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Yeh Ballet is a Sooni Taraporevala film that is based on her documentary Ballet Boys. Ballet Boys and by extension Yeh Ballet are films based on the lives of Amiruddin Shah and Manish Chauhan. These two young artists made their way out of the struggling life in Mumbai into the ballet world. Amiruddin Shah made into the Oregon Ballet Theatre in United states of America while Manish Chauhan joined Royal Ballet School in London. 

The film is extraordinary for its ordinary portrayal of the struggle, specifically in a city like Mumbai. Living in the slums of Mumbai, two economically marginalised boys, from two different faiths, the complete opposite of each other, fight to create their destiny. It casts harsh lights on the reality of different sections of society. 

Yeh Ballet starts with differentiating between talent and dedication and the importance of the latter. Saul Aron, a famous American ballet instructor from America relocates to India to teach ballet in Mumbai. This is due to lack of job opportunity and his frustration of living in India is evident from the beginning. Asif, who is a talented dancer, refuses to put in the work to improve. He is preoccupied with his friend circle, who are usually caught in some mischief. Meanwhile, Nishu, who is extremely dedicated and hardworking does not have the natural flair for ballet like Asif does. He is trying to learn ballet in secret because of his parents as they disapprove of his dancing ambitions. 

Asif, who is a talented dancer, refuses to put in the work to improve. He is preoccupied with his friend circle, who are usually caught in some mischief. Meanwhile, Nishu, who is extremely dedicated and hardworking does not have the natural flair for ballet like Asif does.

Saul Aron, who abhors how basic every dancer is in his class, almost gives up hope before he sees potential in Asif and then pushes him to work hard. Circumstances bring Nishu to Saul’s house and he also starts paying attention to Nishu as a dancer. And from here begins the main plot of the film, the one that shows how hard both the dancers and their dance instructor have to push themselves to achieve what is their dream.

However, the film tries to capture too much and fails to do justice to most of the issues it brings up. Through the character of Asha, it highlights the Muslim-Hindu divide that exists in our country, through Asif’s friend, it focuses a bit on how tempting it is to make easy money and how your circumstances often don’t leave you any other option but also how the dangers of it are often fatal in nature.

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Through Nishu’s father, it casts a light on how the support of families is a privilege to be earned in the Indian society. Through Saul, we see how painful it is to have a struggling personal life. And the struggle of both Nishu’s and Asif’s family showcases how ballet, and being an artist in general, is not only economically underprivileged but also culturally a battle to be fought. The lack of nuance portrayal does not do justice to all these incredibly heavy issues. The film is great if you have a short attention span but it would leave you feeling a bit frustrated if that is not the case. 

It is interesting to note how the support of the family or family standing up for what you believe in is a privilege to be earned. Yeh Ballet reaches its climax not when the boys make it but when the families of both the boys decide to support them after seeing their dedication. 

In any case, it is a film based on true stories which become important when we zoom in on the issues that the marginalised population faces. One is when we see the visas being rejected. After struggling through so many internal conflicts, they overcome them only to be stopped by something that is so beyond their control. Both the artists eventually get their visas rejected despite qualifying for a very competitive summer school program. There are probably several talented individuals all across the country who are equally dedicated but are constantly stopped by things beyond this control. 

Yeh Ballet is meant to inspire those individuals to keep fighting against all odds to fulfill their dreams and I hope it does inspire but I also hope we realise how exhausting it is to keep overcoming all such obstacles. Especially when we do not have the support of our families, which is the second issue that becomes important to pay attention to. 

It is interesting to note how the support of the family or family standing up for what you believe in is a privilege to be earned. Yeh Ballet reaches its climax not when the boys make it but when the families of both the boys decide to support them after seeing their dedication. 

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The one thing that stayed with them though was something Saul Aron had said at the beginning of the film, “You can have all the talent in the world but if you are never disciplined, you can never be a ballet dancer.” It’s a film that continuously pushes us to do better.


Featured Image source: Cinestaan

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