With a name like Aaja Nachle, one would be forgiven to expect an upbeat, foot-tapping, groovy entertainer….a literal dance-a-thon. Also with the erstwhile No.2 dancing diva Madhuri Dixit in the lead (I’ve always thought Sridevi was numero uno) and the Yash Raj banner being the producers, this one would be expected to deliver what it promised. Does it? Well, not to be dancing about the bush, it doesn’t . The dancy mood and the involuntary foot-tapping remains for maybe an half-hour during the first half but ultimately, one is waiting for the movie to end! The movie starts with a song titled dance with me…but towards the end, its like bear with me!!!
Aaja Nachle is the tale of one individual’s uphill battle against the destruction of her alma mater, the place where she has learnt dancing – which now is her profession. Diya [Madhuri Dixit] is a choreographer in NY and is called back to India where her guru is counting his last moments. She returns back to Shamli, the town which she left eleven years ago, never thinking of returning. Once back, she learns that her alma mater, the Ajanta Theatre, is being pulled down to make way for a spanking new shopping mall and it is her guru’s last wish that she prevent it from death & decay. She takes it upon herself as a challenge and puts up a committed and steadfast fight for ensuring its survival. She decides to stage a grand magnum opus, a drama that will show the naysayers that the theatre isn’t all dead n’ buried. Taking the locals help ain’t easy but one by one she manages to enlist people, who have their own reasons to stand up and be counted. Imran [Kunal Kapoor] is a local goon who joins just coz he was asked to by his boss, Anokhi [Konkona Sen-Sharma] has a crush on Imran and she joins as his heroine. Jugal Hansraj, Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak and others too join in and before long, the stage is set for the grand drama. There is opposition in the form of the local politician [Akhilendra Mishra] & the realtor businessman [Irrfan Khan]; a friendly-challenger in the form of the local MP & Rajah [Akshaye Khanna] and the drama attempts to show these people that the theatre is not about to go down, silently or otherwise! It also attempts to restore the town’s trust back in Ajanta & to bring art and dance to the people.
The basic premise of the movie reminds one of Lagaan, how one person stood up and others rallied around to achieve the un-achievable. The age-old success-in-the-face-of-adversity! Aaja Nachle’s premise may be good but the story woven around it is tacky, patchy and fragile. A movie revolving around dance should have music of the chartbuster kind, something on the lines of a Dil to Pagal Hai…but Aaja Nachle’s music (bar the two songs) is mediocre. Four of the songs are inter-woven into the climax which is wayy too long. Its the crux of the movie, yes; but loo lengthy by half. Performance-wise, Madhuri Dixit is too good in a role that seems tailormade for her. At 42, her best years might be behind her but she still has that spunkiness and exuberance as was seen in Hum Aapke Hain Koun. Her make-up is a bit to much in some shots but otherwise, she is just perfect. And her dancing too is top-notch. The title song with Mads in a blue-black backless ensemble is the highlight of the movie. Rest of the cast put in mediocre performances. Kunal and Konkona are too raw and have zero chemistry. Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey are too subdued – something that the audience isn’t accustomed to from these talented actors. Jugal Hansraj is wasted and so is Divya Dutta (who was good in the friend kinda roles…remember Veer Zaara?) Akhilendra Mishra and Irrfan Khan as the negative-shaded characters are average. Akshaye Khanna shows up in brief appearances and is ok.
Moi Verdict: One for Madhuri and the other for the title song! Watch the movie only if you’re a Mads fan.