Finally saw Aaja Nachle (2007) last weekend. And I must say that I have somewhat of a hard time believing that it was not better received. It is clearly a product of a values-driven plot, classy performances, a unique aesthetic sense that is scarce, and a soundtrack that fits like hand in glove with the movie like few do.
Aaja Nachle works because leveraging the brilliance of Madhuri Dixit, it succeeds in entertaining, invoking emotions, and offering a very effective portrayal of the performing arts, all with some very good acting. A few notes:
1. Madhuri Dixit is fantastic. Should we really have expected any less from her? Her acting is still top notch. She is in stunning shape at age 40. She can still dance as well as she used to in her prime. And she can still carry a film with her amazing on-screen presence.
2. The placement of the songs is excellent. The songs flow in well, do not seem forced, and have a genuine positive energy around them that only complements the film. Of course, it helps to have a good soundtrack. This one is versatile and of very good quality, one that can be listened to from start to finish without forwarding through tracks. That has always been my benchmark of a soundtrack, and in that, this one succeeds easily.
3. The choreography in the songs is top notch. O Re Piya is fantastic. The title song is electrifying. And the Laila-Majnu ballad toward the end is as good as a theatrical display. Beautifully done!
4. The issues addressed in the film are very relevant: a) The Hindu-Muslim violence, and corresponding collaborative efforts are brought up a couple of times; b) Madhuri plays first the outlaw daughter, and then a single mom, both challenging in their own rights; c) The couple whose house she and her daughter stay at highlight relationship issues; d) Akshaye Khanna, playing a Member of Parliament, is a good politician who does not succumb to offers to be bribed; e) Irrfan Khan, playing a wealthy businessman, does fantastic as always in portraying the undermining of his wife's (Shabbo in Veer Zaara) friendship for money; f) Madhuri's guru, who only appears in the first 10 minutes of the movie, but whose vision is what drives the movie, is dismissed as a lunatic in his town because of his passion for the arts.
All these are tangible issues that very easy to relate to.
5. The relationship between Konkona Sen and Kunal Kapoor could have been better developed. Yet, they do well with their acting, and the rest of the cast more than make up for this.
6. About the only complaint I had with the film was the disappearance of Madhuri's parents. Yes, it would have been too cliche for her parents to have patched relations with her, but we deserved to know why they were never brought up in all but the first 20-30 minutes of the film.
7. I am still dazed with Madhuri's brilliance, and how she still has the oomph she did when I was eight. Commanding all the respect on screen. Wonderful.
I am going with three and a half stars for this film. A very good film indeed, and a sincere attempt to entertain every member of a family.
My rating: ***1/2 (Very good!)
My classification: U/G (Clean)
Soundtrack rating: ***1/2 (Very good!) -- I am upgrading my verdict in this post with the review based on the fit with the film. This one's a keeper!
Official website: http://www.yashrajfilms.com/microsites/an/aaja_nachle.html