Yeh Ballet is a joyful true story of how two young men from the Mumbai slums broke shackles of a patriarchy that stigmatises boys for a ‘feminine’ dance.
I recently watched the Oscar nominated filmmaker Sooni Taraporevala’s Netflix original movie Yeh Ballet, based on a true story, and I was surprised that this extraordinary film did not receive the attention it deserved.
The film takes us on a journey of two boys Nishu and Asif from the slums of Mumbai who get accepted into globally prestigious Ballet Institutes. The story is based on the true stories of two Mumbai boys, Amiruddin Jallauddin Shah and Manish Chauhan who got accepted into global Ballet Academies with scholarships. The character of Nishu is played by Manish Chauhan himself.
Miss Taraporevala had made a documentary on them, (also titled Yeh Ballet) back in 2017 which brought them into the limelight and now she has made a movie based on their stories.
The movie Yeh Ballet is a breath of fresh air and keeps the audience smiling from the beginning till the end. The plot covers all the integral parts of these boys’ life like religion and class but without dwelling on anything other than their sheer talent. Even their dance instructor played by Julian Sands based on their original instructor Yehuda Maor has been given a character depth of its own.
This movie will make you realise the colossal amount of talent that India has and how much of it never sees the light of the day.
Initially both of their families are against their dance and the lack of money it will generate for the family. Yeh Ballet will make you realise how many teenage boys with tremendous talent have to give it up to accept the masculine role of being the ‘bread winner’ of the family at a young age.
Also, the juxtaposition of two boys from very rigid cultural background not only choosing but also excelling in a traditionally feminine dance form like ballet is truly heart warming.
Both the boys’ family eventually accept and support their talent which concludes their stories with a happy ending. One specific detail that made me immensely happy was the boys’ praying in front of tiny temple, church and a dargah all neighbouring each other which is an actual location and not a set up for the movie.
This movie is for anyone who is looking for an inspiring story of hard work and especially for parents who have children with unconventional dreams and aspirations.
Even today, dance is considered as a feminine pursuit in many places throughout India and a lot of young boys are discouraged from choosing it as a hobby let alone a career.
Just notice the amount of negative criticism that young boys who make Tik-Tok videos get. It’s a far cry from ballet but these boys are constantly questioned on their masculinity and sexuality based on nothing else than the casual dance and amateur acting videos on Tik-Tok.
Patriarchy not only forces young girls into kitchens but also forces young teenage boys to give up their dreams and provide for their family. Both boys and girls are forced into their respective gender roles at a very young age before they even have the time to realise the injustice in it.
Even adult men are questioned on their masculinity on a regular basis. How many times have you heard the term “joru ka ghulam” or some similar phrase being used for every time a husband is being considerate towards his wife? How can we expect men and women to be equal when men are being shamed into dominating and controlling women? In order to ensure that women are treated with respect and kindness, we have to first allow our men to treat them with respect without questioning their masculinity.
We have to redefine manhood from a very young age. Only then our society can be truly equal. Yeh Ballet is a good place to begin, with your kids. Watch it with them, and then take the next step.
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Asefa writes about the lives of women in smaller towns of India. Her interest include
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