Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sridevi's Top Ten Dances


By P.Ramakrishnan

Long before the term 'item number' hit the Hindi film vernacular and film-zines, southern sensation Sridevi was uplifting the cinematic experience with her dose of glamour, grace and dancing style in Mumbai's movie musicals. Her dances are a highlight of many a movie that are otherwise unwatchable, particularly in the drivel of the ‘80s.

Sridevi had an innate, untutored talent for dance, she never studied the art unlike her South Indian contemporaries like Meenakshi Sheshadiri, Jaya Prada, Bhanupriya, Radha or famed film rival and Kathak-exponent Madhuri Dixit. What she did have was natural rhythm and a treasure-trove of myriad expressions. The audience couldn't wait to get to the part where Sridevi let loose on screen with her magical moves in films that often had little else.

Sridevi's sizzling act on screen was often partnered with non-dancers like Rajesh Khanna, Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor and the like, much to the chagrin of choreographers. But they were left unperturbed as the opportunity to work with Sri was compensation.

She could do any number with ease, be it classical, modern or a western number. You wanted her to break-dance and ape Michael Jackson? Done. Do a navasara-nritya under the shadow of the Natraj? No problem. Seduce on screen in monochrome chiffon saris? Done, and how!

Sridevi was a Jack(y) of all trades, no step beyond her reach, no expression beyond her faculty. Like her Tamilian predecessors Vyjanthimala, Hema Malini, Rekha, it was the unspoken yet acknowledged rule that to rule B’wood, acting chops and scintillating beauty wasn't enough; you had to dance like a dream.

And even in the garish technicolour dream sequences of the ‘80s, Sridevi shone through. Whittling down the list to just ten song/dance sequences is hard (with over 100 films and roughly six songs in each, that's a lengthy cinematic CV) but here's what it, roughly, boils down to:




10. Main lagti hoon Sridevi
Choreographer: Saroj Khan
Singer: Aasha Bhosle
Music: Bappi Lahiri
Film: Nakka Bandi (1990)

Never heard of it? Youtube it. The film Nakka Bandi is God-awful. The lyrics are deliciously loopy. The choreography isn't perfect but watch Sridevi in her cheeky, unadulterated best as she mimics yesteryear actresses. Note her comic timing and getting the gist of her predecessors in two-second shots. Irreverent but without being profane, Sri, as always, gets it right.


9. Morni baaga maan bole aadhi
Choreographer: Saroj Khan
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shiv Hari
Film: Lamhe (1991)

Oh what a song! What a film! What a performance! Five-time Filmfare winner, Lamhe was the most surprising flop from the Yash Raj banner, that walked away with the most astonishing acclaim. This isn't the big jhatak-matak number that Sridevi was most oft famed for. Simple, subtle, a reinterpretation of a traditional Rajasthani folk song, its magic.

Megha re megha, Mohe chedo na and Morni were a series of songs Sridevi performs as Pallavi, the older woman Virendra Pratap Singh (Anil Kapoor) falls for. It’s hard to pick which of the three numbers were better than the other, but for argument’s sake, lets elect Morni. The undulating sands, the gorgeous (Neeta Lulla’s National Award winning) outfits, the intricate movements and expressions, its heaven on the ear and easy on the eye.


8. Main aisi cheez nahin
Choreographer: Chinni Prakash
Singer: Kavita Krishnamurthy and Mohd Aziz
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Film: Khuda Gawah (1993)

Although Sridevi was in a league of her own like her Goliath co-star Amitabh Bachcahan, the two superstars appeared on film together just thrice; Inquilab (1984), Aakhri Raasta (1986) and, the best of the lot, Khuda Gawah (1992). The dance perhaps best captures the unspoken yet palpable sense of competition the reigning royals of Bollywood had while sharing screen-space. The engulfing costumes can barely tame the leonine Sri from giving the number her almighty all. Even Big B’s left watching her agape at the ferocity of his leading lady and was most notably eclipsed by the lunar charms of Chandni herself.


7. Dushman dil ka jo hai
Choreographer: Chinni Prakash
Singer: Kavita Krishnamurthy
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Film: Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993)

It’s the song that inspired Amitabh Bachchan to send a truck-load – not a bouquet - of flowers to Sridevi’s house much to her sheer joy and self-professed embarrassment. Roop Ki Rani... was excessive in every way, the over-the-top mishmash of every Hindi film cliché was an expensive and expansive venture that was a lengthy yarn which left audiences yawning.

Indubitably, the best bits of the film include Sri and some (not all) of the dance numbers stand out. As dance director Chinni Prakash says, “When you see a dance, the first thing you see is the face and Sri is ex-ce-llent in the face.” See the multi-shots focusing just on her expressions near the end of the song's antra . Damn right, she’s excellent.

6. Tarapat Beete
Choreographer: Gopi Krishna
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Rajesh Roshan
Film: Jaag Utha Insaan (1984)

One of Sri’s earlier (and better) films with the much-whispered about co-star Mithun Chakraborthy, Sridevi has three incredible semi-classical numbers in the film choreographed by the dancer of dancers, Gopi Krishna. The fact she gets her mudras bang-on and posture perfect without lengthy lessons makes her performance all the more laudable. As Bharatnatyam danseuse and Malayali actress Shobhana says, “The fact the Sridevi’s not a trained dancer yet so good makes her one of my favourites.” Many would concur.


5. Nainon mein sapna
Choreographer: P.A. Saleem
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
Music: Bappi Lahiri
Film: Himmatwala (1983)

The song that started it all? Perhaps. Sridevi was already a mega-star in regional films and with a flop like Solva Saawan with Amol Palekar behind her, but she burst into the collective consciousness in flashes of orange and hot pink. In scintillating amrapali outfits among hundreds of pots and pans, feather dusters - don’t forget the feather dusters – its Sridevi glistering throughout this metrical exercise. It ignited a slew of similar cutlery doubled as accessories dance numbers for the succeeding diabolical decade. The antics with her white-pant and white-shoe’d co-star Jeetendra (who on second-viewing appears notably stiff unlike her other limber dancing co-star Rishi Kapoor) is the defining image of the masala movie mayhem. Sri in her conical bra-like tops maintained a distinct lack-of vulgarity in an era otherwise crippled with it.



4. Classical music
Choreographer: Saroj Khan
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Film: Chaalbaaz (1989)

Who needs words? Like Janet Jackson, Sridevi made the country grove to her rhythm nation. Chaalbaaz was a tour-de-force double dose by the diva as she essayed both Manju and Anju with equal panache. Forget the comical duets in the film (award-winning Kisike haath and Tera beemar mera dil), watch the dances that Sridevi does in the early reels to instrumental beats, as she wraps each step with rage, fear and tears. It’s a new-age taandav that should not be missed as she whips the air with her long plait and burns the carpet with her steady steps.


3. Kaate nahin kathe yeh din yeh raat
Choreographer: Saroj Khan
Singer: Alisha Chinai and Kishore Kumar
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Film: Mr India (1987)

For the past 25 years, Kate nahin katthe has lead the pack as the sexiest duet of all time. Mercifully, choreographer Saroj Khan (who had a rather tumultuous relationship with Sridevi though their interlinked careers provided many of the aforementioned dance nuggets) kept non-dancer and one-step wonder Anil Kapoor, hidden in the shadows and she reserved the thundering steps for thunder-thigh’d Sridevi. It was raining amen. Every rain-song that’s followed (and there have been many done by younger and lesser stars) remains a pale imitation to this class act. As the adage goes, many have imitated, none have bettered.


2. Main teri dushman
Choreographer: Saroj Khan
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Film: Nagina (1986)

A song can't make a movie run is the axiom, but in 1986, Sridevi proved otherwise. Rising above a mediocre script filled with jantar mantars and snakes morphing into people and vice-versa, the highlight of the film is the climactic song that drew audiences in droves. As snake charmer Amirsh Puri’s been starts echoing across the halls of the haunted haveli, Sridevi starts undulating to the music in an erotic blend of sensuality and venom. As a genre, Nagina is a fantasy thriller but the real thrill is watching the curvaceous Sri dance in a flurry and flourish as her sequined ghagra spins around her evil sapera. As a dance, Main teri dushman is a trinity of genres amalgamated; movements from Punjabi folk, expressions and gestures from Bharatnatyam and Kathak’s heady turns, all cobbled together for the seven-and-half minute finale.


1. Mere haathon mein nau nau choodiyan
Choreographer: Saroj Khan
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shiv Hari
Film: Chandni (1989)

The song bursts into the screen four minutes into the movie and the beats have echoed across weddings from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Sung with the impish glee of a sixteen year-old by sexagenarian (at the time) legend Lata Mangeshkar, knitted with an infectious beat and complimented with memorably cheeky lyrics, Sridevi elevated a wedding song into an anthem.

As Yash Chopra says, “Sridevi gets very excited about a dance number. I’ll do this and I’ll do that, she says and puts a lot of her personal contribution as an artiste into each song.”

The song captures all of Sridevi in a nutshell; its got her child-like insouciance, her sauciness, her animated antics, her comic genius and her sultry act all rolled into one rocking number. Phew, that’s some number.

9 comments:

  1. I'd add Hawa Hawai(Mr. India), Na Jaane Kaha se (Chaalbaaz), Mein nachoo tu bansi(Jag Utha Insaan) tp the list....Hawa Hawai is Sri's best!

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  2. Agreed but with Hawai Hawaii and Kate Nahin from the same film, it was a toss between the two and as the blue-sari clad scenes are the most iconic of the 80s, we chose the later.

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  3. WAT ABOUT MERI BINDIYA TERE NINDIYA NA UDADE

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    Replies
    1. Radha Motielall15 July 2014 at 13:03

      yep definitely this one....love it

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  4. Chandni's dream sequence dance is her best. In fact the best in Indian cinema. Surprised to see that not mentioned.

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  5. where is the strong agressive dance as :ek beeti huye from ARMY and mere gulam tera from ladla and u forget also mera kaha manoge frm gurudev espicially the indian dance part with green color ....the are many songs where she danced well

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  6. where is the hawa hawaai song of Mr India.

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  7. Tandav dance in chandni
    Hawa hawai
    Na Jane kahase ayehai

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  8. Hey mate, you have forgotten the sizzling dance in white dress in Chandni. It is the dance that changed her total image as a sensuous actress

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