I saw the movie Aaja Nachle, widely touted as Madhuri Dixit's comeback vehicle, today. I have pretty much stayed away from Bollywood this year, a result of a combination of disliked actors and poor reviews. But this one had Madhuri Dixit, and I don't really dislike her. She seems sensible and mature. I mean, if she was coming back from the US for this movie, it had to have something. Thankfully, we bought our tickets before I read the first review. Rediff (Raja Sen) pretty much trashed it, giving 2 stars for her smile. Hindustan Times (Khalid Mohammed) also tread the same path. This post will attempt to accomplish 2 things. One, it will attempt to give a decent review. Two, it will attempt to criticize the critics.
Aaja Nachle is very pretty. It has lovely images that appease the eye and the music, that otherwise sounds quite ordinary, is backed up by some very powerful visuals. The film has a nice languid pace to it without really getting boring. It quickly moves over the portions that can get really tedious if delved into whilst ensuring that it pretty much remains a film of equals with everybody getting a fairly meaty role, replete with dialogues and screen presence. The film touches upon the various relationships that exist between the characters, all of which are beautifully etched out and nicely portrayed, while keeping small town India, cliches and all, firmly in mind.
Madhuri Dixit is like wine, good then, much better and more mature now. Ranvir Shorey is very believable as the man jilted at the altar, but still harbouring feelings and misaligned anger for Madhuri. Vinay Pathak is beautifully government official-like. Akshaye Khanna and Irrfan Khan deserve more than just mentions as special appearance. They have a fairly big bearing on the plot. Kunal Kapoor looks bloody good and Konkona Sen Sharma is absolutely adorable. The film also shows the kind of oppression that the women in rural-ish India suffer from, reeling under familial pressures as well as husband induced ones. But what I really like and was touched by is the amount of heart that these characters portray, whether it is friendship overcoming the might of power and money or the boring stifling husband who wants to save his marriage by becoming more interesting. These characters are not afraid to swallow their pride and let their heart do the talking.
Just as the film starts to get a little meandering, the final show comes on, the timing just right. And what a show that is. Sure Ajanta, that otherwise might wear a forlorn and decrepit look in day, magically transforms to a portrayer of dreams at night rivalling even the famed Acropolis in its hey-day. But then that is what theatre is about. Turn a blind eye to the reality of it all. Where and how and when are these changes taking place? How does a policeman taken on at the last possible moment know all his lines and movements perfectly? How is the stage changing landscapes in between acts? Suspend belief just a little bit and then you will see the film for what it really is, a grand musical that any theatre hall would be proud to host. The final show is a grand spectacle that is powerfully and beautifully portrayed with some brilliant acting. Glad to see that our actors can do so much more than just run around trees and our directors can think of song sequences that don't involve trees. The final show doesn't demean or insult the audience's intelligence by treating them as rural India, as is wont with so many films that originate from the metros. The treatment of the film can be paralleled with Swades or Lagaan. Aaja Nachle is a must watch.
The reviews however have generally panned the film, picking on little things and sniggering about inane stuff like National Geographiya. Both Raja Sen and Khalid Mohammed have yet again earned my ire for behaving like immature imps. I'm starting to think that both of these gentlemen don't really know how to review a film and have become very cynical, going into theatres with a prejudice already formed and an opinion already biased. If they continue to tread this path of treating both the viewing public and the film fraternity with utter disdain and scant respect, then neither the public nor the film fraternity are going to accord them any respect. Farah Khan made her views quite clear on Koffee With Karan when she called film critics 'retards'. One only has to go through the comments in Raja Sen's reviews on rediff to realise that the public are thinking along similar lines.
A reviewer has the might of the pen and the command over the language to weave an intricate interpretation of the film, something that will tell the reader something about the film, something about what the reviewer saw and felt and heard. I believe I have done that in my review. (Have I? Let me know.) We do not want spoilers telling us the story and what happens in the film. Instead, we have reviewers like the above mentioned who choose to waste precious newsprint space as well as the readers' time by trying to come up funny lines. You are not a stand up comic act. Stop saying "Yikes!" so much. Treat each film on its own merit. Do not bring in the excess baggage of production house, histories of those associated with the film, etc. Just review the film, review the three hours you spent in that hall. Funny how dance themed movies from Hollywood received better reviews. All our film-makers are not bad. All our films do not suck. There are some genuinely good ones out there. Your friends are probably better reviewers than the so-called film critics who believe in only criticising.