Why We Love Aaja Nachle

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“The man who taught your mother how to dance and how to live…”

The most beautiful dialogue of the film. It made me want to start watching it again. One of the ways I know that I truly love a movie is if, while watching it, I am ready to start watching it over again. With Aaja Nachle this happened within the first few minutes and again several times more. I was hooked.

Echoing that sentiment. I too, was hooked. Though I didn’t feel it until I saw ‘O Re Piya’ – the first song disappointed me.

Then we were asked to write a collaborative piece about Aaja Nachle and were limited to three paragraphs (gasp!) each, I think I had respiratory failure. Three paragraphs for a masterpiece that I could write a thesis on it. But despite our efforts, we failed.

Tell me about it.

There’s so much that we love about the film that we could take up all of BollySpice’s feature space, and we don’t think the editors would be too amused. So where to start?

How about the characterisations?


Madhuri, Madhuri, Madhuri…

None of the characters behaved out of, well, character, in want of a better word. They followed a natural pattern. Madhuri’s Dia was playful, witty, sharp, impish, free spirited and passionate with innocence but the character matured into a mother yet retained her core without becoming childish or irritating. Kudos to Madhuri. She is beautiful, graceful and so natural. It depresses me that she doesn’t work in Bollywood as much.

Well said.

Madhuri Dixit is a tremendous talent and is a triple threat: she is gorgeous, she can act, and she can dance anyone under the table. Madhuri still lights up the screen, is so natural on film, and such a great actress you never feel she is acting. She is one of the best dancers in the world, and one who uses every part of her body, from her eyes, to the tips of her fingers, to her hips and toes. She is poetry in motion. She played the role of Dia perfectly with a mixture of spice and a caring heart. In the flashback scene, she was so good that you did not even question that she was playing a much younger part. Her interactions with all the characters were great, but her scenes opposite Akshaye Khanna were especially good. Madhuri on screen just makes you happy, and you cannot wait to see her again.

Then there was Konkona.

Konkona was not a revelation to me in the acting department. But she was in the dancing department. I have never really seen Konkona dance (yes there were a few numbers in LCMD but she wasn’t the focus). The woman is graceful no matter what she does. She has the same quality as Madhuri – can light up the screen with her smile and natural acting. As Anokhi, she retained the essence of her character despite the eventual makeover. Her language didn’t change, neither did her attitude and her changes was realistic; the clothes were better fitted and instead of getting rid of her, er, habit (wiping her eternally runny nose on her hand) they addressed it (by giving her a handkerchief).

Konkona Sen Sharma is one of the best actresses out there. Each time I see a new movie of hers I am amazed yet again at the caliber of her acting. Her portrayal of a tomboy who transforms into a more confident woman is spot on. She is funny, she is moving, and she also never seems to be acting the character, she is being the character. She moved me to tears in her role as Laila.

She even did the Yash Raj chiffon saree element beautifully. Konkona could easily become a true-blue Bollywood star but I am hoping she doesn’t. Her charm lies in the fact that she is so off-beat.

If there is Konkona’s Anokhi, then there is Kunal’s Imran…

Kunal Kapoor – Okay, first of all can I say how CUTE he is. His change from ruffian to a young man in love was really well done. He really impressed me during the performance of the play with his portrayal of Majnu. He surprised me with how well he moved for such a tall man, particularly his jumps.

Kunal’s Imran reminds me of my brother. My brother resembles Kunal in height but it was Imran’s personality that is my brother. So I was very attached to Imran. Imran has no control over his temper, reacts quickly, treats women pretty harshly but underneath it all is fairly compliant but also has his own set of values. Kunal was so fantastic that I couldn’t see Kunal anywhere and only saw Imran.

And let’s not forget their pairing.

Of course not.

I loved Konkona and Kunal together; they bring out something special in each other. All of their scenes together were marvelous and they make magic on screen. They have one of the best jodi’s in the industry and if it was solely up to me I would give them the Best Jodi Award for 2007.

If it was up to me, they would be the Best Jodi, period. Talent and friendship translate into brilliant on-screen chemistry. Just ask SRK and Kajol, except this duo surpasses them by miles.

And what about the supporting cast?

Oh yes, can’t forget them. They are unforgettable.

Such brilliant characterizations. I loved how they were ‘real’ people and not some Bollywood stereotype. The characters were good with shades of grey. Like most people.

Some people would argue about the ‘villains’ (there weren’t any) – Chaudry Saab was a politician trying to win the elections and would do so by any means (hence him being bought was believable and so was his change at the end). Irfan Khan’s character as the businessman with a contract to save also changed appropriately – they had established in the film that he did adore his wife but he cared about his business and had lost sight of his wife along the way. I could go on, but as it stands the evidence is enough.

Ditto to the above. One of the things that made the movie so good was that the supporting cast was so brilliant. Each actor made an impression in their role and I loved every one of them. I could go through and list why I thought everyone portrayed their character perfectly and was planning on leaving some suspense for you when you see the movie but Eman ruined that by mentioning two of them. Never mind, there are other characters, just waiting to be discovered.

Want to ruin anymore surprises?

Could talk about the screenplay.

Written beauty became the screen reality…

Such a beautiful screenplay. It incorporated a social message, highlighted cultural attitudes and a romantic story without once getting melodramatic, out of sync or unrealistic. It was about saving a community from its own apathy; about recognizing the stigma we attach to people who follow their hearts. About the negativity we have towards divorced people; about how people seem to forget culture and tradition for its true spirit rather than adapting and working with it towards a progressive future; about love that can be subtle and beautiful without any grand declarations and gestures. It is one of the most impressive screenplays I have ever had privilege of witnessing on celluloid. When the DVD releases, I hope they have an in-depth interview with the screenwriter as well as deleted scenes (many of them). Special mention to the dialogues – they were penned beautifully. You can hear real people saying them. This is most evident in the sequence where Dia and Anokhi talk about her wayward heart after Imran’s not-so pleasant declaration. I think it was just brilliant and I especially connected with the scene when Dia comments on Anokhi’s hair.

Whole-heartedly agree. Not about the hair, but the rest.

A feel-good movie that made you feel! Not only did it lift your heart, it also tugged at your heart and made you cry because you were so moved. The script was well written, the characters wonderful and the whole thing fit together beautifully. The focus on dance of course was a plus, and the idea that art is important just spoke to me. Though some have said that final stage play was unrealistic, that it could not possibly have been done, I noticed, on a second watching of the film, many more scenes where they did show you the work and the preparation that went into the show, such as the rehearsals with background dancers, the scene building, and the costumes. You did have to suspend belief for some things, but not any more than when a hero and heroine are suddenly in different clothes singing and dancing in the snow!

What do we focus on next?

The aspect that defines Indian cinema’s genre.

Where there is music, there is dancing…

Madhuri and dance go together like butter and milk. Dancing is beautiful and essential and Madhuri, brings a twist and grace to it that redefines it. Madhuri is the best dancer that Indian cinema has ever seen and in all likelihood, will ever see. But I don’t need to tell you what you already know. What you don’t know is that the film’s songs are actually progressive of the storyline. The choreography is fantastic (even if some of the songs aren’t). ‘O Re Piya’ follows Dia’s early life in Shamla and the choreography and setting is just breathtaking. Makes me wish I lived there. Her next dance is for ‘Aaja Nachle’ where Madhuri proves that she still has what it takes to rule the Indian cinema. ‘Show Me Your Jalwa’ has a rustic, cute and a fun choreography to it. It makes you want to dance. It makes you wish you were there participating in such a highly community spirited event. Shame that in real life you can’t burst into song and dance. Finally,‘Ishq Hua’ doesn’t really have much choreography but what it does have is filled with passion, romance and a reserve that makes you wish that you fell in love like that.

And as a former professional ballet dancer, one of the things I love the most in Bollywood movies is the dance sequences and I had very high expectations for Aaja Nachle. Not only were they met; they were surpassed by leaps and bounds (no pun intended). In the first scene Madhuri’s character Dia is dancing alone in a studio in New York. The choreography is modern/jazz and you just smile seeing her joy. Then the rehearsal begins, and though the background dancers may technically be better dancers than Mads, your eyes only see her. Another outstanding section is seen during a flashback sequence with young Dia rehearsing for a performance. However, there is much too little of her dancing – you want more. We are then treated to a flashback stage performance that is a feast for the eyes. The colors, the staging, and the movements of Madhuri and the other dancers are magnificent. Again it is too many small glimpses, you want to experience the whole show.

Back to current day and Dia gives a performance at Ajanta (the theater she is trying to save). In this number Madhuri is in her element and the choreography shows off her incredible talent. I have to say her costume for this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The song is ‘Aaja Nachle’ (Come Dance) and like the audience you want to get up and dance with her. You would if you weren’t busy sitting there bowled over at how beautiful she is when she dances. The energy and sparkle she exudes literally makes you smile.

Like we said, there will never be anyone who can dance with the passion and grace that Madhuri does.

Is that it?

I think we are missing something…

There was another sequence that was choreographed.

Ah yes – the play itself. Done entirely in music and poetry.

Poetry on celluloid…

The ending of the film. The Laila-Majnu musical ensemble. Are there any words for such a brilliantly written and choreographed piece? We can try but there is no justice to them. The costumes are amazing. The sets are divine. And the choreography flawless but what really gets you are the lyrics that are used for the sequence. Everything is stated with such perfection. Everything you need to know in such limited time is no easy feat. Special mention to Jugal Hansraj who enacts the part of Tabrez (Laila’s brother) – who delivered his lines with such perfection that I want to know exactly why he isn’t acting more. Dia’s presence as the narrator of the story is just as beautiful – it’s sheer poetry. I know for a fact because that play has been on audio repeat the whole day. It’s so fantastic that I’d rather just listen to the words and forego the visuals because it is just that beautiful. And Madhuri dancing in the style of Sufis dressed in red, I think Sufi music just acquired another dimension.

Yes. After all, who can forget the mind-blowing, breathtaking, tears-in-my-eyes Laila Majnu musical play. I could go on for pages at how wonderful I thought the choreography was. However I will restrain myself and just type a little – mostly to intrigue you and partly to save BollySpice some space.

The Laila Majnu play is by far one of the best things I have ever seen on film. So incredible and so moving – it is hard to put it into words. The music, the lyrics, the dance, the costumes, the staging, the acting in the audience and on stage was perfection. At the end I felt just as the audience did: stunned, and then wanting to burst into applause. PURE ART!

Is that all?

No, it isn’t but we can’t continue.

We could continue forever but there is neither the space nor the time…

And as you probably have figured out by now Aaja Nachle is now one of my favorite films of all time! I applaud the entire cast and crew for making a film that I love so much. Go out and experience the joy for yourself. It is 2 hours and 20 minutes well spent! Now if you’ll excuse me I must go dance! Aaja Nachle?

And I need to go and try and dance.

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