Chiranjeevi's Classical Dance Debut in Subhalekha (1982, Telugu)

Sunday, August 22, 2010
When I first heard that the megastar Chiranjeevi had performed a Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and Kathak set in the 1982 Telugu film Subhalekha, I just HAD to buy the DVD and see such a gem!  Sure, Chiru can dance the modern stuff alright, but Classical Indian Dance?

His performance turned out to be immensely entertaining (i.e. silly) as I expected-- primarily because Chiranjeevi is clearly not classically trained, but he gives an endearing performance in which he is obviously giving his best effort.  Out of the three styles, I think his Kathak is the least cringeworthy and actually shows some skill in the quick moves department!  I might even say I'm slightly impressed by it! I'm curious how this film song was received back in its day.  Was it considered a laughing stock worthy of ridicule, or were awed fans blinded by Chiru's moves? If anyone knows, please do comment.

Highlights:
  • The "deer and cowboy lasso" move at
  • The random ads interspersed throughout (apparently in the film the dances are part of a commercial being taped)
  • The evil smirk and general "I'm just trying to dance under the weight of this headpiece" physicality
  • The kathak-hand-swirl - go Chiru!
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9 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting that. I was impressed with the dancing and the camerawork as well. I do wish there'd been more close-ups in his face in the Kathakali.

    I buy an Allwyn fridge, does it come with Chiru lounging on top, or do I have to pay extra for that?

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  2. H'mm, what did you find "silly" about the dancing, Minai? It was pretty good. Actually, I remember hearing/reading in this early period that Chiru did have some classical training. That was one of his claims to fame. Clearly he is not on the Kamal Haasan level, but he is as good as any heroine doing classical dance.

    The voice over says, for each type of dance, "X dance is famous in Y part of India. Allwyn is famous all over India!"

    Did you actually watch the film, though? I did, a long time ago, though, and was very impressed by the film -- one of the few where Chiru actually got to act. But the thing is, I don't remember this part at all. Is this the film directed by K. Viswanath? I thought Chiru played a poor but honest hotel worker in that.

    Wannabe

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  3. Liz C - I agree - It would have been neat to see him do some of the classic Kathakali eye work slowly. Hehe - looks like the ad worked its magic on you! ;)

    Wannabe - I suppose by "silly" I meant that the performance was not designed to be silly but that's how I perceived it- I thought Chiru looked humorously awkward in the first two, though he shows an aptitude for last Kathak piece. If he did indeed have training, I'm thinking it might have been a little Kathak. I haven't watched the film yet- you're right, it is directed by K. Vishwanath and Chiru does play a hotel worker. Apparently the film's message is about the dowry system (I love how Vishwanath's movies are so message-oriented).

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  4. Oh my Lord, Minai, how do you do this every time? How do you manage to find the most awesome gems?!? This is brilliant! In all kinds of ways! Too cute! Now I have to track down the movie, it's worth owning just for this piece! (And total newb that I am, I would say he does an excellent job, if only because it doesn't seem like it's supposed to be taken too seriuously, it is a refrigerator commercial after all! Haha!)
    Thank you! Watching this put a huge smile on my face! :D

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  5. Why hello dolceoro! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed Chiru's dancing! Isn't it great? You should definitely get the film- I haven't watched it yet, but K. Vishwanath's movies are always interesting and more focused on traditional culture and social issues- much different than the massy fare. :) Enjoy!

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  6. The "kathak hand swirl" is called kran, oh my gosh is this dude's attempt at Kathak hilarious!! It reminds me of what I looked like when I first started after learning Bharatanatyam for 5 years.

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    Replies
    1. Hello ray - So "kran" is the name for the actual swirl movement? Fascinating! I've wondered that for a long time, so thank you! Glad you enjoyed this humorous piece of Chiru film history; I say he gets a big A+ for effort, at least! :)

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    2. kran is actually the name of a bol in Hindustani classical music but it has a corresponding hand and foot movement in kathak. It is a basic move that you learn early on but the foot movement (an asymmetrical hop with one foot landing before the other leading into something akin to a "flap" in tap dance) is quite complex.

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    3. thank you for the information ray - so the "hands swirl" movement is usually accompanied by the same bol vocal sound? I'll have to pay attention to that in the future!

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