A tale of dance, dancers, modernity, tradition, relationships and more
When the movie started I thought to myself -- oh! this is going to be another cliché on Indian society through the eyes of a foreigner. Well!! I was so wrong. Is it a cliché? Yes!! But a cliché only in the select traditional dance circles. For the rest of the audience the movie opens up the whole unseen world of the practitioners of Indian classical art-forms living in today's world.
The story, at a high level, is about a less popular bharatanatyam dancer couple and their daughter who is just about to have her arangetram (first public performance, after she is considered ready to perform by the guru). But the storyline that gradually unfolds touches on a multitude of issues in the area. At one level there are more standard themes like traditional minded father, wife more talented than the husband. With these the movie also brings forth themes more unique to this area -- the devadasi tradition, what does it mean for a man to be in a field often inhabited by women, politics of classical arts, conflicts between raising kids and pursuing dance, dreaming big for one's children especially by less successful parents, etc.
Besides the novelty of themes the other highlight of the movie is its screenplay. After a long time we are reminded of the parallel cinema-ish screenplay of the 80s where the characters are real and their conversations are real. The interpersonal relationships between father and son, father in law and daughter in law, daughter and her parents, would be husband and wife, etc. are all touched on with sensitivity and form an integral part of the story. Also, the brutal honesty of some of the statements stay. Comments like 'A woman in a man's field is progressive, a man in a woman's field is pathetic' or 'You are even jealous of your daughter', etc. leave a mark and give you food for thought till long after the movie is finished.
Shobhana has acted and danced brilliantly. Arif has acted well. The daughter and to-be-groom, Anoushka Shankar and Samir Soni, have played their roles well. They look like a very cute couple too :). Anoushka's American accent, however, did not seem apt in the context of the movie.
The direction and cinematography were average. But the movie carries and carries powerfully on the shoulders of the theme and screenplay and is a must-see for all people who are looking either for realistic movies or for people who are interested in getting an appreciation of the classical Indian arts (particularly dance) in the modern setup.
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