August 18, 2022
Yeh Ballet Review: Gully Boy Meets Billy Elliot, Minus the Grit and Charm

In late 2016, Manish Chauhan and Amiruddin Shah, two children from poor families in Navi Mumbai, won a scholarship to one of the world’s most prestigious ballet schools in the US, less than three years after they began learning dance. This is an extraordinary true story. And in mid-2017, Sooni Taraporevala – known for co-writing or co-writing Mira Nair’s films, Salaam Bombay! And The Namesake — presented it in 360-degree video with the short documentary, Yeh Ballet. Now less than three years later, Taraporevala is back on Netflix with an eponymous film — her second directorial feature in more than a decade — that dramatizes the boys’ fairy-tale journey. Think of it as Gully Boy, but for dance, or the Indian version Billy Elliot,

Unfortunately, this ballet – “Yeh” is Hindi for it – is nowhere near as brave as its protagonist. Writer-director Taraporevala delivers a by-the-numbers film that hits the expected beats of a slum-to-stardom template, including an inevitable moment where a hopeless parent is conquered by their child’s genius. without any special touch. Cinematographer Karthik Vijay’s lack of courage is also evident in the way the camera is held in his hands.manto), largely depends on the wide depth of field, which keeps almost everything in focus. This left us with the feeling that this ballet didn’t really know what it wanted the audience to focus on. And a Bollywood pop track plays a key role in the film’s big ballet number, which is sometimes extended. This shows that the makers are not just confident on performance.

At the same time, the Netflix film does a big loss to its characters. Taraporevala writes in two female supporting members for the two ballet boys, but they have no arc of their own and seem to exist only to inspire, mentor and support the male lead. It’s no surprise that they appear and disappear as it fits the hero’s journey. But this ballet’s big crime is handling one of the two leads. Chauhan plays himself in the film, but that fact is not accepted even though it leaves you with a few lines at the end that inform you where its characters are in today’s life. The ballet is so focused on the elaboration of a many-year-old story, that it is blind to the better story unfolding before its very eyes. It would also have made it a bit meta, and felt more real.

The ballet begins with Asif (Achintya Bose), a breakdancing enthusiast, who faces the wrath of a fisherman as he breaks loose in one of the rare spaces amidst Mumbai’s seaside slum that he is in. says home. Asif regularly invites trouble including home, where his uncle reprimands him for doing “non-Muslim activities”. “its HaramHe barks. Thankfully his parents (Danish Hussain and Heeba Shah) are more accepting. This is not the case for talent show contestant Nishu (Chouhan), whose success is attributed to his father (Vijay Maurya). stern rebuke: “Will a golden hat pay for your meal?” Their worlds soon clash at a local dance academy, which has tapped into the talents of a former great ballerino, Saul Aaron (Julian Sands), Which are best described as canteeners.

And this is where the problems begin. Even though the ballet is set in contemporary India, Saul’s arrival in the country – he is Israeli via America – is portrayed through such a stereotypical overt “first world white man unaware of third world events.” is caught” lens that comes across as something from the 80s or 90s. But Taraporevala’s unsuccessful attempts at comedy are only a fraction of the writing issues, even with a ballet tutor. This ballet devotes time to Saul’s estranged relationship with his brother, which, although interesting in concept, adds nothing to the story and only serves to distract from the story of two Mumbai boys in practice. . If it was intended to see how Saul behaves in difficult situations, it has been achieved elsewhere.

Speaking of repeating themselves, these ballets include two lines of dialogue for a one-time price, telling the audience what they already know or have understood for themselves. Elsewhere, the Netflix film flashbacks scenes that were shown literally less than 10 minutes ago, a level of idiot-proofing stemming from the notion that its target audience has the attention span of a child. The ballet likewise undermines itself in explaining the sectarian conflict that plagues Asif immensely, which Taraporevala seems to have feared that Netflix’s international audiences did not understand what was going on. There is no need to do so when you have already pointed out that less privileged Muslims like Asif are more likely to be victims of hate crimes in India.

Yeh Ballet Review 2 Yeh Ballet Netflix

Sasha Shetty as Nina in Yeh Ballet
Photo Credit: Supriya Kantak/Netflix

For what it’s worth, it’s good to watch a film that is aware of its socio-political realities. Involving fellow breakdancer Asha (Mekhola Bose) and ballet rich-kid Nina (Sasha Shetty), the ballet engages with the class divides prevalent in Mumbai, through Asif and Nishu’s respective friendship. But its message is not always organically woven. Unlike her earlier scripts, Taraporevala fails to examine religious and class conflict in any detail, and she has nothing to say that you haven’t heard a thousand times before. Instead, the Netflix film does a lot better with its short, quiet moments, whether it’s standing in line daily in the slums to get water, Nishu practicing ballet together and cleaning the studio. , or Asif is praying in a temple, because the girl he likes is a Hindu.

The same is true of Yeh Ballet’s provocative opening shot, which begins over Mumbai overlooking the Bandra-Worli sea link, before turning around to reveal one of the city’s many slums. In just a few wordless seconds, the fancy Rs. The 16 Billion Bridge – a beacon of how the needs of the few are prioritized over the many – turns into a symbol of the upper classes escaping from the lower counterparts, in this case, by literally flying around them. Sadly, that touch and that patience is missing from the rest of Taraporevala’s Yeh Ballet work, which doesn’t know when to emphasize something or let the characters breathe, how to engineer the scenes to engineer the right emotions. fabricate and fill them with the importance they deserve, or even appropriately intertwine the stage and scenes.

Taraporevala has also included several Bollywood-style musical numbers in Yeh Ballet, which is odd as there are no commercial concerns to follow, unlike the theatrical release for a Netflix film. Like the pop song above, which plays on Asif and Nishu’s big ballet performance, this – apart from the writing, direction and cinematography – all stems from a limited imagination and further dilutes the film of its potential. After not directing a feature project in 12 years, this ballet marks a rusty comeback for Taraporevala. And it’s a shame that young actors, many of whom are debutants, do a good job working with them. Especially Chauhan, who has turned from a taxi driver’s son to a ballet dancer and now an actor. This is a story that deserves more.

The ballet was released worldwide on Friday on Netflix.

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