a role that’s more like a tender coconut – hard on the exterior but also has a softer side to him. Danish Husain, Heeba Shah, Vijay Maurya and Kalyanee Mulay make for a formidable supporting lineup.
A chirpy Dharavi is home to slum dwellers totalling one million in a city that’s often addressed as sapnon ka shehar (city of dreams). This is also a backdrop that Indian and international filmmakers have utilised to chart several inspiring stories of human triumph (the most recent and popular examples being Slumdog Millionaire and Gully Boy). Needless to say, it’s a trope that has been done to death now.
So when Sooni Taraporewala’s announcement about fictionalising her own documentary into a two-hour feature film came about – there was every chance it would subscribe to a pile of filmmaking clichés (presenting India in a way that the West would like to imagine it as). Yeh Ballet threatens to go that way, but the film is personalised so well that the stereotypes don’t matter much.
The narrative brims with raw energy and a brashness you would want to see in a film about dance and two teenage boys. The detailing isn’t in-your-face and more emphasis is on the journey of the kids, their internal conflicts, the initial friction and the subsequent camaraderie. It’s a love affair of two protagonists with an art form. There’s fiery passion, aggression and madness – rarely does this blend reflect on the screen with such honesty.
The narrative makes you believe in lines like ‘the world would have been a less-crazier place had everyone knew how to dance’. The humour is surprisingly effective – the uncanny responses of Asif to his instructor’s orders, the unpredictability of the master, his unlikely friendship with the two boys lend a light, breezy vibe to a film that could have taken an artsy tone to tell its story too.
It’s extremely timely that the filmmaker makes some space for commentary on the growing religious extremism in the country in the narrative (and compares it with the situation in Israel and the US) – these are not indulgent stretches, but yet form an integral element in the journey of the two boys. The love angle to their story, thankfully is only a momentary distraction. Time and again, dance is used as a tool to help the protagonists emerge stronger after a crisis (though the detailing could have been more pronounced).
However, the establishment of Asif’s motive to take up ballet dancing seriously, after the death of a close friend, isn’t exactly convincing. The sequences where the boys deal with their visa rejection and find ways to impress the US Consulate authorities feel a tad too cinematic. Yet, as the film ends, despite all the predictability and minor pitfalls, the vibe of the underdog victory is sweet. The master, a father-like figure and the two boys who couldn’t tolerate each other become one family bound by dance.
Music and Other Departments?
It’s good to see a handful of spirited numbers in the film – though they may not be as integral to the intentions of the story always. The language in the songs isn’t always refined – with the splattering of English, Marathi and Hindi – but that’s why they are beautiful and lend a playful tone to the narrative.
The visuals represent the setting of the film well – the closeted mindsets of the public and the bigger dreams of the boys – shifting between the tiny rooms in the slums and the open expanses of the city. The writing is a mix of cinematic touches and realism, but they blend well to bring about an emotional connect.
Sparkling performances from its lead actors
The emotional connect
The attempt to echo the larger purpose of art
Its similarity to other films made in the backdrop of Dharavi
The over-simplistic cinematic liberties
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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