The world has shaken and moved on the ingenious dance moves of Bollywood.
Bollywood has always been home to glittery and glamorous dance and music.
The larger than life sets, exotic foreign locations, and a troupe of five hundred background dancers dancing behind the lead hero or heroine is what Bollywood dances are famous for.
From the time when classical Indian dances dominated Bollywood to when the 60’s wave of Western influence made Bollywood groove its way into carefree tunes. And to now when the locking and popping has become as Indian as they are Western, Bollywood has seen it all.
We dive into this tantalising world and discover which songs and dancers have ruled B-town from one decade to another; the true movers and shakers of Bollywood.
The song ‘Inhi Logon Ne’ (Pakeezah, 1972) flows into your ears, and the mellifluous voice of Lata Mangeshkar takes us back to visualising Meena Kumari, the famed ‘Tragedy Queen’ of Bollywood, rendering this song as an elegant courtesan.
This was a time in Bollywood when most of the heroines were trained in classical dance and thus it dominated the scene.
Meena Kumari dances with all the élan and charm of a real old-world courtesan on a carpet made of gold thread underneath magnanimous crystal chandeliers.
Madhubala was a reigning heroine of the 50’s and her dance to ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960) still remains unfazed.
It should be of particular interest to dance historians that all the classical foot movements or ‘tatkars’ and the pirouettes or ‘chakkars’ taken in low cut angels of the song were not done by Madhubala but by kathak dancer Gopi Krishna!
Remaining true to dance traditions was so important in Bollywood in that era that dance doubles were used for heroines of those days just like stunt doubles are a necessity for heroes of today.
The 60’s and 70’s also birthed songs like ‘Piya Tu Ab Toh Aja’ (Caravan, 1971) and ‘O Haseena Zulfonwali Jaane Jahan’ (Teesri Manzil, 1966) which dominated the scene.
These songs had all the bobbing and tremendous shaking of the head and the entire body.
The heroines had hair do’s touching the roofs and the heroes were all soft bodied men who knew how to shake a leg. It is in this era that the concept of ‘item girl’ came up.
Helen was a pioneer of this concept as she performed the major dance numbers in a cabaret form.
She started with ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’ (Howrah Bridge, 1958) and ended up with ‘Mehbooba O Mehbooba’ from the film Sholay (1975) and showed Indian cinema how new and evolved dance could be done.
Heroines like Zeenat Aman changed the way dance costumes were perceived in Bollywood. Her tight mini blouses and skimpily clad legs brought the term sexy to India.
Her songs in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) though mainly evocative and expressionist in choreography were a revolution in itself.
The 80’s saw Mithun Chakraborty come up with the dance sequence of a lifetime, the ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ (Disco Dancer, 1982) number was one of his greatest hits. He is still remembered for all his torso thrusting, head bobbing dance moves, and the gaudy yet glamorous costume and sets he danced on.
Sridevi is also one such heroine who changed the way people used to shake their legs. She did the song ‘Naino Mein Sapna’ (Himmatwala, 1983) with thousands of clay pots placed in the backgrounds and an equal number of background dancers. The rebellious almost robotic moves are what the 80’s will be most known for.
It was in this decade that Hema Malini a trained classical dancer-actress did a song ‘Hawa Ke Sath Sath’ (Seeta Aur Geeta, 1972) which was not classical in nature, not even Westernised, but it was done entirely on skates. These kinds of props added yet another dimension to the how dance was perceived in Bollywood.
The 90’s swept away any prehistoric concepts of dance in Bollywood and a revolution came up in this era. With songs like ‘Chaiya Chaiya’ (Dil Se, 1998) where Malaika Arora Khan who incidentally is the daughter-in-law of the famous Helen, shimmied her slender waist with Shahrukh Khan on a moving train with almost two hundred dancers!
The 90’s also bought us Madhuri Dixit doing ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ for the movie Khalnayak (1993).
This song saw some tremendous protests for being vulgar in lyrics but then the mob cooled down when they observed the aesthetic nature of the choreography.
It is the same Madhuri who then went on to do ‘Maar Dala’ and ‘Dola Re Dola’ with Aishwarya Rai Bachhan in Devdas (2002).
In addition there was also the evergreen famous song ‘Dhak Dhak Karne Laga’ from the film Beta (1992).
Then came the new millennium and Bollywood had dancer-actors like Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor, and Prabhu Deva jumping into the scene. They gave a new definition to breakdancing for the Indian crowd.
While Hrithik did ‘Dhoom Machale’ (Dhoom 2, 2006) showing off his fabulous body and even more fabulous dance moves, Shahid Kapoor who has been trained in Shiamak Davar’s Academy for Dance did ‘Mauja Hi Mauja’ and ‘Nagada Nagada’ (Jab We Met, 2007).
The famous numbers ‘Chikni Chameli’ (Agneepath, 2012), ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’ (Dabangg, 2010), ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani’ (Tees Maar Khan, 2010) all set the Bollywood dancing scene on fire with heroines like Katrina Kaif, Malaika shaking their bellies away.
Bollywood always had a steady market for dance-oriented films. Dance films were popular right from 1959 with Navrang, then Nache Mayuri (1986), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), and Aaja Nachle (2007).
Some other ingenious dancers who have remained timeless throughout their careers include Govinda who can never be forgotten for his teeth shining smiles and hip jutting dance moves in all his No.1 series of films (1995-2001).
Javed Jaffery who although did not make it big on the silver screen was always respected for his ultimate breakdancing moves. Then there is Rishi Kapoor whose dances in songs like ‘Om Shanti Om’ (Karz, 1980) always makes fans bop to a beat.
With an industry that churns out the maximum number of films in any given year in the entire world, the magnanimity of dance and music can never be negated. The world has shaken and moved on the ingenious dance moves of Bollywood; it always has and always will.