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"Madhuri is a very special performer,"- Anil Mehta

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By: Faridoon Shahryar, IndiaFM
Monday, 26, November, 2007

"Madhuri is a very very special performer," says Anil Mehta, director of Madhuri Dixit's comeback film Aaja Nachle which is releasing shortly. Mehta a renowned cinematographer of such films as Lagaan, Saathiya, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and Kal Ho Na Ho in an uncharacteristic move has used the services of Mohanan (Farhan Akhtar's Don) as the Cinematographer as he feels "direction requires lots of concentration". In this exclusive interview with us, Anil Mehta talks about the germination of the story idea of Aaja Nachle, what makes Madhuri an easy person to get along with and why media should cross check facts before spreading rumours.

How has been the experience of directing your first feature film Aaja Nachle?
It has been very exhausting. We are at the finishing stages. It's been quite tiring. The first print just came out. The entire schedule was quite packed. It was not as if I was gunning to be a director. It was Adi's (Aditya Chopra) idea. He has written the story. It all started as a casual chat while shooting Veer Zaara. The script appealed to me. After this I may or may not direct again.

How does it feel to direct Madhuri Dixit, one of the biggest stars of Hindi Cinema of all times?
It feels special. I had not worked with her earlier even as a cinematographer. She is an iconic figure of our times. For me she is a special performer. At the end of the day it was an enriching experience. She is a fantastic person to work with. When she started working, she worked with ease and grace. She is a very easy person to get along with. What started off as a huge task, just got simplified.

Madhuri is one of the finest dancers and she is making a comeback of sorts with a film which has dance as one of its principal element....for she is back from US to save a dance academy...
It's not a formal dance school. She has an open air theatre space. Song and dance is woven in the narrative. When you see Madhuri dance, it can't be spoken of, it just connects. These things can't be articulated. I had to watch the footage of her dancing again and again in the post production stage. But I was never tired of watching her dance. She is a very very special performer. She is a trained Kathak dancer. Grace is a part of her.

Jaideep Sahni is the screenplay writer of Aaja Nachle. What's his contribution to the film?
The story is by Adi while Jaideep has written the screenplay. Adi had brought him in quite early. Jaideep has been there since the beginning. For me as a director his contributions were very important. I believe a film is made at the scripting stage. Jaideep has an eye for detail and a flair for local flavour. He knows the local colloquialism.

You also have a couple of talented actors like Kunal Kapoor and Konkona Sen Sharma in the film. What are your thoughts about them?
In the second half, they play an important part. Konkona is fabulous. Kunal is a toughie who is into local politics. For him it's a journey for realizing that there are other important things in life as well.

Aaja Nachle seems to be a film set in a small town in India and it talks about the plight of a dance school. Why do you think it should appeal to the masses?
Why it should be appealing to the masses is the worry of market pundits, not mine. I believe it is relevant. The subject is based in a small town in India. I would be very eager to get the response from small towns. It's a direct connection. It's a fun and entertaining story.

The music of the film has caught the fancy of people. What's your favourite track?
'Show Me Your Jalwa' draws from small town feel. It has a pretty upbeat tempo, yet it's folksy. It's not just a pop number. 'Ishq Hua' is a soft romantic number. I believe release of the film will give a fresh lease of life to music as well. 'O Re Piya' is my favourite track and also 'Show Me Your Jalwa'.

A lot of rumours have been floating around that Madhuri isn't happy with the film or the way it's being promoted. Is it true?
The rumours got off to a start when she wasn't even there in India. She hasn't said anywhere that she is unhappy. She hasn't seen the finished film. Obviously someone is concocting stories. When we are available, why are the facts not being cross checked! She also has a representative in Mumbai who could have been contacted as well. Why file stories just for the heck of it?

How was the experience of directing the film from a Cinematographer's perspective?
I haven't shot the film myself. Mohanan is the Cinematographer of the film. I was very clear that if I am directing I won't do Cinematography. Direction requires a lot of concentration. In the film, the cinematographic approach has been very simple. It's the kind of cinematography that gives the space to narrative to get a life of its own.

What about the 25 minute Nautanki that has been written by Piyush Mishra and is an integral part of the film?
Chod Do Main Karwaoongi, Aur Inhi Logon Se Karwaaongi...It's at the culmination of the film. It wouldn't be proper to talk about it till you actually see it.

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