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Dance Like A Man

MAHESH DATTANI tends to be a gloomy man. But he is also quite a master at defining complex characters and relationships. Situations even. There is a strange gripping quality to the ventures, provided the actors operate on multidimensional levels. The several grey areas of right and wrong, putting it simplistically, get attention and many find multiple levels of associations with the characters.

On screen his work acquires greater colour and directness. In this particular one, "Dance like a Man," directed by Pamela Rooks, the backdrop is built upon its inherent sense of nostalgia and of the passing of an era in the lives of two dancers along with the issues of gender equations and changes in a world that is defined by tacit rules.

Particularly, that of a man in a woman's world. Of men who choose a line of study that is discordant with conventional expectations. Of fathers who wish to make the best of a disappointing situation.

Of a woman who will not stop at anything to make her dream come true. And so the lives of dancers Ratna and Jairaj unravel through the eyes of their daughter, Lata. Lata is on the verge of an arangetram, and there are only a few days left when the mridangist breaks an arm. Ratna is stressed.

Jairaj is resigned. He loves his daughter and is sure something can be worked out, but then Ratna cannot rest till an alternative is found. She visits another artiste and requests her to send her mridangist. As this problem is being dealt with, the skeletons in the cupboard start falling out.

All is not well in the big mansion where they live. The house belonged to an authoritarian father, Amrit Lal Parekh, a man who ostensibly believed in social reforms.

Lata goes through her own angst. She loves dance. But she wants to do that on her terms. But at the same time she is aware of her parents, particularly her mother's aspirations for her. How can she let them down? Then there are her own plans for the future. There is also Vishal. The man who loves her so much that he won't stop her from doing what she wants to do. But Vishal is a man of the commercial world. How is everything going to fit? Shobhana as Ratna does a tremendous job. In fact one could say the entire film rests on her slender shoulders. Being a dancer helps in the general scheme of things. Arif Zakaria, as Jairaj, starts by being wooden and nondescript, but picks up both expression and synergy towards the end of the film. The less said about his dancing the better.

Anoushka Shankar as Lata looks very sweet and vulnerable.But when it comes to either acting or dancing she does not make much of an impact. Sameer Soni as Vishal is suitably eager and the man in love. Sometimes his enthusiasm grates. Mohan Agashe as the father does a credible job.

On the whole the story and the time zones lend themselves to visual poetry at times eventhoughthe dialogue is painfully studied. The director uses the past and present in alternating sequences to tell the story and the visual imagery contrasts and merges with the narration. Adding mood to the striking frames are the classically tuned background score by Ganesh-Kumaresh, which heightens the sense of time and ambience in an artiste' s environment. But this is the kind of film that will attract only a niche audience.

CHITRA MAHESH

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