A 'comeback' film always holds significance. Dilip Kumar [KRANTI], Amitabh Bachchan [MRITYUDAATA], Vinod Khanna [INSAAF], Dimple Kapadia [SAAGAR], Mumtaz [AANDHIYAAN] and Kajol [FANAA] are names you cannot erase from your memory since the celebrated actors returned to the big screen after a hiatus.
With AAJA NACHLE, Madhuri Dixit, who reigned supreme, is back to the studios with the Numero Uno production house of the country. Does the actress still possess the charisma to ignite fire in water? Also, does the vehicle she chooses to make a comeback with, have the fuel to reach the winning post?
Sadly, AAJA NACHLE is below the mediocre mark and doesn't meet the humungous expectations that you associate with the Yashraj - Madhuri combo. What's the problem? Without a doubt, the script! What starts off as a story that seems real and identifiable becomes a fairy tale in the latter hour. Also, with a title like AAJA NACHLE and the story harping on music, the songs had to be chartbusters. That's just not the case here!
In short, AAJA NACHLE fails in the two vital departments -- writing and music. The film doesn't make your heart go dhak-dhak, nor does it prompt you to break into a nach at the end of the show.
After nearly a decade, an unexpected phone call shakes Dia [Madhuri Dixit] out of her dance rehearsal in New York. Makarand [Darshan Zariwala], her guru, is dying and she must return to Shamli, a town in India. The town where she grew up, the town where she learnt to live and to dance. Also the town she left on an impulse, severing ties with her parents and her people.
It is a poignant and troubled return; not only has her guru passed away but the institution that he so lovingly nurtured is in decay and under threat of demolition. Ajanta theatre, the once vibrant hub of the community, the place where Dia's fondest memories are embedded, must now be brought down because the local political authorities feel it a waste of prime real estate.
With the help of Doctor [Raghuvir Yadav], the caretaker of Ajanta, Dia sets out on a mission to prevent the destruction and resurrect the spirit of Ajanta. In an atmosphere of mistrust, ridicule and active hostility, Dia picks up the gauntlet and agrees to achieve the near impossible task of putting together a theatrical production. She must also ensure that every member of the production is from Shamli town. She has only two months to prove her point or the bulldozers will be waiting.
Bearing a striking similarity to the Brazilian film XUXA REQUEBRA, Jaideep Sahni's screenplay is the biggest culprit here. The protagonist [Madhuri] knows that there would be hurdles galore on her way, as she embarks on a journey to realize her guru's dreams. But she hardly struggles to achieve the impossible. Even the corrupt politician [Akhilendra Mishra] or the shrewd businessman [Irrfan], who could've proved to be tough nuts to crack, give in so easily.
Besides, the goings-on get too unbelievable. The first question that crosses your mind is, how does Madhuri raise the funds to put up this spectacular event [the set design in the penultimate song is marvellous]? Okay, that's a cinematic liberty, but, seriously, there should've been at least some reference to where the money would flow in to fund this mammoth, lavish and extravagant event. What starts off as a 'real' film, drifts into a 'surreal' world as it moves ahead.
Debutante director Anil Mehta knows the importance of frames/visuals since he's an accomplished cinematographer. But Mehta ought to know by now that it's the content that does the talking eventually. The writing is too commonplace to make any impact whatsoever. In an effort to strike a balance between believable and make-believe, AAJA NACHLE falls like a pack of cards.
Salim-Sulaiman's music is another minus point. You expect the songs to linger in your memory even after the show has ended... that's what makes a musical tick, right? It's not the case here. Dialogues are wonderful at places, especially the ones delivered by Akshaye Khanna and Madhuri. Cinematography [Mohanan] is splendid.
Madhuri has always delivered qualitative performances and the fire continues to burn to this date. She's top notch, but how one wishes the script would've done justice to her talent. It doesn't offer her a pedestal to take that big leap. The loyal Madhuri fans would surely feel disillusioned and saddened.
Akshaye Khanna is tremendous. In fact, it's a treat to watch Madhuri and Akshaye together, after a hiatus. Kunal Kapoor is likable; he enacts his part with natural ease. Konkona is nice, but when compared to her previous work, it's definitely not in that league.
Irrfan, in a brief role, is okay. Divya Dutta too is relegated to the backseat. Ranvir Shorey is first-rate. Ditto for Raghuvir Yadav. Darshan Zariwala does a fine job. Yashpal Sharma is alright. Vinay Pathak and Sushmita Mukherjee are adequate. Akhilendra Mishra is as usual. Jugal Hansraj gets no scope. Vinod Nagpal and Uttara Baokar, as Madhuri's parents, have nothing much to do. Felix D'Alviella [as Steve -- Madhuri's lover] is passable.
On the whole, AAJA NACHLE disappoints big time. At the box-office, the film has embarked on a poor start and coupled with weak merits will only emerge as one of the major disappointments of the year.