14 October 2011 | Peter_Young
Very entertaining; Madhuri shines!
Upon release, Anil Mehta's Aaja Nachle, which was widely promoted as Madhuri Dixit's comeback vehicle, failed miserably. I watched it now for the first time, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is such a nice film - colourful, musical, beautiful. This it the story of Diya, a trained dancer who, many years ago ran away from her town with an American man she fell in love with and moved to New York. Now Diya is a professional dancer-choreographer, and a divorcée with one kid. In spite of having promised to never return to India, she hurriedly flies back when learns that her trainer is on his deathbed. She is late, as he has already passed away, but he leaves a message for her as his last wish, to save an old theatre named Ajanta (where she used to dance) from getting ruined and turned into a shopping mall. The story follows Diya's firm decision and later efforts to revive the Ajanta theatre in a town where she is widely infamous. Her plan is to set a new play named "Laila Majnu". The problem is that people in the town dislike her, and only a good response to it can change the theatre's fate.
Aaja Nachle is essentially a musical, nothing very serious, nothing to be taken seriously, and nothing that will provide you with new lessons in life. What it definitely does provide is entertainment, and there it scores. It is not a great movie, but it has a great sense of fun and it flows well. The song numbers are appropriately incorporated into the film, and in this one they are presented mostly as realistic situations in accordance with the story. The film has many subplots, many of which I think were effectively presented, particularly the one involving the character of Mohan Sharma, Diya's past fiancée who was abandoned as she ran away. Several sequences are extremely funny. My favourite is when different girls, most of whom know nothing about dance, audition for Diya's play. Director Anil Mehta is an accomplished cinematographer and he uses his skills to the max in his first directorial effort. Choreography by Vaibhavi Merchant, which is obviously very important, is very well done. The music directors duo Salim-Sulaiman compose a nice soundtrack without which the film would.
Aaja Nachle rests on the able shoulders of the wonderful Madhuri Dixit, who is as charming, natural and charismatic as ever. Clearly, her absence from movies has dimmed absolutely nothing about her, neither her acting prowess nor her ever-so commanding screen presence. Dixit is according to me one of the most beautiful women in the world, and here, her youthful, juvenile beauty is replaced by a more mature and ripe look which is equally appealing. Her eyes speak volumes, her expressions and gestures remain refined and forceful, and her smile... oh this gorgeous smile, it is as amazing and mesmerising as ever. Diya's persona is actually the one that made Dixit the star she is, the star who at some point could give any hero or heroine a run for their money. She is a strong woman who reeks charisma and dares to live life on her terms. The film doesn't give Dixit many opportunities, but she delivers. She is feisty yet gracious, fiery yet elegant, and she is always vivacious and graceful. And what can one say about her dance? Nothing except it is astonishing.
The supporting cast includes many great actors, most of whom are not given that much scope, some of whom getting really small parts, but all are good. Konkona Sen Sharma is awesome. She is simply hilarious as the aggressive, unrefined Anokhi who is madly in love and will do anything to get the man she wants, including dance like an idiot. Towards the end she looks very pretty and it is overall a very good performance. Kunal Kapoor as Imran Pathan is very fine in what can be termed as his own version of the angry young man. Nothing great, but despite playing an overly hostile and hot-tempered guy he's quite a likable fellow. Ranvir Shorey steals the show in a small role that is surely the best-written of all, and he is excellent. Akshaye Khanna in an extended guest appearance is good as he is in most of his films. Divya Dutta is very good in a tiny role, Irrfan Khan is criminally wasted in the even tinier role of her husband. Vinay Pathak is wonderful as "the boring husband". Sushmita Mukherjee is funny as his wife, while Raghubir Yadav and Jugal Hansraj provide good support.
Among the songs, I really liked the title track which is catchy and Madhuri's dance for it elevates it further. My favorite song, however, is the melodious "Ishq Hua". The film's best sequence is when the "Laila Majnu" play finally takes place. It is just beautiful, spectacular, and is clearly well-invested and wonderfully executed and performed. The ending is expectedly sugarcoated, but who cares? It seems like some people just cannot appreciate anything that is not dramatic. This film is generally a lighthearted musical, that's how it's treated - it is good Hindi film entertainment, and a time-pass movie, in the most positive sense of the word. Another complaint was that Madhuri got a rather bland role which didn't do justice to her talent. So, people had not seen her weeping copious tears for so long that they badly expected her to do it again? Can't an actor be good when he's playing a character with less tears and more smiles? Actually, the film is more of a tribute to Dixit's mastery of the art of dance, which was one of the main factors that made her so popular, and I say it's worth a watch.