An all-heart film
Mee Raqsam is set in Mijwan village in UP’s Azamgarh district. It’s a tribute of sorts to director Baba Azmi’s father, the progressive poet Kaifi Azmi, who was born in Mijwan. Kaifi Azmi was a staunch believer in Hindu-Muslim harmony, in the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, and this film reflects that. It aims towards an ideal which is all but lost in today’s times. We’re fast becoming a nation which is fast being divided into communal lines and hence such films, which point out that it’s possible for two communities to co-exist peacefully, should be appreciated and seen by all. The film also sends out a message that art is above religious boundaries. That religion shouldn’t come in the way of natural talent.
And above all, it’s a film on the father-daughter bond. We saw a deep bond between a father and his daughter in the recently released Gunjan Saxena as well. And it’s nice to see the same sentiments being repeated in Mee Raqsam. Here, the bond goes deeper as the father not only fulfils the duties of a mother, but he also goes through ostracisation. And yet, he stands firm by his daughter and sees to it that her dreams get fulfilled.
Salim (Danish Husain) is a tailor living in Mijwan. His wife loves to dance and can inherently pick up steps. She loves Bharatnatyam and tries to teach her young daughter Maryam (Aditi Subedi) the basics of it. She even wants Maryam to enrol in a class but her untimely death puts a stop to that. Maryam’s father guesses his daughter’s longing, however, and enrolled her in the Bharatanatyam class run by a kindly dancer. Maryam, just like her mother, proves to be a natural. She becomes a gifted student and her teacher has high hopes from her. But conservative influences from both Muslim and Hindu communities come in her way. Hashim Seth (Naseeruddin Shah), an influential community leader is against her learning what he considers as a ‘Hindu’ art and Jayprakash (Rakesh Chaturvedi Om), a wealthy patron of arts too is against Muslims learning, what he too perceives to be a ‘Hindu’ discipline. Both create difficulties in the way of Maryam and her father but their love and emotional support for each other sees them through. She ends up winning everyone’s heart at the dance competition through her spirited performance, and through her example points out that art is like a river and everyone is free to partake from it.
The screenplay is clear-cut and concise. The conservative aunt is juxtaposed by supportive cousins and friends, and Jayprakash’s daughter too is shown to be close to Maryam. The conflict isn’t lop-sided and it’s clearly shown that conservatives in both communities should learn to broaden their minds. Mijwan’s bylanes come alive through Mohsin Khan Pathan’s cinematography. One feels that one is actually there amidst the action. And apt costume and production design add to that illusion as well.
Danish Husain plays the loving father to a T. He faces all the problems stoically and doesn’t let his concerns cloud his face, lest his daughter gets upset. He’s all that a child can ask for from a father and more. His scenes with Aditi Subedi are the soul of the film. They instinctively behave like real-life father and daughter. While Danish is a trained actor, it’s a surprise to see such mature acting from Aditi, a newcomer. Not only she excels in emotional scenes, but she also shines in the dance sequences as well. She’s a find alright. Naseeruddin Shah, who is one of our most progressive actors in real-life, goes against the grain and plays a super conservative character. It’s a mark of his superiority as an actor that he does justice to such a role with consummate ease.
All-in-all, watch the film for its message of peace, harmony and integration. We seem to be moving away from these enduring qualities which have been the backbone of our society for aeons. We need to cherish them more in these troubled times…
Trailer : Mee Raqsam
Archika Khurana, September 2, 2020, 1:09 AM IST
STORY: Hailing from a conservative background, 15-year-old Maryam aspires to become a Bharatnatyam dancer. Will she be able to pursue her dream?
REVIEW: Set in Azamgarh’s Mijwan village, ‘Mee Raqsam’ (I Dance) revolves around a young, motherless Muslim schoolgirl Maryam (played by Aditi Subedi), whose desire to learn Bharatnatyam causes ripples in her conservative community. However, her father Salim (Danish Husain) stands up to the family and the community to allow his daughter to pursue her ambition. Will the father-daughter duo be able to overcome the prejudice? Will a Muslim girl be allowed to learn Bharatnatyam?
A skilled tailor, Salim just about manages to make ends meet. Nonetheless, he always backs up Maryam and pushes her to pursue her passion for classical dance. On the other hand, Maryam’s aunt (Shraddha Kaul) and grandmother (Farrukh Jadfar) strongly believe that the girl’s dancing in public would not only demean the family but also the community. Apart from Maryam’s father, it’s only her dance teacher Uma (Sudeepta Singh), who gets her and encourages her.
This movie is the baby of debutant director Baba Azmi. He has conceptualised and co-produced it with his sister Shabana Azmi. The film is a tribute to their late father Kaifi Azmi. It is based on a delightful idea of being free from all restrictions, religion, and other boundaries that divide people socially. It also emphasises the tender connection between father and daughter, beautifully expressed via their everyday actions. However, creatively there is not much about the movie that one can praise beyond its intention.
Co-written by Safdar Mir and Husain Mir, ‘Mee Raqsam’ maintains a progressive tone in storytelling. Dialogues are powerful and strike an emotional chord, illustrating the discrimination Maryam goes through. Sample this: “Bharatnatyam is Bharat ka Nritya, but we gave a chance to another community girl.” While the overall narrative does have certain comments about the society, it lacks the nuanced treatment that would have rendered the desired depth to the plot.
Debutante Aditi Subedi is not impressive enough when it comes to acting but with Bharatnatyam mudras, she is just perfect, a treat to watch. Danish Husain is in top form and movingly portrays Salim’s charm of a loving father who has the guts to stand for his daughter. Naseeruddin Shah as a religious leader gives an impactful performance. He mainly communicates through his expressions and tone. Irrespective of their screen time, the supporting cast succeeds in leaving a mark.
‘Mee Raqsam’ may not be one of the best movies made on the father-daughter bond but its heart is firmly in the right place.