Where is the dance in Bollywood today?

The Asian Age.  | Sandip Soparrkar

Entertainment, Music

Bollywood films have completed over 100 years now, we are the highest producer of films in the world.

Actor Madhuri Dixit in a scene from the film Aaja Nachle.

Bollywood films have completed over 100 years now, we are the highest producer of films in the world, it is said that in India about 6-7 films release in a week. So can you imagine if we release between 300-350 films in a year, how many films we are making, because every film that is made might not see a release.

I am sure you will agree with me that almost each film made in India is incomplete without its song and dance. The world outside relates to Bollywood films with musicals, even we Indian cannot see a Hindi film without the latkas and the jhatkas. Be it a romantic number, a sensual item number or even a dinchak Bollywood dance all are an essence of Indian cinema.

I remember in 2013 when the most talked about film festival in the world, the Cannes films festival was celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema, I was privileged to be the first Indian choreographer to be ever  invited representing Bollywood dance industry at the festival in European summer in April, where I also had the honour of speaking on ‘Dance the essence of Bollwyood’ to the international film makers, media and guests.

Every person who met me, only would talk about the hundreds of coordinated dancers coming out of no where and dancing there hearts out behind the hero and the heroine, this is the fever of Bollywood on the world, this is the way they look at Indian cinema  at large, for the people outside India Bollywood is a riot of colours with people dancing and singing to exprerss each emotion, be it love, sex, sadness, hope, fears and tears.

I have been a part of Bollywood and Hollywood films as a choreographer for 18 years now, I feel back home, dance which is in integral part of the films is always neglected. Directors and producers spend lavish money on getting a hot and sexy item girl, lavish sets, expensive famous designer costumes and all that jazz to make the dance number a memorable one. But is it all about the look of the song? Is it only about how elaborate the  picturization of the song is? Or is it about the dance that matter? How much of the quality of dance looked at? How much is the purity the authenticity paid attention too?

I am sure, today, after reading this article many film directors and producers who have invested million in a song will hate me. And some who are purist will love the topic that I have touched, well each to his own, but I think as a choreographer who belongs to the Industry it is my responsibility to talk about what is happening in the field of dance in Bollywood. While surfing the internet, I happened to view the most talked about film of 2013 — Dhoom 3, I eagerly clicked to see the tap dance which I heard took very long to plan and choreograph, infact Amir Khan I am told even took special Tap dance training in Australia for the same. As soon I clicked on the song to see the so called mesmerising number, which to me was a big disappointment. I waited to see tap dance till the end, all I could see was stomping and dancers banging their feet along with Amir Khan. Banging once feet on the floor like a child throwing tantrums with sounds of tapping in the backdrop is not tap dancing. I was shocked to see that and I know now India is following the trend of stomping as tap dancing, this is because fortunately or unfortunately Bollywood films decide the future of fashion and dance in India.

The Arial acts performed by Katrina and Amir were good, but as a choreographer and dancer I would like to warn and tell the readers that it was not dance. Please remember they were showing a circus scene and in circus artists do perform such acts, please don’t confuse your mind with it being a dance, it was a fun simple circus act. Dance is when a person gets on their feet and moves it in a particular way along with their hands, hanging on a rope or on a ring and doing acrobatic, as per me is not considered dance.            

Knowing the fact that things happening in Bollywood film set trend world over, it in a way becomes a responsibility for the makers to make sure that the best and the most authentic things appear on screen. I remember the mujra of Madhuri Dixit choreographed by Pandit Birju Maharaj in Devdas, or the mujras of Rekha in Umrao Jaan and even the hot and sensual cabret numbers of Helen in the 70’s, all had a real and authentic appeal. They set a charm and a trend that all rule are memories forever.

If we look back at the dances, performed by Sridevi, Meenakshi Sheshadari, Hema malini, Waheeda Rehman, Vaijanthimala, Meena Kumari, Madhubala and so many more, choreographed by sir P.L. Raj or even Saroj Khan, you will agree with me that they had class, style, elegance and grace along with purity and authenticity too.   

Let me ask a question to all of you who love the song and dance sequences that are in films today. Why is it that now a days the dance numbers in our films are not pure? I feel they are they are fake, with no soul at all, in Bollywood language such dances are called ‘Chaloo’. There is no purity, no clarity and certainty in the movements. Who do we blame for this mediocre work on the big screen, is it the untrained choreographers? Or the actors who do not have any prior training or who try to do what is told to them without much rehearsal time at hand? Or the makers who just want to make the act look glam without giving the much heed to the quality of dance?

Very moved by these questions in my mind, I called the guru of Bollywood dance Saroj Khan and asked here all the questions which were disturbing and continuously running in my mind. The dancing queen very warmly replied, ‘We cannot blame anyone Sandip, its the times, the changing times, which have brought this disaster, we are a country were dance is in our blood, we dance at every occasion, be it marriage, birth or death, every festival and celebration has dance weaved into it, yet our  mindset is that dance is just a filler.’

She further added, ‘the day our actors train in dance like before and directors and producers start paying extreme importance to rehearsals and authenticity of dance, we will see the change in the way dance starts looks in our films, the joy of danced in a film is not with cuts after every few beats nor with zooming and and zooming out of the camera nor with seeing the close ups of the lips, ass or boobs of the heroine but the beauty is in the movement of the body with grace, elegance and right expressions.’                  

Our technology in film making, the ability to make millions of people follow us as trendsetters can be proved only if we give equal importance to everything that is involved in the making of a film. And yes dance is an integral part of the Indian cinema and it deserves to get its long due recognition. I am sure you will agree with me if I say, ‘You can take out the Cinema from the dance but you can never take out dance from our cinema’.

Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on sandipsoparrkar06@gmail.com