As I've been watching more and more classic Indian films I've noticed the "twin" dance, a dance featuring two young women (or one superimposed twice) who perform the same dance movements, was a popular presentation style. In my opinion, the best "twin" dances are those based on South Indian classical dance forms because the crisp moves look stunning when seen in parallel. I suppose I could call these dances "dancing duos" or something similar, but since they have the specific characteristic of each dancer following similar movements close to each other, I'll stick with "twin dances."
Here are my favorite "twin" dances in classic Indian cinema:
Ratha Kanneer (Tamil, 1954) - Kadhavai Saathadi - Here, the Sai-Subbulaxmi sisters perform a fantastic Bharatanatyam number with slower abhinaya in the first half and then some faster dancing in the second half! It's unbelievable how in sync they are from 3:15 to the end (my favorite segment!). While this song seems very light and cheery, the film itself seems to be very dark and daring for its time. Sai and Subbulaxmi were best known for their "twin" dances and as such show up six times on this list! Richard had a wonderful post (with excellent comments) regarding the sisters and their films on his blog. It's a shame there is so little information out there on them.Update: I've published many posts since on the Sayee and Subbulakshmi sisters!
Nirmaalyam (Malayalam, 1973) - "Panimathimukhi Baale" - This is an excellent Mohiniattam dance by two unidentified young women- it might be my favorite Mohiniattam piece I've seen in older films. The slow, languid grace of the dance form is simply beautiful, and I've always loved the hip fan the dancers wear that perfectly echoes their swirling movements around the torso. This song would be even prettier if it (and the white and gold costume) was in color. There's also a couple of white dudes watching the performance which make me curious about the film.
Bhakthakuchela (Malayalam, 1961) - Vikramarajendra - A nice Bharatanatyam-based number by two young women
Neethipathi (Tamil, 1955) - This one is a repost from my favorite classical songs list.
Azaad (Hindi, 1955) - Aplam Chaplam - This one seems to be the most well known "twin" dance of the fabulous Sai-Subbulaxmi, and it is such a peppy and addictive Bharatanatyam-based number! They show off their posing flexibility and stamina at 2:04.
Mallaikalan (Tamil, 1954) - "Neeli Megan" - A slower Bharatanatyam dance by the Sai-Subbulaxmi sisters with some beautiful arm postures and hastas at the end. I learned from Richard's blog post on this song that Azaad was a remake of this film, which explains the similarity in costume and look. I'm not surprised that the Tamil version retains more classical authenticity while the Hindi remake "spices" things up a bit.
Bhaktha Kuchela (Malayalam, 1961) - "Paaril Aarum Kandaal" -
I have spent much time staring at this lovely dance trying to figure out if it's the same dancer repeated twice or two different dancers! I settled on the latter because they look slightly different in the closeups (I think they are the same exact pair from the first Bhaktha Kuchela song above). Edit: See this post for a better and longer version of this video! Ramesh identified the dancing as Lavani for me; Lavani is a style from Maharashtra which I have a difficult time identifying (other than the free-pallu sari style). A very nice number and song!
See Bhaktha Kuchela video above
Bharosa (Hindi, 1963) - "Dhadka O Dil Hadka" - A very fun, energetic number by Sai and Subbulaksmi once again! Here they've decided to show off their acrobatic skills even further by bending their bodies all the way back to touch the ground! They've also clearly grown up from their earlier songs (and the taller one (Sai) looks a lot different!).
Chori Chori (Hindi, 1956) - "Man Bhavan Ke Ghar" - The inimitable Sai-Subbalaxmi once again! Here they switch it up a bit and dance a Kathak/Mujra (do I even know how to define these terms?) number which they manage to make very sweet and cute.
Sharada (Hindi, 1957) - "Aaju Re Baaju Naaju" - This song has a "tribal" theme and starts off with some entertaining set design, costumes, and singing before transitioning to the excellent team of Sai-Subbulaxmi! They are so skilled at performing fast movements in sync.
Basant Bahar (Hindi, 1956) - In this film is a nice dance with Nimmi and Kum Kum performing movements inspired from north and south Indian classical dance set to a nice instrumental song.
Mr. Sampat (Hindi, 1952) - "Aao Aao Kahani Suno" - This is a pretty dance with a young Padmini and another dancer whose striking features stand in contrast to Padmini's sweetness.
Pathala Bhairavi (Telugu, 1951) - "Vintha Katha" - This song has a "dance drama" style with various settings and styles on a very good print. Only the first two dances retain the "twin" style, and I'll assume those are the "Vintha Katha" song (and not the "Raanante Raaneranoy" song).
Chitralekha (Hindi, 1964) - "Ae Ri Janeh Na Doongih" - While my list is comprised of all black and white songs so far, this color song was so great I had to include it! There's lots of great varied "twins" dancing amidst shots of a romantic couple singing to each other. I haven't found many color "twin" dances that I like (many of them in the 60s and beyond tend to be in mythological films with gaudy outfits and dancing), but this one is lovely.
These remaining songs are "twin" dances that I ran across and liked but didn't consider my favorites. I thought I'd list them in case anyone is interested:
- Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum (Tamil, 1956) - "Aaduvudu Paaduvudu Kasi" - Sai-Subbulaxmi court dance
- Maragatham (Tamil, 1959) - Folk
- Kumkuma Rekha (Telugu, 1960) - Court-dancing style
- Lajwanti (Hindi, 1958)- Aaja Chhaye Kaale Badra - Folk
- Maa Ke Ansoo (Hindi, 1959)- Kisiki Aankh Ladi - Kathak/Mujra
- Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain (Hindi, 1965) - Mehfil Me Aap Aye - Kathak/Mujra
- Halaku (Hindi, 1956) - Aji Chale Aao - Minoo Mumtaz and Helen folk