Ajaz Ahmad War
Mee Raqsam – I dance – based on a father-daughter bond was released on August 21. An unusual subject for the Indian film industry Mee Raqsam is the directorial debut of Baba Azmi who is the younger brother of the illustrious actress Shabana Azmi, who is the producer of the film, and the son of noted Urdu Progressive poet Kaifi Azmi. Mee Raqsam is a tribute to Kaifi Azmi’s worldview of tolerance, social justice, women’s empowerment and equality. A dream that, unfortunately, remains unfulfilled. The film stars Naseeruddin Shah as Hashim Seth, Aditi Subedi as Mariam, Danish Husain as Salim, Shraddha Kaul as Zehra Khala, Rakesh Chaturvedi Om as Mr. Jai Prakash.
Shot in the small town of Mijwan in Uttar Pradesh, where Kaifi was born, a tailor by the name of Salim, played by Danish Hussain, has a young daughter Maryam, played by Aditi Subedi. Salim’s wife passes away after a prolonged illness and the father-daughter are all they are to each other and it binds the two in a strong bond of love. What also binds Maryam in love is Bharatnatyam, which was sparked in her by her mother. Despite the conservative norms of the society they live in, Salim encourages her and extends all his support so that she can pursue her dream. Their relatives are all against it and raise hue and cry and accuse Salim of making his daughter a tawaif – courtesan.
Not just the close relatives, but also the community elders are against Salim and his daughter. None more than Hashim Seth, played by Naseeruddin Shah, who is at the forefront of this social bigotry campaign against the father-daughter duo.
From dialogue to intimidation, Seth uses all the tactics to dampen the spirits of Salim but he doesn’t succeed. A defiant Salim takes it upon himself to fight the world and let his daughter’s dream of becoming an accomplished dancer come true. Even after facing a strict social ostracization and constant slurs, Salim stands behind his daughter like the Rock of Gibraltar.
The whole beauty of the plot is that not even once does Salim has any doubts or moral pangs about what he is doing. He knows he has chosen the right path even if it’s difficult and full of trials and tribulations. He resists social norms and conservative religious interpretations that Seth and others try to confront him with. He wants to see his daughter happy at any cost and knows her dream is worth chasing and that he must support him fully, which he does.
A little fairytale-like at times, the film, however, conveys a strong message. Measured in clear binaries of evil and good, the plot looks too simplistic but the underlying message and the beauty of the father-daughter bond is so strong that it overwhelms everything else. A well directed and nicely crafted plot that’s serious yet simple and leisurely. To cut the long story short, a must-watch.