I watched each version’s dances with excitement! At first, they looked identical and as though the same footage had been used twice. But then I noticed a couple of things that made me second guess myself. So in true classical dance nerdesse, I decided to put the tandav dance side by side to make a determination once and for all. It turns out that each ‘version’ was recorded separately! See for yourself:
It becomes fascinating the more you watch it. The choreography is danced slightly different each time, and the editing in each version reflects different ideas of when to end shots and insert others. Just when you think a section is really the same, another dissimilar detail jumps out at you! I think my favorite difference is the cow that the Telugu version felt was so important to interject at 1:42. :) Gopi Krishna’s ability to retain such pitch-perfect rhythm yet put in a unique stamp on each version is a testament to his talents in dance. And that flexibility!
After doing a bit of research, it turns out that the Kannada version with Raj Kumar and Kalyan Kumar was released in 1956 and then remade in Telugu in 1958 with NTR and ANR. So Bhookailasa is the original! Oldies historian Randor Guy notes that many folks felt the earlier version was better. I don't think I can ever shake the idea that the Telugu version was the original!
The question remains: why was the dance remade? Especially since the song is instrumental with no lyrics to mouth to! It would have been infinitely easier to only remake the portions that have a clear difference, such as the character shots that are specific to each version. The mystery remains…
And in case you’re wondering about Kamala’s dances- her's are the same (looks identical but actually reshot) with the added twist that she does have different lyrics to mouth, but I had the most difficult time lining up the dance movements to be parallel and just gave up after some time. So apologies- no Kamala comparison!
Here's Gopi Krishna's dance in Bhookailasa all by itself, if you'd like to watch it sans comparison. And of course any opportunity to link to a Kamala dance must be taken advantage of! Here she is in the Kannada version of Munneta Pavalinchu Nagashayana.