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Possibilities and the moments they create. While we might strive to look towards the future with a sense of optimistic fervor, too many times do those instances arise where we allow doubts and hesitations to sneak in, causing us to pause in the pursuit of what we want to achieve. Or, if that goal is within our mind, and we then move forward to see it come into focus, are there those around us who choose to oppose our vision, believing it isn’t feasible, that it can’t make for a lasting, tangibly successful life outside “the norm” or what is “historically” in place to aim for? Yet, we might INSTEAD encounter individuals who would not only help us press ahead with a determination and drive to overcome those obstacles, but also instill the absolute BELIEF that we CAN and WILL accomplish our endgame. From a small rural village in Himachal Pradesh to the bustling streets of Mumbai, a unique talent resides within the masses. His passion for the art of movement propels him, his skill guides him, his desire to succeed defines him. Don’t call him an acrobat. His name is Manish Chauhan. Call. Him. DANCER.

Next, my Mind:

Another facet of this film critic’s journey that remains steadfast is the concept that, when it ultimately comes down to it, the truest impact upon one’s mindset and grasp of what it is to be human is showcased by real life and all that it offers, especially when it makes us take a candid look at exactly WHO we are and HOW we can make this world a better place in which to reside in the midst of pursuing our own aspirations, or at minimum provoke us to aim for this objective. Such are the feelings that grew within me upon watching this new documentary feature film from writer/director/producer Leslie Shampaine, writer/co-director Pip Gilmour, writer/editor Jennifer Beman, producers Cynthia Kane and Priya Ramasubban, co-producer Micah Fink, and executive producers Jitin HingoraniJohn Patrick King, Ori Z. Soltes, Jay Sean, and Esther van Messel that had its World Premiere February 9th at the prestigious 2023 Santa Barabra International Film Festival followed by its NYC Premiere February 10th as the opening night film at the 2023 Dance On Camera Film Festival.

Delivering an incontrovertibly inspired, magical, wholly grounded, compellingly evocative portrait of the travails and triumphs of the human spirit while beautifully illustrating the sheer, influentially emotional potency its foundational art form and story will elicit in you as a viewer, the 84-minute documentary moves with excellent pacing and total purpose in sharing the tale of one young Indian man’s journey that ranges far and wide from India to Israel to the United States plus all he endures to live a dream–being a professional dancer.  This alone bears such weight when you realize the ABIDING and RICH legacy of dance within South Asian culture overall, much less how deftly it is intermixed into so many mediums of life there, from entertainment to religion, an expression that spans across so much–except being seen as an actual, viable career. It is precisely this baseline perception that forms the motivation in Chauhan to go beyond his youthful hip-hop style background and initially discover a means to go above that to an even more obscure idea in his world–ballet.

Just the same, even this is only scratching the surface of Chauhan’s growth, challenges, victories, and defeats that were to come and that we are witness to. What stands out throughout, however, is that aforementioned strength of will, mental and physical, to RISE UP and conquer the mountains he experienced and simply keep his eyes firmly on the direction he wished to attain, no matter what others’ skepticisms were that COULD have upended his confidence and fortitude to continue. With the pressures of innate expectations, both cultural and familial, already a factor while likewise facing potential social class discrimination, lack of funds to participate, the competitive arena of dance he would soon be immersed within, and the specter of time itself (mind you, Chauhan started late into dance relative to what’s considered the usual), all is conveyed here in a manner that cements in our brains Chauhan’s dogged perseverance paired with what this critic feels was one of THE most poignant, grander thematic gists presented–ART, in ANY form, transcends color, ethnicity, religion, class, and allows us as PEOPLE to EMBRACE their chosen art form in UNITY.

Chauhan is so charmingly engaging, energetic, humorous, serious, and everything in-between as he recounts all that he has come through to be where he is. Listening to him explain how he’s navigated this adventure resonated deeply for this critic, as even if by different means and experiences, it so profoundly parallels my own endeavors to become a full-time film reviewer, from humbling start to current, equally humbling notoriety that’s come about and continues to grow. It’s this degree of total relatability that infuses the film with its undeniably captivating atmosphere, affectingly moving and often just plain FUN.  As you would anticipate, Chauhan’s passage though the world of dance to the magnitude of success he’s seen come to pass would not have been possible without the genuine souls who ended up becoming his guides, mentors, and stalwart supporters, which is stirringly depicted through the interviews with key individuals who made it happen.

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