Naach is not one of Ram Gopal Varma's thrillers, but it sure presents viewers with a humdinger of a mystery: why, in the name of Helen above, would anyone cast Abhishek Bachchan (aspiring film star Abhinav) in a movie whose central motif is dance in films?
Antara is also curious.
I love the man dearly. He's very talented and effective in many ways as a performer - including bodily physical expression when channeled for anger or humor (or even when dancing in a deliberately comic way, like in "Kajra Re" or his mini-AB MotoRockr ad) - but he cannot dance. He certainly tries, which is more than can be said for many heroes of past generations, but it just doesn't work most of the time. Here's some evidence by way of Filmi Girl's fantastic setting of Abhishek clips to "Pappu Can't Dance," in case you've forgotten or remain unconvinced.
Okay, so Naach isn't really about dancing. It's about creating opportunities for the camera to leer at Antara Mali (aspiring choreographer Reva) in sheer, tight, and/or (but usually "and") wet clothing. Classy. And impractical - surely a person built like Antara would need a little more support doing all that lunging and leaping than her feather-weight tube tops can give?
All I could think of was Teri Hatcher's infamous line from Seinfeld: "They're real, and they're spectacular."
Above is from the film's opening scene ("Awara Man Mein"), and for the first hour or so it was kind of hard to shake the feeling that this was simply a peep show, especially when most of the action centers on Reva dancing or Abhinav being entranced by Reva dancing. Even as she starts to school him in her very un-filmi style in preparation for his first crack at being a Bollywood hero, the main point seems to be her body - as discussed, the point couldn't seriously be to watch Abhishek dance. If I were feeling charitable, I could propose that Reva's dancing is the representation of her true inner self - unconventional, determined, strong, always present and in motion - and that it was therefore reasonable and fair to focus on the instrument that expresses these ideas to the viewer. But it'd be a lot easier to be charitable if she hadn't been dressed so revealingly. I expect ridiculous costumes during song picturizations - I'm drawn to them like a moth to a flaming sequin factory - but in the "everyday" scenes a breather from the pointlessly trashy would have been nice.
Speaking of, here are some shots from some of the other songs. I know little about dance, so I can't comment on how well Reva's un-filmi style is done. Weird as her contortions and poses are - "like rhythmic gymnastics," Bollyviewer said - I did enjoy the change from what films usually offer. The filmmakers enjoy it too, contrasting segments of Reva with Abhinav on location doing run-of-the-mill moves
Does this remind anyone else of "Dard-e-Disco"?
with a run-of-the-mill heroine. Again, being charitable, this is a great way to show that even though Abhinav and Reva have different styles/personalities, they fit together well, and too much predictability and matchy-matchiness, as the film describes Abhinav's first hero appearance and the accoutrements and lifestyle it brings, is dull and lifeless. Anyway. The point I was trying to make was that Reva wears some crazy stuff. All I knew about Naach before watching it was that it has some very strange outfits (fugged by Babasko here), but I had no idea I was going to see an acid trip through Helen's storage closets with a touch of the 80s thrown in for good measure. For the faint of sartorial heart, I hereby issue a Beverage Warning - that is, if you are drinking something, put it down and don't take any more sips lest it comes out your nose or you choke.
The painting's top might be bigger than Reva's.
For example, this gold beaded kerchief thing
is going to seem downright tame compared to a blindfold and Sgt. Pepper's bicycle shorts.
Sometimes they're a case of going too far. The "cat's eye crying tears of blood" makeup is one thing,
but giant wings are all together too much.
I can think of two examples of wings in dance numbers (the other is from Kaalaa Pani, e.g. here), and both are bad. What say you?
If they had left this one with just the giant feather headdress and sparkly blue top, everything would have seemed comfortably Helen-in-a-cabaret-ish. But nooo, someone added one-legged fuchsia tights.
These kneesocks might be my favorite.
Totally Filmi and Gebruss, are we going to knit those or what?
Okay, so there's a little skin for the rest of us too. Thanks, RGV.
Tangentially related, even when she isn't in them, the songs Reva dreams up are a little bonkers. Take a look at "Sara Sara."
In this last photo, the women have translucent bags on their heads.
Other than these little challenges to my mental health, I thought this was a good film. It has a tight, personal focus on love and understanding other people's values and figuring out your own priorities. Abhishek is of course a fine fit for any of those tasks, and he makes his character Abhinav adorable and relateable. Pappu can't dance, but boy can he woo and brood.
There must have been other actors who could have made Abhinav as grounded and kept better pace with the steps, but whatever. I really liked Abhishek's work in both Sarkar films, so I'm happy to let RGV have a go at using him in projects now and then. Given their position in the love triangle with Reva, Abhishek and Ritesh Deshmukh (artsy director Divakar) don't have any scenes to take advantage of their excellent rapport; putting much effort into giving them a friendship, only to then test it under the weight of the romantic struggles, would have been silly, so I can forgive its lack.
Though I don't know what to make of her dancing, I really liked both Antara Mali's performance and the character of Reva. Reva is an interesting person - she has an entirely self-directed, self-propelled creative ambition that I haven't seen in many women in Hindi films (though maybe in Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, interestingly), and she was absolutely true to her convictions, to what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. As his star rises, Abhinav offers to help her out with money and film-world connections, but she's insulted that he won't support her need to fulfill her dreams entirely on her own. This is not a practical stance, obviously, in terms of either career or emotions - apart from not understanding Reva's ethics and thus accidentally offending her when he simply meant to help and share his good fortune, Abhinav is a kind, endearing boyfriend. But Reva isn't an entirely practical person. If she were, she'd find a way to channel her vision into typical song numbers instead of holding out for a chance for her ideas in her own style. She insists on standing absolutely individually as an artist, as a voice, and I admired her for it. Thankfully there's a lot more to this character - and to the entire movie - than her wardrobe would suggest.