I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.
Aaja Nachile, director Anil Mehta
My apologies for not reviewing Aaaja Nachile earlier! You know how I admire Madhuri Dixit for her contribution to indian cinema. I love her in Devdas, Saajan, Sahibaan, Yaraana, Prem Granth, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam and many more.
I love Indian dancing because it is almost similar to Zulu dancing, where the whole body is active, eyes, hips etc. It also imitates animals. Indian cinema is not about song and dance. It should be seen in the context of the stories. Aishwarya Rai explained this very well in her David Letterman interview some years ago, where she said dancing represents certain social occasions be it weddings or holi.
Aaja Nachile is not about the brilliant performance Diya performed in the title song Aaja Nachile. It is about decisions we make about our lives. Why did I live in Canada all those years? Why did I come back to South Africa? Why does my friend’s sister work in Dubai?
Why did you leave India for Canada, the U.S. Australia or Dubai? You want to go back to India. Is India under any obligation to accept you? That is the essence of the film Aaja Nachile.
I took so long to review Anil Mehta’s film because of the character. Diya Madhuri Dixit’s character, looks like Jennifer Lopez, and dances like her. She goes back to India to save Ajanta, an open air dance theatre in Shimla, where she grew up.
Her parents never liked her dancing. The city hated Dada, the long haired guru who taught classical dance in Ajanta. Dada dismisses that with, “Art doesn’t need the city. The city needs art”. Diya left India in disgrace, after she eloped with Steve an American photographer for the National Geographic.
Her parents were so hurt they left Shimla never to return. Neighbours still remember Diya and don’t want to have anything to do with her. Mohan, the man she jilted in order to run away with Steve the photographer still lives in the area.
Akshaye Khanna is Uday Singh, the local MP when Diya comes back to try and save Ajanta. He has one advice for her, “Many NRI’s like you come every other year for some social service and then go back. I suggest you do the same.”
NRI in books
There are many books about the NRI. Anita Jain handled it in great detail in her book Marrying Anita. To speak the honest truth, I don’t know whether it is fiction or Jain’s memoir, because like the character Anita, the author also grew up in the United States.
Later on she takes the decision to go back to India. Anita Jain lived in New Delhi, when the book came out. The character in the book also remained in India and faced all the difficulties of being an Indian who doesn’t speak the language fluently and is not married.
The NRI’s pain is both internal and external. Anita’s parents left India for a number of reasons. She came back to the same India because she was rejected in California or Melbourne. People in India resent her for her accent and dress code.
It’s ironic isn’t it? Parents leave India to get a better life and better recognition. Teenagers go back to India to find themselves. It will be a good idea to watch Aaja Nachile and read Marrying Anita at the same time.
Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness the novel.