For me, a creative output comes out only when I read, watch and listen to interesting stuff. I am subscribed to a lot of newsletters and my tea time every morning goes into browsing through them. I watch movies late evening once the work for the day is done, and podcasts are helpful while completing the household chores. I am very comfortable with this routine and have friends who send in exceptional recommendations time-to-time.
Sooni Taraporevala with Manish Chauhan and Amiruddin Shah
Day two of self-quarantine / WFH was spent in watching this Netflix film - Yeh Ballet, written and directed by Sooni Taraporevala. The movie is about hardships and struggles two young dance enthusiasts face while pursuing their passion. In the beginning, I found it similar to what Zoya Akhtar has tried to show in the movie Gully Boy - the houses, families, religion. But ‘Yeh Ballet’ does not prominently highlight the differences in religion and you will not notice that primely in the movie unless you think about it. But I kind of have a question as to why is it important that most of the movies speak about religion, economic differences to make them complete. The audience needs to be educated and not hammered with this existing stigma.
The movie shows two young talented dancers Manish [ Manish Chauhan played by the dancer himself] and Asif [ Achintya Bose] who chase their dream of Ballet Dance, the film is based on the lives of Amiruddin Shah and Manish Chauhan. Manish does not have family support though he is recognized as a talent by a reality show, and his father is a taxi driver working hard to make the ends meet. Asif spends his time wandering around with his friends and hates his uncle who brings religion as a point of discussion every time. Asif’s elder brother, who is a delivery guy, forces him to take up Ballet classes and convinces the dance academy by vouching for him.
'Yeh Ballet' highlights the treatment of an Israeli Ballet teacher, Saul Aaron gets from a Dance academy in Mumbai when he is invited to train the students there. It is disappointing yet quite real how a foreign artist is looped into art projects in India for the sake of fame and is disrespected over and over again. I remember visiting a college fest in Mumbai last year where a wall art was done by a female artist who traveled from a European country and was washed off two days after the festival was done. She had expressed her anger and how unethical it is to do so, and her words reflected how she had made an impression of how Indians look at art. It was sad.
Moving ahead in the movie, Manish dedicatedly practices Ballet under the guidance of Saul while Asif has to force himself every day to keep a straight face, he doesn’t quite like the idea of learning there initially. Saul, however, finds grace, skills, and form in Asif’s dance and wants him to practice harder. Manish and Asif don’t get along in the initial part but over the time they bond very well. When Asif falls for a Young woman from a different community and Manish who learns from his colleague in the dance class, they are shown their place.
Manish starts practicing with a girl who belongs to a rich family at her home studio but gets hate from her family for his background. He also gets into an argument with his father about him pursuing dance, which forces him to leave the house and he eventually ends up staying with Saul, working as his house help. Saul focuses on Asif and Manish because of their skillsets, gets them to stay with him and works hard on their performance. This, right here, shows how it is important to have the right mentor to push forward irrespective of who you are, where you come from. If you have someone who makes you run the extra mile, appreciate them and prove yourself.
Saul molds them to be the first Indian professionals to fly to the United States to learn Ballet. There are some moments in the movie, where you will feel emotional and proud of the boys. It is true that victory comes to those who are honest and consistent with their efforts while supporting others around them.
The presence of a very talented supporting cast in Maurya, Danish Hussain, and Jim Sarbh is not prominent as much as we would have liked, but they still make an impact. Maurya and Sarbh create some very interesting moments, leaving you wanting more. Despite that, the film captures the visuals and subtlety of Mumbai, divided by class and united by the art form. In Manish and Asif's story, the changing notion of art is captured, hopeful that it will induce more walls to fall.
Honestly, this movie is not for everyone. Some might find it very predictable and the drama lacks, but I found it inspirational, revising my beliefs about pursuing art.
You can watch the movie on Netflix.
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