Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 




The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air. 


Depp says wife-beating claim made him ‘Quasimodo’

Updated 10 July 2020

Depp says wife-beating claim made him ‘Quasimodo’

  • The High Court trial revolves around a 2018 headline in The Sun asking how JK Rowling could be happy casting ‘wife-beater’ Depp in a ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film
  • Johnny Depp: ‘I went from Cinderella into Quasimodo in 0.6 seconds and I was without a voice’

LONDON: Hollywood legend Johnny Depp on Friday accused Britain’s The Sun tabloid of turning him from “Cinderella into Quasimodo” by claiming he beat his ex-wife Amber Heard.
The first week of Depp’s star-studded libel trial against the paper’s publisher and executive editor drew to a close with the 57-year-old denying hurling a champagne bottle and a phone at his former wife.
Depp claims charges compiled by Heard over a tumultuous two-year marriage that ended in 2017 were a “hoax” designed to advance her career at his expense.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor said Thursday he was so often high or strung out on drugs that he was “in no condition” to hurt the 34-year-old model and film star.
The High Court trial revolves around a 2018 headline in The Sun asking how JK Rowling could be happy casting “wife-beater” Depp in a “Fantastic Beasts” film.
Depp said the headline altered his Hollywood image and endangered his career.
“I went from Cinderella into Quasimodo in 0.6 seconds and I was without a voice,” he told the court.
“That’s where I was in my life at that point.”
Cinderella is a beautiful fairy tale princess and Quasimodo the disfigured protagonist of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Depp looked more confident and engaged on the fourth day of the three-week trial than he appeared at its start.
He listened alertly in an olive suit and verbally clashed with publisher News Group Newspapers’ (NGN) lawyer Sasha Wass in an attempt to refute her various charges.
Wass has gone chronologically through each of Depp’s 14 alleged assaults and other abuses.
She attempted on Friday to complete her depiction of the US superstar as self-centered and out of touch with reality due to debilitating drug abuse.
Depp countered that it was Heard who was chronically looking for a fight.
He said he went to read in bed on the night of Heard’s 30th birthday party because “I was trying to avoid another confrontation with Ms Heard about something that didn’t go exactly as she wanted or had planned.”
Depp turned up for the party two hours late because of a difficult business meeting about a financial dispute.
But Wass said Depp was fuming because Heard had pointed out one of his character faults.
“And the argument picked up pace and you picked up the bottle of champagne and you threw it at Ms Heard. And it missed and the bottle hit the wall and it smashed,” the lawyer said.
“And that, I suggest, is how you express yourself when you are angry, you smash things,” the lawyer said.
Depp denied this happened and countered: “I disagree.”
The couple’s marriage was all but over by the time Heard accused Depp of hitting her in the face with a phone in May 2016.
Wass said Depp “wound up like a baseball pitcher” and threw it at his wife at one of their mansions while one of Heard’s friends was on the other line.
Depp denied this but admitted that Heard asked the friend to call the police.
He also said the security on site witnessed how the entire episode was staged.
“She was screaming ‘stop hitting me, Johnny!, stop hitting me, Johnny!’, and the security came and she was still screaming... and I was 20 feet away getting something from the fridge,” Depp said.
“And then (one of the guards) said boss, let’s get out of here.”
Wass’ cross-examination ended with a 30-minute private session in which reporters were asked to leave the courtroom.
The actor’s attorney David Sherborne then took over by directly asking whether Depp had ever hit a woman.
“Never, no sir,” Depp replied.
Sherborne also got Depp to confirm that no other woman had alleged abuse in his past relationships.