Movie review: Yeh Ballet

The story of talent getting noticed and hope for a better life..

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Yeh Ballet | Roy Kapur Films

Over this long weekend, I found some time to watch this amazing movie: Yeh Ballet. Another thing I did is that I completed reading one book ( What young India wants), and I plan to write its review in the next post.

The movie is superb and heart-touching in almost every aspect of film making. The story, the actors and their background in Mumbai, their struggles and finally, making their dream come true has been filmed wonderfully. Kudos to Soni Taraporewala for making such an amazing movie.

The topic of this movie is infact very unique because even though ballet is world famous in many parts of the world, but somehow, it never entered India. Maybe India already had a lot of its own ethnic and cultural dance forms, that there was simply no space for Ballet to occupy. This movie however is based on a true story. An Israeli-American ( Saul Aaron, based on real life ballet teacher Yehuda Maor) is invited to Mumbai by a dance academy to teach ballet to its students. The dance academy has quite a number of rich kids from affluent parts of Mumbai, but somehow, two guys ( Amiruddin Shah and Manish Chauhan) both of them being from slum areas of Mumbai, are miraculously allowed to enter this academy. And by their talent and a bit of luck, the teacher, Saul spots both of them and finds that amongst all the students, only these two guys have the perfect talent and physique to become a ballet dancer. Both of them are exceptionally talented in other dance forms as well, including b-boying, hip-hop and whacking. But the only thing they lacked is money and parents support. Manish had to leave his house as his father disapproved of him and he chose his dreams of becoming a world famous ballet dancer over other comforts. The movie shows how much hardships he had to endure to make his dream come true.

Amiruddin or simply as Amir, also came from slum area and suffered from bias, street fighting and lack of family support for his dancing skills. Later, Saul took care of both of them and allowed them to stay with him in his house. They both learnt a lot from Saul and he stayed with them in their times of need. Infact when they both got selected to attend the ballet course in America, but couldnt make it to the US visa due to their lack of financial assets, Saul deposited his own money in both of their accounts to make sure his poor yet talented students get to attend the ballet course. I wonder who does this in real world which is filled with cynicism and jealousy. This scene touched my heart!

Finally, they did make it to the ballet school in America and the movie ends with an happy ending. But it does teach a lot of lessons and insights. After watching this movie, I got to know how much talent the poor kids living in slum areas of Mumbai and even other parts of India have! This often goes unnoticed most of the times. Amir and Manish were lucky to get discovered by Saul and finally they could make their dream come true.

The film portrays the typical expectation of Indian parents to ignore their kids talents in all fields, except academics. Both Amir and Manish family disapproves their sons dancing talent. Only later do they realize how fortunate they are for God and Allah to bestow them with a son having such an incredible talent which is found in one in millions. I wonder how many Amir and Manish are there in India, who would be having some gifted talent in arts, dance, music, writing or painting, but often gets neglected just because the Indian Dream only allows Engineers and Doctors to be respected and paid well. The rest professions according to the middle class parents are ticket to poverty and joblessness.

Finally, the most touching character is that of the ballet teacher, Saul Aaron. Where can we find such benevolent and selfless teachers in this world today? On one side the academia and teaching profession is tainted with obsession for money and promoting nepotism by supporting only those kids whose parents are rich and elite, while on the other side, the world still has teachers like Saul who are kind and professional enough to support their students, purely on talent, and irrespective of their background. The film does have a scene where one of the rich students parents, whose daughter could not make it to the ballet course due to lack of her talent, tries to question the academy owner if those slum kids got an admission based on reservation! This is hillarious as the academy owner had to clarify that there is no concept of reservation in ballet schools in America. Even in 2021, the fact that Indian society is obsessed with medieval concepts of caste and reservations, and often sidelines talent is deeply troubling. But inspite of all this, both of them could successfully make it to the ballet school. Indeed, fortune favors the brave and the talented…

I end this movie review here and would like to tell my dear readers to watch this movie on Netflix. Its simply worth watching!

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Review: A Suitable Boy

I watched the Netflix series, ‘A Suitable Boy’ yesterday. This BBC directed series, having 6 episodes, is based on the Vikram Seth’s novel, with the same title. I have not read the book, and so I cannot comment on the originality and comparison between the book and the TV show. But I would like to express my opinion on the miniseries.

The story is based on a newly independent India from the clutches of British rule. Those were the years around 1950-52, when India embarked on its journey to build a nation which had been dominated by mass poverty, communal hatred between Hindus and Muslims, and an immediate need to strengthen the unity of India. The story revolves around four families in Brahmpur town, which are the Kapoors( key family in local politics), Mehras( in-laws of Kapoors), Khans ( who are the Nawabs) and Chatterjis( rich, liberal family in Calcutta). along with Saeeda bai (the singer-prostitute), Kabir Durrani and Haresh Khanna.

Lata, is the protagonist of the story, whose mother wants to find a suitable boy for her to marry. Lata falls in love with Kabir Durrani, a handsome guy in Brahmpur university. But she finds out that he is a Muslim, and hence she decides not to marry him as her conservative family would never accept it. Her brother’s family is married to Chatterji’s in Calcutta, and her sister-in-law introduces Lata to Namit Chatterji, who belongs to a rich Bengali family, immersed deeply in literature and music. Lata finds Namit exceedingly liberal, poetic and dreamer, and she still goes out with him a few times. But later, she realizes that she would never be his dream woman, as she is too pragmatic and conservative. Even Lata’s mother did not like Namit.

Then, Lata’s mother introduces Lata to Haresh, who is a self-made man, working as a foreman in shoe factory. Haresh had ran away from his family, toiled hard to make his way up in the factory, and even went to England for higher studies. Lata’s mother likes Haresh and finds him to be suitable boy for Lata. Initially, Lata is not very appreciative of Haresh’s humble nature, and down to earth attitude. Finally, at the end, when Haresh after not receiving any positive response from Lata, he decides to move on, she does realize how much she loved him. So, she ran away to the railway station, and then proposed Haresh in front of everyone. Thus, Lata ( and her mother) are successful in finding ‘A Suitable Boy’ as per the storyline! End of the story.

This might sound to be a boring story, but this is the crux of the TV series. Yes, you read it right. Even though there are many other characters and supporting sub-stories to extend this to a 6 episode series, but the main storyline sticks to the suitable boy hunt for Lata. As I have not read the original book, hence, I am not sure how the book conveyed this story. But this BBC produced and Mira Nair directed miniseries lacks originality. It seems that the series has been hastingly concluded without even making the purpose of characters relevant. For example, Kabir’s role is very brief and non-relevant. Initially, it does seem that Lata has fallen for Kabir,and this might become another Hindu-Muslim romance story, but Lata simply rejects him ( even after performing in Shakespeare’s play along with him).

Maan Kapoor’s dalliance with Saeedabai and Meenakshi Chatterji’s sexual scenes with some random guy named Billy( while trying to hide this from Mehra’s and Kapoor’s) are utterly non-relevant for this story theme. It seems that being western directed, they want to insert some sex scenes just to make it look romantic and gather audience to watch this series. But such tactics work in Hollywood, but not in Indian diaspora. Indians often do not want sex scenes in the movie/TV series just for the sake of making it romantic. Rather, we Indians often appreciate the subtle emotions of love between the lovers, and few romantic songs. Due to the multiple western motivated coitus scenes, makes it even more banal.

However, the background of local village politics, which is often influenced by religion and caste equations is superbly portrayed in this series. The scenes of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims is something of a stigma on the Indian society. Yes, it is true that India have had many riots after independence, and both sides are to be blamed equally. I am in no denial of this. But the problem I find is the primary focus these so called western (BBC and Hollywood) directors and writers put on this topic, especially the British. They find solace in adding fuel to fire by showing the riots and hatred between these two religions, very often in their movies and TV series. I don’t understand why? Infact the irony is the British themselves played the divide and rule politics before India became independent, and led to the partition of India. And since then, they have been propagandizing to the world through such shows and movies, that how the two religions still fight and hate each other. BBC and western movie directors should realize that India has come up much ahead and has proudly stood as an example of ‘Unity in Diversity‘ amidst all its problems.

Infact, this is one of the biggest flaws in this story. They should have shown Lata marrying Kabir, defying the religious divide. This would have ideally been in congruence with the secular idea of India. If they can show a scene of Kabir kissing Lata in the temple premises ( which led to a huge controversy of ‘Love-Jihad’ in the India conservative media), why can’t they take it ahead of showing them being married? But as per the story, Lata marries Haresh, who is more of an arranged guy deemed suitable in the conservative Indian mindset. This is where the miniseries disappoints most of the audience, including me.

But the series does have some positive remarks as well. It courageously portrays the bond between Maan and Firoz, and Mahesh Kapoor and the Nawab, as a Hindu-Muslim unity,which does earn accolades from the viewers like me. The background of a 1950’s India in Calcutta, and villages is very excellently displayed. The elite clubs of Calcutta, the land reform bill and its effect on the zamindaars/landlords, the 1952 elections, and even the prejudice faced by hard working Indians ( as in case of Haresh Khanna while trying to secure a job in Praha, a Czech shoe factory for the managerial position) from the British/European firms in India are shown with intricacy. This gives the viewers a panorama of the early years of India after independence.

Concluding this review, I would give a rating of 3 out of 5. The series could have fared much better had they removed the sexual scenes, which were non-relevant for the story. But the series fares well in depicting the Indian mindset behind marrying women, the deep involvement of family in selecting the right guy for the girl, and the historic background shown in the post-independence India.