Director – Sunny Tarapurwala
Distribution – Julian Sands, Manish Chauhan, Achinthia Bose, Jim Sarbh, Danish Hussein, Vijay Mauria.
In a grandiose setting director Suni Tarapurwala opens his new film Yeh Ballet, which slides from the beautiful Mannat to the muddy banks of the Colivada. We see a group of slum children dancing, surrounded by dried fish and skyscrapers of dwarf Vorli.
In New Delhi, the rich can remain isolated, while the poor can remain isolated. In Mumbai one cannot suppress the aspirations of the poor or protect the shame of the rich.
Check out the Yeh Ballet trailer here:
Netflix’ Indian Yeh Ballet, based on an incredibly true story, never misses an opportunity to remind the audience of these imbalances. And therein lies the point of conflict. The two young characters in the film live in the slums and can never escape the shadow of the rapidly growing city of Mumbai. The film constantly reminds us of their situation. In this respect, the Yeh Ballet reminded me of Galli’s boy, Zoe Akhtar, who used similar visual techniques to emphasize the class division in our country.
But unlike this film (shared by dialogue writer Vijay Maurya), the two Yeh Ballet heroes do not find their way to an art form that is forever associated with social injustice, but ironically to an art form that is largely reserved for the privileged. For children like Asif and Nishu is a talented ballet dancer like Mourad de Gully Boy, who discovered that his talent lies not in spitting rhyme, but in the fine French cuisine.
And now Asif and Nishu are in the custody of a temperamental teacher, a man who has been rejected as his native land of Israel and the land where he was born, and the one he has chosen as his home, the United States. Played by Julian Sands, Saul Aaron is not as disgusting as Vincent Kassel’s character in the movie Black Swan, but also less pleasant than Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi. It’s a little blurry.
A director of Netflix’s Yeh Ballet.
And that goes for the whole movie. Just like the slum millionaire, Tarapurwala’s second film has a lot on his mind as a director. The Jew Saul understands the nature of religious fanaticism and young men know that dance in ballet can be considered feminine. But it never makes more sense than the obvious – that social constructions such as religion, class and gender are meaningless.
These are noble ideas, but it’s not enough to have one point of view; you have to be able to express it. From the white man’s point of view, Saul, Asif and Nishu are the same as all the other students in his class. You just happen to have more talent. They are Indian characters, such as the artistic director Jim Sarbh – another in a long line of intelligent men who plays the beautiful Sarb with suspicious skill – who know the subtleties of the Indian classifications. I wish the film had the courage to show its convictions, and not just to overcome all the obstacles that stand between the boys and their dreams. Most of his failures seem to happen outside the film, before the film.
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There are scenes in which Tarapurwala drops his toes in religious matters – Asif is beaten up for dancing with a Hindu girl at a Diwali party – but there is also Nisha, who walks daily through the temple, churches and mosques of her slums; they are all closely related, more because of the boundaries of space than the great humanistic ideas that an urban planner might have.
Unlike The Black Swan, in which director Darren Aronofsky uses cutting-edge visual effects techniques to replace the face of dancer Sarah Haye with that of star Natalie Portman, making long, continuous shots possible, Ballet Yeh’s dance scenes are adapted within an inch of her life. Instead of immersing the viewer in these scenes, which should ideally have been the moments when the film should have been stopped, the quick editing takes the viewer away from the characters.
Like Tarapurwala’s visual metaphors, the Yeh Ballet is exaggerated to be a satisfying exploration of modern India and its problems; it slips into the power of its warm timbre. That is exactly what Tama’s Imtiaz Ali would have been if he had decided to abandon his boring protagonist in order to concentrate on this artistic caricature.
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