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After nearly a decade, an unexpected phone call shakes Dia (Madhuri Dixit) out of her dance rehearsal in New York. Makarand (Darshan Zariwala), her teacher, her guru, is dying and she must return to Shamli town. The town where she grew up, the town where she learnt to live and to dance. Also the town she left on an impulse, severing ties with her parents and her people. It is a poignant and troubled return; not only has her guru passed away but the institution that he so lovingly nurtured is in decay and under threat of demolition. Ajanta theatre, the once vibrant hub of the community, the place where Dia's fondest memories are embedded must now be brought down because the local political authorities feel it a waste of prime real estate.
With the help of Doctor (Raghubir Yadav), the caretaker of Ajanta, Dia sets out on a mission to prevent the destruction and resurrect the spirit of Ajanta. In an atmosphere of mistrust, ridicule and active hostility, Dia picks up the gauntlet and agrees to achieve the near impossible task of putting together a theatrical production. She must also ensure that every member of the production is from Shamli town. She has only two months to prove her point or the bulldozers will be waiting.
In this context begins her tumultuous journey of dealing with small town prejudices, encountering the resentment of the powerful contractor, the cynicism of the local political powers, resolve the delicate tensions of inter personal relationships and
rally her motley team of non starters - a low level muscle Imran (Kunal Kapoor), the local tomboy Anokhi (Konkona Sen), local ex-MLA Chaudhary Om Singh (Akhilendra Mishra), a vulnerable tea stall owner Mohan Sharma (Ranvir Shorey), a responsible government official Mr. Chojar (Vinay Pathak), a struggling insurance agent Sanjeev Mehta (Jugal Hansraj), the town vagabond Dhankuber (Nowaz) and a host of others.
She must create in this chaos in order to save Ajanta... in order to preserve what her guru so lovingly nurtured. She must create art in order to preserve what she believes is the soul of society.
The stage is finally set... Will it work? Won't it?
Curtains rise on Ajanta.
Dia (Madhuri Dixit)
She was the life of Shamli. And then she made one mistake - she fell in love. The town never forgave her and she never forgave the town. She made a new life, far away from her past. But now the man, who taught her how to dance and how to live, is no more. And he has left behind a job for her. She has to go back to the town... and teach it how to dance again.
Her mother may be born in Shamli, but Radha is so born in New York. She knows less Hindi than an Indian parrot and has more ideas on managing her mom's life than a shrink. The only problem is that Shamli is not New York. And everybody except for Radha knows this.
Doctor (Raghubir Yadav)
Nobody knows what his real name is, but Ajanta's old caretaker wears a cap on his head and many hearts on his sleeve, all bleeding for the cause of theatre. He is Dia's support system in her fight, which becomes a battle and then a war.
Imran (Kunal Kapoor)
Local toughie, Imran, believes that tough guys don't dance and romance is for wimps. Unfortunately for him, Dia thinks otherwise and makes him the lead actor in her theatrical production, where he has to do only two things - dance and romance. He has seen a lot of rough stuff, but is Imran prepared for this?
Anokhi (Konkona Sen)
Anokhi, as the line in Godfather the novel says, is a force of nature, not truly subject to control. Whether it is her perpetually running nose, or her penchant of coming up with the most imaginative abuses. Anokhi is truly anokhi (different). Dia finds something unique in her and takes the chance of her life. Trouble is, Anokhi cannot sing or dance to save her life, or Dia's.
Mohan Sharma (Ranvir Shorey)
Owner of the town café, Mohan nurses a decade-old story of unrequited love. Dia's sudden arrival leaves him feeling vulnerable again. Although he is initially confused about his feelings, Mohan gradually comes around to assisting Dia in her endeavour to save Ajanta, even though this could open old wounds.
Mr. Chojar (Vinay Pathak)
Chojar saab, in his own words, is Shamli's responsible government official. His relationship with his boss can be summed up in two words: “Yes Sir”, spoken with eyes examining the floor; and that with the rest of the world in four words: “Put it in writing”, spoken with a sense of mysterious knowingness. From the day Dia moved into his home as a paying guest, his married life is in upheaval. But sometimes, upheaval is good.
Chaudhary Om Singh (Akhilendra Mishra)
Chaudhary Om Singh, the local ex-MLA is a typical politician - he never takes a stand in any issue. A snake in search of opportunities, he is out of power since the last election. And Dia's arrival has given him just the issue he needed. Or has it?
Sanjeev Mehta (Jugal Hansraj)
Accountant Sanjeev Mehta joins Dia's troupe to sell insurance policies and stocks, not to dance. But as the dancing starts, he enters a world which his accountant mind had never imagined before.
S.H.O. Singh (Yashpal Sharma)
As a young constable he saw his friend Mohan go to pieces when he had his heart broken, a decade ago. As he watches Mohan help Dia in her mission, Station House Officer Singh has only one aim – to protect Mohan from another heart-break. But how does he protect a man from himself?
Dhan Kuber (Nowaz)
Irrepressible, outspoken, liberal, Dhan Kuber is last thing a vagabond should be. But ever since Dia has come back, nothing in Shamli is as it should be. And now he has to choose whose side he is on - the town which feeds his stomach, or the woman who feeds his soul.
Makarand (Darshan Zariwala)
It's a pity Makarand is no more. Because if he was, he would love to be in this story. How do you introduce a man who is so many things? Artist, singer, writer, dancer, philosopher, hippie... he is the man who taught young Dia how to dance and how to live. The man who single handedly kept dance alive in Shamli, till the modern age caught up with his art. And the man who died leaving his favourite pupil some homework - to teach dance to a town that has forgotten it.
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