Yeh Ballet Review: While there is a debate whether Cinema is influential or not, filmmakers like Sooni Taraporevala, Director of Yeh Ballet are creating art that tells us the story of the haves and have not’s in a way that we are entertained as well as educated about the society we live in. Netflix’s new show Yeh Ballet, based on a real-life story is a homage to the city that breaths dreams and the people who have the fire in them to fulfil theirs. But the story could have been a mini-series, crunching it into just 2 hours wasn’t a wise decision. Let me explain!
Director: Sooni Taraporevala
Cast: Manish Chauhan, Achintya Bose, Julian Sands, Jim Sarbh, Danish Hussain and Vijay Maurya.
Available on: Netflix
What’s Yeh Ballet About?
Set in the heart of Mumbai, Yeh Ballet is a real life story based on a documentary that the same director made two years ago, on two boys who made it to the international ballet scene from the slums. We meet Asif (Achintya) a Muslim boy who spends most of his time in B-boying with his friends and is involved in small crimes that pay him for his survival. Nishu (Manish) a self taught dancer has a small stint in a popular dance reality show that makes him crave for more. Destiny lands the two in a dance institute which is being run by people who create the facade of a dream and mint out money from people. Here they meet their coach, Aaron Saul who is a temperamental man but sees potential in the two and makes sure they reach the peaks of success in Ballet. The journey from the boys learning to pronounce the word ballet (‘t’ nahi bolna hota hai, as a character says) to falling in love with the dance form is the story.
PS: Manish is one of the real boys on whom the story is based on.
Firstly, for the ones who have seen the trailer and also Sooni Taraporevala’s documentary by the same name, know where the story begins and what the end is. Sooni smartly doesn’t focus on the ends but polishes the journey towards it. Yeh Ballet not only addresses dreams, the dance form or the struggle to reach the top. It also addresses the class divide, the fight between the have nots, caste issues, gender norms and the oppression that is present.
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Talking about the class divide and what the lives of the people in the lower middle class belt looks like, production design by Shailaja Sharma does wonders. Be it Asif’s house that is small but is okay to adjust his pretty big family just right, or Nishu’s chawl where the space constraints of the city has crunched the landscape which has bought a mosque, a temple and a church side by side divided by single walls. You buy the set up with the opening shot and the story becomes something you might have witnessed. While the slum is a reality that the boys live in, the high-rises of the city never let them go out of their shadow or forget where they belong, in the lowest level.
Sooni with her writing also tells you how closely connected this city is. The class divide is prominent, but it is crunched to an extent that the lines have almost overshadowed. When you see Asif’s brother a pizza delivery guy being friends with the owner of a big dance company, or when Nishu become friends with a girl from a privileged family through dance, you see how normal it is to blur the boundaries. But Sooni is clever to make you realize, blurring them isn’t enough. In a scene when the girl’s (Nishu’s friend) parents tell her to cut ties with Nishu because he lives in slum and that might bring ‘disease’, the class divide in the urban mindset is evident.
We also see how caste fight is mentioned when Asif is mobbed for dancing with a Hindu girl. Also the dance form ballet comes with a gender constraint as it is looked at as a feminine form. Not many boys chose to do it and it is addressed in a short scene.
The film with its treatment is bound to remind you of Zoya Akhtar’s 2019 celebrated film Gully Boy, and in all the good ways. One more reason to connect dots between the two films is also they share dialogue writer Vijay Maurya who also plays Nishu’s father, and composer-singer Ankur Tiwari who introduces poem to the narrative. As good an actor Vijay is he deserves all the mention for his dialogues. When Asif’s uncle tells him that dancing is haraam (sin) according to Islam, Asif says something to the effect of, “you had no problem when I was roaming around like a useless man, but now when I have success and aim with ballet, you feel it’s haraam?” Brownie points Vijay.
Ankur Tiwari’s music is just what this movie needed. Starting from a high beat hip hop track to ending on the tunes of ballet, the music in Yeh Ballet has its own journey. Whenever the melancholy in the film rises Ankur reminds you that there is underlying poetry to it and he wins.
Ballet is anyways soothing to eyes and when performed with a story to it, becomes a moving poem. Nishu and Asif dance with the air and make it their own. Choreographers Shiamak Dawar, Cindy Jourdain,Yehuda Mour (the real life dance coach played by Sands in the film) deserve the credit for introducing India to a dance form that was never really witnessed.
Acting performances by Achintya and Manish are relatable and real, also the boys are first ballet dancer and then actor dose complete justice to the parts. Judian Sands is an actor in control of his craft and plays the part with all his heart. All other including Vijay, Jim, Danish do their jobs as expected.
What Doesn’t Work?
The script of Yeh Ballet is rich and wholesome, and according to me enough for a mini series. Crunching it into 2 hours did not do complete justice. There were scenes that might have hit me harder if the makers would have immersed me more. For eg, the incident which shook Asif to take his life seriously and not get involved in any crime was haunting but did not create a huge impact because I was more into ballet than their relationship. This also somewhere makes it look like the obstacles that come in their way are easily solved resulting to not being moved as much as it was meant to.
Yeh Ballet Review: Last Words:
Yeh Ballet is made out of conviction and is a story that needed to be told. Enter the world of ballet like Asif and Nishu do, learn to pronounce it and rise in the air. Watch it to see how Sooni conveys the importance of a dream and how every obstacle turns out to be small in front of it.
Yeh Ballet Review: Star Rating: 3.5 Stars!