Yeh Ballet: Feature Film Review
Director: Sooni Taraporevala.
Language: Hindi, English.
Release Date: 15th January 2020.
“Sooni Taraporevala’s Yeh Ballet is a film that dares to talk about dreams trumping reality in most simplistic fashion. Is the Netflix film worth a watch? Find out!”
Asif and Nishu are two teenagers from the Mumbai slums, both passionate about dancing. Nishu has had a close call with a dance reality show, endeavoring constantly to turn his dream of becoming a great dancer into a reality. Asif, on the other hand, is content in a daily face-off with his fellow ‘b-boying’ guys. But a stroke of luck and fate changes it all for both of them, and they find themselves at the mercy of ruthless Saul Aaron at the Mumbai Dance Academy to be taught ballet. Hence starts their journey of adapting to the foreign art form, defeating everything to become great ballet dancers.
There are certain films that stay in your mind for their brilliant opening sequences (Taxi Driver, The Godfather). Sooni Taraporevala leaves her mark with Yeh Ballet’s sweeping opening sequence. The film opens with a drone shot of Mumbai’s landmark- the majestic Bandra-Worli Sea Link– with the affluent tones of piano that changes to upbeat hip-hop tones as the camera moves to Worli Koliwada– the colorful slums of Mumbai. In these few minutes, Sooni establishes the background for her story to take place in- the merging of two classes through art.
When I think ballet, two things come to my mind- the musical/theatrical extravaganza that is Tchaikovsky Swan Lake and the film inspired by it, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Yeh Ballet is totally different from these two- it thrives in its simplicity and steadfastness. It’s the slice of life, underdog story of two underprivileged boys who dream of learning ballet, an art form that is usually affiliated with the affluent. As they bridge the gap between their dream and their reality, Yeh Ballet blooms with an ease that is effortless and drama-less at its best.
For the middle class, slum-dwelling India, dancing is just a hobby; not something you pursue as your career. Nishu (Manish) is an ardent pursuer of dance, but his taxi-driving father (Vijay) strongly disapproves of his dream, while for Asif (Achintya), dance is just another hobby to pass his time and though his family neither approves nor disapproves of it, his uncle (Yusuf), whom everyone listens to, is like Nishu’s father. As both the guys meet ballet, their viewpoint changes, and so does their families’ in a gradual yet effective pace.
Though every actor deliver their character’s bit with on par performances, Achintya Bose and Vijay Maurya leave their mark as they portray their characters’ arc with believable fluency. One jarring event changes Asif’s way of looking at life, and Achintya portrays this change with a realistic demeanor. Vijay as Nishu’s father is the embodiment of a middle class father, with his affections, and compliments safely hidden behind the veneer of sternness. He is the good father who grills his son about his choices, because he wants Nishu to lead a life better than him, and thinks dance isn’t the way. But it changes when he sees the talent and appreciation Nishu gets, and again it’s a believable shift.
Manish and Achintya complement each other well- their characters’ tiff evolving into friendship, which helps their duet of grace and aggression to flow together harmoniously.
Yeh Ballet is straightforward and brevity translated on screen. Be it the slum way of earning and learning or the sociopolitical commentary on religion, class, and development, Sooni and Vijay (who wrote the Hindi dialogues for the film) keep it crisp and real.
Apart from the continuity jerks between the ballet sequences, there’s nothing that should hold you back from watching this Netflix original film.
Netflix’s Yeh Ballet is a film that portrays an art’s ability to transcend any hurdle that holds you back from pursuing your passion. Worth a watch.
Sooni Taraporevala marks her digital debut with Yeh Ballet. The feature is based on the VR documentary film Sooni made, inspired by true events.
Manish Chauhan, who plays Nishu, is one of the guys from whom Yeh Ballet’s story is inspired. He plays his own fictional version in the film.
Also Read: Ghost Stories: Feature Film Review