Thursday, 26 May 2011

7 Khoon Maaf

Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Annu Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Vivaan Shah
Released: 2011
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I had NO expectation whatsoever, because even though I like Priyanka, I wouldn´t call myself a fan, and even though I liked the little bits of the story I´ve heard, I wasn´t sure if it would be good enough - and to be frank I did not like the trailer at all. If anything, I found the movie interesting. From psychological point of view it is an excellent piece of work. Presented in flashbacks, a story of Susanna slowly unfolds in front of us. A young woman, who never loved anyone more then her father (as her mother died too early), just lost her support in life. And with her father´s death she is beginning to look for that one man, who will give her the same amount of love, caring and security. But it is obviously way too much to ask for and Susanna, with every new step she takes on her journey looses her original naivity, innocence and illusions.
Beautiful, young and innocent
This is what marriage does to you!
From everything – the trailers, promo pictures and even the title itself you can be pretty sure what is the film about. Susanna, in her search for love, kills all her husbands, in one way or another. But still, even though you know that she´ll kill them all, you are always eager to know why? They are all very different guys. They have qualities others admire. But they also have some major flaws. And every time Susanna marries, you already wonder just what is wrong with the new guy because there just HAS TO be something....). Equally interesting it is to watch her getting rid of them one by one. Priyanka may be the only performer after Shahrukh Khan that you will feel sorry for even though she´s a mass killer. The scenes were not exactly graphic, but just knowing what is going on in the frame could make you sick (I sure did feel sick several times).

I was somehow confused at first since it is supposed to be 7 murders, but I could only count 6 of them. There are two options, which in my opinion might explain the seventh murder. One theory is that Susanna symbolically killed herself with entering into the order in the end, or that she just as symbolically killed the Christ with her previous sins. If you are familiar with Christianity, I´m sure you´ll understand what I mean. The second theory is much more simple: Susanna felt responsible for the death of her maid and counted that one as one more murder. Or am I really missing something and all this thinking is wrong?
Husband no.1 : Violent, possesive, jealous.
Husband no. 2: Drug addict. (something tells me this is what John wears at home)
Husband no. 3: Poetic and sadistic.
Husband no. 4: Spy and already married.
Husband no.5: Way too horny.
Husband no. 6 : Trying to kill you. Duh.
The story unfolds very naturally, and all the flashbacks are very seamlessly thrown in. As I have mentioned the plot is predictable, but there is still no shortage of surprises, and the ending is brilliant. Only the scene with Susanna having a "vision" was a bit awkward, I would have preferred for her to actually be alone in the room, maybe with some light effects or something...... This was way too much in-your-face and it somehow didn´t have any magic or excitement to it. Still there are not many negatives I can think of right now. What made it were especially the performances.

It is more then safe to claim the film wouldn´t be half as good if it wasn´t for Priyanka. This is her film through and through. In fact she made it so much hers I cannot really picture any other actress in the role. She was perfect. She managed to portray a very complex and atypical character, who – in addition – leads you through her whole life. From naive and innocent Suzie she effortlessly becomes Sultana or Anna, always willing to sacrifice her identity in the name of love. She gets tougher and tougher with each wrong step she takes, and it costs her dearly. Energy and vivaciousness are vaining, until she becomes a wreck. And from there she again manages to rise – and do the most sensible decision of her life. She is not somebody you would hate, and puts you into a strange position with her ability to make you sympathize with her despite all those things you know are just wrong. But in the end of the day you cannot help but feel her insecurity, which results into trusting easily and not minding changing the religion. With Susanna, who is a bit Christian, bit Hindu, bit Muslim and bit who knows what else, you get a clear message: God is Love, no matter how you call Him. I was also glad that even though Priyanka was presented beautifully and sexy, there wasn´t anything vulgar about her portrayal.
Love doesn´t care....
...for nationality...
...or religion.
Though they all had a limited screen space, the husbands manage to hold their own. The weakest is John Abraham, but that doesn´t come exactly as a surprise. Mr. Shah was my favourite, but I might be a little biased in his favour (cause I simply love him!). Irrfan Khan too does a brilliant job, and Russian actor Aleksander Dyachenko too makes a strong impact. The supporting cast too does a good job. I must admit that Susanna´s three faithful servants could scare the heck out of the Addams family any day. The newcomer Vivaan Shah looks very promising and it was very pleasant to see Konkona Sen Sharma in her cameo, even if for several minutes.

Technically the film isn´t the best. Music doesn´t leave any mark with the sole exception of „Darling“, which is a note by note rip off of a popular Russian folk song Kalinka (at least the makers did not try to act as if it was theirs, as it is pretty common in Bollywood).

7 Khoon Maaf doesn´t exactly deliver when it comes to emotions and connecting with the audience, there is no message either. For me it was a fascinating psychological trip into a soul of a woman desperately searching for love. It is a dark film, not fit for you if you get easily depressed.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

We Are Family

Directed by: Sidhart Malhotra
Starring: Kareena Kapoor, Kajol, Arjun Rampal
Released: 2010
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I never expect much from remakes, but I´m always giving them a chance. I have seen some good ones over the years, some not good ones but still enjoyable, and some even better then the original. Unfortunatelly „We are family“ doesn´t fit any of those cathegories.

So what have we here? It has been three years since Aman and Maya got divorced, but obviously they are absolutely at ease with each other. They have three children, all healthy, reasonably happy and unreasonably annoying. The idylic life continues up until the moment Shreya falls into it (literally). She is Aman´s girlfriend, and that combined with one ruined birthday cake makes her an evil witch for the children. Unlike Maya she has career ambitions, and though she honestly loves Aman, taking care of his three hyper-sensitive and hysterical children is not her idea of a day spent well. Plus she has no idea how to do so either. So the next thing you know she is left with them all alone for a whole day. She does her best. She cooks for them. She takes them out for an ice-cream. She tries to be friendly. They behave like the worst bunch of spoilt brats (OK – to be fair, this is mostly about the eldest one). And in the end of the day Maya demands that Sherya should never ever be left alone with her innocent little angels (a slap or two once in a while would do them all good!), because she represents danger to them. Why should they get friendly with a person their father loves anyway? And they don´t need another mother. Or do they?
Will you take care of my three annoying kids and over-submissive ex-husband?
Sure. That is my childhood fantasy.
But soon enough Maya finds out that she has cervical cancer. Aman´s immediate reaction is to break up with Shreya, then he moves back in with Maya to ensure children and her will be looked after. But now Maya sees that it just may not be enough.... and she herself asks Shreya to give up her career, all her dreams and come to take her place with completely everything from dressing the three bratty kids in the morning to baking cookies for the family.... I think that most of you already can guess the outcome of the film.

WAF (known among many Bollywood fans more appropriately as WTF) is lame. And if you don´t think it was lame, then you cannot call it anything else but average. And it is also a great example of how a moving story can turn out awkward. I did not understand why it takes place in Australia. There is not ONE reason for that. And I did not understand why Kareena Kapoor got a Supporting actress award, when she is so clearly the main lead. Kareena is the true saving grace of the film. Her character could very easily turn into an unlikeable one, especially seen through traditional Indian eyes. She was „the other woman“. But she managed to be just wonderful and you cannot help but rooting for her in everything she does. There is both subtlety and strength in her character, the whole range of emotions and she approaches the role with a mature understanding. Kajol too does more then well, after all she is one of those actresses who cannot be bad, sadly the script lets her down a big time. There is really not much she can do except slowly fading away – and making herself rather unlikeable with constant jealousy and over-protectiveness.
I promise I´ll do the dishes just gimme one decent dialogue!
Arjun is lost between the two women. Even little Anjali and Ankush take over him when it comes to both screen-time and screen-presence. Which is rather sad, because he is a fine actor and his jodi with Kareena was delightful in the few romantic scenes we were given. His pairing with Kajol though doesn´t work at all. He is not only sidelined, but has really no place in the film, and probably realizes what it was to be a heroine in the 80s (used as an excuse for a plot and then to disappear into oblivion). The children are casted well, if they were meant to be annoying that is. While „Anjali“ and „Ankush“ loose the annoy-me factor througout the film and become cute, „Aleya“ maintains her coldness and over-acting. The two younger kids manage to create some bond with Kajol (Arjun is yet again left out of his own family), but Aleya is completely out of place from beginning to end.

They need a) a book b) a crown c) a tight slap.
The scenes with a potential to be moving are killed off by either 1. over-the-top hysteria, 2. done-to-death dialogues, 3. awful music. The last factor was particularly disturbing. The main theme is lovely to hear once, but it keeps returning again and again without any change to it, and soon enough becomes cringe-worthy. The emotional moments are marked by unforgivably insensitive rock song and do not even get me started at the horrendous Jail House rock remake – both the song and picturization (or the pointlessness of that whole scene. Dying mother wants to show her family that she is fun now. Like really?)

Instead of sobbing heartily I caught myself thinking about the fried chicken with chips about 20 minutes before the end. The artificial, straight-forward tear jerker made me hungry, but definitely not for more.
Arjun Rampal. The modern day version of the 80s Bollywood heroine.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Magic of Madhuri

For the past seven days we have been celebrating the gorgeous diva Madhuri Dixit and her contribution to Indian cinema. Whatever could be said, was said. Whatever could be posted, made it´s way to internet. And still there is so much uncovered ground! Because I know that many people are still working on something, I decided to ignore the deadline given by the May 15th. Everyone is most welcome to send me the links to their articles during the next week also, you can be sure I shall add it to this post too.

And so HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADHURI-JI. For all the smiles, for all the dances, for all the emotions you have shared with us through your craft. You remain very much loved and in eyes of many unmatchable. This all is dedicated to you as an expression of love your fans and well-wishers, as an appreciation of all cinema lovers. Happy birthday to you.

And here comes the promised logo made by Vishal K Bharadwaj. And he has done a brilliant job! (thank you!!) All the participants are most welcome to use the image on their blogs if they want to!

And here are the articles published under The Magic of Madhuri week banner, in order as they were published:

Madhuri Dixit - when name weaves magic

Madhuri. What else? 

Ankhiya Milao Kabhi Ankhiyan Churao 

When dil goes dhak dhak (part 1)  

When dil goes dhak dhak (part 2)  

The Magic of Madhuri - Dhak Dhak karne laga 

Why do I love Madhuri Dixit? 

Can Madhuri´s magic be captured? 

Madhuri´s forgotten dances 

You watched Koyla? Bloody fool! 

Madhuri and her men 

Madhuri loved and hated 

Reflections about the screen jodi Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit 

How do you solve a problem like Madhuri?  

Aaja Nachle 


Que Sera Sera 

“Zindagi Ek Juaa” Madhuri as drug fiend! 

Madhuri´s interview for Movie magazine, 1996 

When Madhuri Dixit was a South Indian Film Hero (Two Degrees of Prakash Raj) 

It’s been three years since I last did a post for Madhuri Dixit’s birthday… 

How to dress like Madhuri 

Madhuri Dixit - the ultimate woman 

Madhuri Mania: My favourite Madhuri Dixit songs 

Mujhe Neend Na Aaye 

How I wasn´t happy when Madhuri Dixit signed a new film 

Love you Raja 

Madhuri signs Satte Pe Satta Remake 

How to eat a hero

Looking for Magic 

Those are all the articles I have received. If I have forgotten any, do not hesitate and let me know! Thank you all for participating and making this week special!!!

How to eat a hero

The gorgeous man-eater
If you should just like that, on the spot, remember some of Madhuri´s male co-stars, the names to spring into your mind will be Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan and Jackie Shroff. Then you just might remember Mithun Chakraborthy as well as Rishi Kapoor. The truth is that after she completely overruled Anil in Beta (1992) and whenever a film of hers flopped with people saying she was the only good thing in it, she quickly gained a reputation of a woman who tears her co-stars apart and „eats them“. It was said that many actors were apprehensive of acting alongside her, because she was sure to overshadow them. This was a rare quality which, as far as I know, only two other women possessed – Madhubala and Sridevi. Not even Anil, Jackie or Salman for hat matter were saved. I honestly believe she only found a true match as far as screen presence, charisma and skills are concerned in Shahrukh and Aamir. But let´s take a look at some of her lesser known victims.

Tapas Pal was Madhuri´s first hero. Her debut film Abodh was meant to be his entry into Bollywood. He originates from Calcutta and these days he´s into politics, while his co-star, whom he launched (though unsuccessfully) is Bollywood legend. Abodh however turned out to be his first and only film in Hindi. In between 1991-2000 he had no film releases whatsoever, most recently he appeared in a movie „I love you“ from 2007. You cannot really talk about any chemistry between the two actors. Madhuri was too young and too inexperienced, plus the film was about marital misunderstanding. Still they did look well together, and Abodh remains a sweet film thanks to their pairing. They were not even remotely sizzling, but definitely pleasant to watch. And funny to say that even though Tapas was an experienced actor, it was the debuting girl who left some impact.

Vinod Khanna. Alright, you would remember the fact he was paired opposite Madhuri because of that super infamous scene in Dayavan. I think it is sad not many bother to see further. Vinod Khanna was much older then Madhuri and their couple could be perhaps seen as Shahrukh/Deepika of their time. They were paired opposite each other in two films. First it was Dayavan – and the kissing scene, during which Madhuri was so desperately uncomfortable, never really bothered me. The couple was just married after all, and there was no eating of each other´s heads anyway with sensual music in the background. Dayavan (1988) actually had several truly beautiful romantic moments and one could feel peace and silent love from the relationship. The second film was Mahasangram from 1990. Here Madhuri had a rather insignificant, but truly hilarious role and kept the film from being too depressing. We do not see much of a relationship here. She simply meets him, robs him, saves him, dances for him, he saves her life and they get married. While in Dayavan I actually quite liked them together, in Mahasangram they did not have any effect whatsoever. Madhuri was there for herself and not as a half of any couple. And she did a splendid job.
One of the most touching moments of Dayavan.
Sunny Deol appeared with Madhuri in two films. First one was a hit Tridev (1989), in which they were husband and wife, but considering they are violently separated very early in the film, there is not much jodi-ness going on. We do get a beautiful love song though. The second time they acted alongside each other was 12 years later in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke. In this forgotten (THANK GOD) Sunny was her friend, whom she refuses to marry, since she is in love with somebody else. Thus we can mention Ajay Devgn. YRHPK had him as the main lead in a double role, and Madhuri romanced „both“ Ajays, though only one was interested in her. While Sunny and Madhuri looked good together and I wouldn´t mind seeing more of them even today, Ajay Devgn is one man with whom she shares a truly zero chemistry. He is brilliant actor. She is brilliant actress. But they simply don´t work. After the film Ajay admitted he always felt dwarfed by her acting.
Sunny and Madhuri just engaged. Jackie was Madhuri´s brother in the film.
With Ajay Devgan. Chemistry, kahan ho tum?
Sanjay Kapoor´s name accompanied Madhuri´s in two films – first time it was in Raja in 1995. The film by Indra Kumar was meant to be his way to the Bollywood height, but even though the film was a big hit, all credit was given to Madhuri. Not only her skills and experience was far greater, but Sanjay Kapoor, though an OK actor, completely lacks any screen presence and Madhuri pretty much reduced him to ashes, though of course not intentionally. Sanjay Kapoor did not stand a chance at all. Next time they met on the silver screen he was in love with her, but she was not in love with him, though thanks to a dream sequence we got to see them romantically involved for a moment. That was in Mohabbat (1997). And Mohabbat also marked Madhuri´s first working association with Akshaye Khanna. Madhuri was thus one of the three actresses (other two being Hema Malini and Sridevi) to romance both father and son. And she had better chemistry with the son, though he is seven years younger. She did look older then him in the film, which did not at least bother me, because she still looked gorgeous, and you know, older women do romance younger guys in real life pretty often. But for many narrow minded people this was a big problem, and reviews more then about the film talked about her 9 years old kissing scene with Akshaye´s father. How professional. Second time that gave us a chance to see Akshaye with Madhuri was ten years later in Aaja Nachle. His hair loss obviously made up for any visible age difference and there was not one complaint. And while in Mohabbat they were cute, in Aaja Nachle they were sizzling! This is one couple I´d love to see again.
You know without the man on the left it would be a perfect picture.
As far as I know (and I can be wrong as I have not seen all Madhuri´s movies) Chunky Panday too shared the screen space with the diva two times. In Tezaab (1989) I can´t actually recall any scenes he would share with Madhuri, except for driving the car while she and Anil Kapoor are being miserable about their romance not going too well. He got his chance to woo Madhuri in 1991 in Khilaaf, and well, he screwed up. Madhuri´s unbounding passion in the film, be it connected to love or hate, was just overwhelming, while he managed to make a complete idiot out of himself in the first part, and rather unconvincing tragic lover in the second. To look at them was pleasant. To watch him act with her not so much.
No matter what, this song was amazing...
Nana Patekar was never trying to hide his deep admiration towards La Dixit and even was heard reciting poetry dedicated to her during his interviews. Their working relationship covers several films, but they were never romantically paired in the true sense. In Mohre (1987), Parinda (1989) and Prahaar (1991) they had very limited number of scenes together (if any at all). This change with 1999 film Wajood. Not even this was a „jodi“, because Nana plays a stalker in love with Madhuri, and their only romance takes place in his dreams and imagination. The chemistry between them was great though. I always say you don´t have to be a romantic pair to have a chemistry, and this applies to Nana/Madhuri combo. Just watch their final confrontation scene in the theater to know what I mean. The explosion of superb acting of the two will blow you away. Nana did survive.
Talent and charisma overload.
Very similarly like in Mohabbat, there was a love triangle in another OK-ish film Aarzoo (1999). In it Madhuri was paired with Akshay Kumar. They have already appeared together in Dil To Pagal Hai, but there he has more of a cameo role and she belonged to Shahrukh Khan (after all, the most beautiful lady belongs to the sexiest man, no?). In Aarzoo he got her undivided attention and it was really nice to see their pairing. I found them refreshing, though poor Akshay did not stand a chance against Madhuri in attention grabbing.... or other things. Saif Ali Khan, apart from admitting his naughtiest fantasy is to kiss Madhuri´s navel, also became a victim to Madhuri´s aura.
With Akshay...
...and with the guy who has naughty thoughts about her navel.
There are two more names that come to my mind: Samir Soni was lucky enough to make a couple with Madhuri in Lajja. True, we did not get to see much more apart him being a complete ass and ruining her dreams. But I wouldn´t mind seeing them together again, as I think Samir is a fine actor and well, they looked good. Finally we have Kumar Gaurav. He and Madhuri made a completely forgettable film Phool together in 1993. Do I really have to say that she ate them all up as was her habit?

How I wasn´t happy when Madhuri Dixit signed a new film

I have waited for a year. Quite a short time when compared to other fans, who had to wait for four. And between Devdas and Aaja Nachle there was even a greater gap. But it still felt terribly long and I´m sure all the fans understand why. To see Madhuri Dixit in at least one more film has been my great desire ever since I´ve become addicted to Bollywood. I was imagining myself jumping around the room, screaming with joy when she finally announces a new film. Yesterday her new film was announced. And I..... am not happy.

I feel rather disoriented to be honest. The burning desire to see her perform and sizzle hasn´t died out, but I would rather keep my wishes and dreams, then to see a film that would not be good enough. And since Aaja Nachle had so undeservingly only a little success, as a fan I was hoping for something smashingly successful. And the film announced does not fill me with any hope whatsoever.
Sanjay Dutt has obviously roped her into his remake of Satte Pe Satta, which originally starred Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. There are no doubts that she will be amazing, but I honestly was hoping for something like Bhansali´s Mastani, or something new, original, mature, worthy of her immense talent. I guess I would be happy, if it was certain that Madhuri will sign other projects for upcoming years as well. But that is that one problem with being Madhuri´s fan – you never know when she will appear and there is absolutely no telling how long will the gap in between her projects be. Sure, the best thing to happen would be an adult drama/romance/masala with Shahrukh for me, but there are others amazing ideas – and mainly co-stars who I´d like to see her with. Leave alone Aamir and Salman, there is Saif Ali Khan, who I believe would be a terrific match for her, and there is Akshaye Khanna, especially since he and Madhuri looked so awesome together in Aaja Nachle and we never got to see any real „relationship“ happening in the film. Or if you really want to bring her back with an older actor, there is always Anil Kapoor and there is Jackie Shroff. To be honest out of all the co-stars I think Sanju Baba hasn´t aged well, and I never saw him more then just a good actor (meaning not great – and I beg forgiveness from all his fans).
Back then they looked good together. But times have changed and I have my apprehensions.
One also longs for that one role that will be to Madhuri what „Mother India“ was to Nargis and „Mughal-E-Azam“ to Madhubala, what „Umrao Jaan“ was to Rekha. The closest thing to something like that was Chandramukhi in Devdas, but there is still that little fact she was considered a supporting character.

Also Satte Pe Satta has many supporting characters. So did Aaja Nachle, but there all the supporting cast was just amazing, and I pray this will be the same case. But there are more things I dread. I personally have not yet seen Sohal Shah´s previous work (he is the director), but what I heard filled me with horror! That is my biggest concern. Sometimes I wish Madhuri actually did care whom she´s working with.....

Well, all I can say now is that it is rather hard for me to make peace with this news. I´ll try to block out everything else and concentrate only on the fact that Madhuri is doing a film. And I will pray it turns out good. And that it won´t bomb at the box office. Because I can see happening just that.....

And that is why I was not happy when Madhuri Dixit signed her new film.
17.5. 2011 - UPDATE:

After the first shock washed over (mainly over the choice of a hero and director) and after I saw the original Satte Pe Satta, I am slowly regaining my optimism. All I to say now:

Madhuri - best of luck, we know you´ll be amazing!

Sanjay - best of luck, get into shape!

Sohal Shah - if you screw up, I´m gonna kill you!

everybody else - go and see this in a theater when it comes out!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Madhuri Dixit - the ultimate woman

You may have already seen it on youtube, as I´ve not made this recently, but here comes another of my Madhuri tribute videos. Hopefully you will like it!

Madhuri´s interview for Movie magazine, 1996

You know what is curious about old Madhuri´s interviews? That you can hardly recognize any change in her. Be it interviews she gave after Tezaab or the post-Devdas ones, she always remained dignified, friendly but not over-familiar, and very much maintaining the same views on life and work in general. True, little things did change. She gained confidence. And recently also opened up much more.

I find it amusing and funny going through some old magazines and reading her answers to certain questions. I recall clearly how she complained, that everytime she leaves for holiday in America journalists link her with a NRI doctor. "Why is it always a doctor? Why not other professions as well?" she claimed. She also stated that she didn´t have hobbies beyond the ones connected with acting, and specifically mentioned she doesn´t do scuba-diving and other stuff. I´m sure she herself would smile at those interviews today, before grabbing her schnorkel and diving into the water right after her husband heart-surgeon.

As a part of The Magic of Madhuri week I bring you her interview for Movie magazine from October 1996. You shall see for yourself, that she stayed the same. Hamaari Madhuri.

(click the image for bigger view)

Friday, 13 May 2011

Aaja Nachle

Directed by: Anil Mehta
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kunal Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Irffan Khan, Divya Dutta, Ranvir Shorey, Akshaye Khanna
Released: 2007
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

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.