Vyjayanthimala and Padmini's Dance-off: Vanjikottai Valiban vs. Raj Tilak

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Thanks to the efforts of Tom Daniel and Mr. Naidu, the legendary dance-off between Vyjayantimala and Padmini in the 1958 Tamil film Vanjikottai Valiban (and it's Hindi remake Raj Tilak) are now available for viewing in excellent quality!  I did not know there was a Hindi remake of "Kannum Kannum Kalandhu" until last week, and once I watched it the idea of doing another comparison like Bhookailasa/Bhookailas popped into my head.  When the idea was suggested to me I figured I should go for it!  Another nerdeshi pardesi enterprise, yay! (And I really nerded it up, see below.)  I'm so happy that Tom and Mr. Naidu made these videos available because such a detailed comparison wouldn't be possible without this quality.  Without further ado, here is the finished product:

Unlike Bhookailasa, these dances were incredibly difficult to sync together.  The Tamil version runs a minute less in length because the Hindi version extends the verses in the middle (and often changes the melody to a minor-key which changes the whole "fun" atmosphere of the song).  This is why you'll notice the Tamil version periodically freezes and dims while the Hindi version does it's thing for a moment (and during those times I bring in the Hindi music for a moment as well). Another frustrating roadblock is that the Hindi version is at a slightly-different tempo at various points of the song, so I had to compress or extend the time as necessary to match it to the rhythm of the Tamil version.  The key to note is that the Tamil version and its music were not altered at all (except for the pauses) while the Hindi version has been altered slightly. 

After watching it closely, I am 99% convinced that every single frame was remade for the Hindi version.  At first, many of the dance-only segments looked identical, but when I paid close attention I noticed in every case there are differences.  The giveaways are usually differences in how the pyjama fan between the legs swings or rises when the dancers spin or twirl, and also helpful are differences in how high the arms are held and the tilt of the dancers head. Some examples (click image to view full size):

Vyjayanthimala's pyjama fan swinging to the left vs. to the right

Looking down vs. looking up and leg height differences

I caught a mistake!  They went to the trouble of ensuring the man shown seated from behind was the same man shown close up in the beginning (frizzy hair in Tamil, matted hair in Hindi), but when this seated shot is shown a second time near the end they reversed the frames!

 Teeth vs. no teeth

So again, just as I posed in the Bhookailasa post, why did they go to the time and effort to reshoot the  pieces that matched the music with no lyrics!  I wonder if the limitations of filmmaking back then required this method?  Perhaps all of the footage had to be shot on the same film reel or something to facilitate editing.  In any case, I'm positive each version was shot at the same time due to how the jewelry, costumes, and background actors are all in the exact same positions which would be impossible to try to recreate later.  It really is remarkable how similar everything is positioned; at least Gopi Krishna's dhoti and necklace moved a bit between Bhookailasa and Bhookailas as you would expect, but apparently Padmini and Vyjayanthimala's accessories were glued on, or something!

What the comparison also makes clear is that you are really missing out on some beautiful close up shots of Padmini and Vyjayanthimala if you don't see the Hindi version!  Although the Hindi song itself in my opinion has the most whiny and annoying melody when it differs from the original.

But perhaps most remarkable of all is that Padmini and Vyjayanthimala were able to dance each version with such precision that it takes a frame-by-frame viewing to conclude each version was filmed separately!


  1. I am so glad you decided to "go for" that suggestion! :) This is quite amazing - both for the comparison video and for your observations of the intricate differences.

    I think the comparison video is probably much more fun than it would have been had the dances been more identical and more easily synchronized. :)

    And I agree with you on everything here - including the problems re. the music in the Hindi version. (I was wondering why the music in the Tamil version always sounded better... But I never would have been able to pinpoint that problem about the "minor key.")

    BTW, as you might know, there was one other difference that I saw, which I mentioned on Mister Naidu's blog, and which Mister Naidu agreed with... That is, at the beginning of the Tamil version, Vyjayanthimala actually seethes more. Have you noticed that, too, by any chance?

  2. Richard - I'm so happy you enjoyed the video, and thanks again for making the suggestion to do it- it gave me the perfect excuse! ;)

    Oh yes, I definitely noticed a difference in the "seething," - actually, I noticed differences in all three characters. In general Padmini looks more irritated in the Tamil version whereas Vyjayanthimala does her best "seething" in the Hindi version. The king is also more expressive in the Hindi version (especially in the mirror scene after Vyj leaves in a puff- look how wide his eyes are!). It's too much fun watching the versions side-by-side where the differences really pop!

  3. Excellent post and detailed analysis. Reading your observations made me appreciate the dance-off even more. Thanks for making this post such an enjoyable read. Now, we have 3 videos to enjoy. The Tamil, Hindi and your comparison video :)

  4. Dear Minai, I am enjoying your blog so much you have no idea!
    I can't believe you went to to much trouble to compile this video but it was definitely worth it. I love comparing different languages versions myself but you take it to the next level ;)
    Keep up the good work.

  5. The nerdessHi pardesi strikes again!!! :D

    good job nerd !

  6. MisterNaidu - Happy you enjoyed! We've got the best three videos on the 'net of this dance I say! :)

    barbie-o - Thank you for the compliment and the visit! Looks like I don't need to write Portuguese on your blog after all. ;)

    rameshram - haha - yes indeed! I still fondly wish I could rename my blog to reflect my true nerdessHi status! ;D

  7. Minai, I was going to write a Portuguese message on barbie-o's blog too! But I was waiting for my housemate to return from her trip out of town so that she could help me. (Why's that? Well, she spent much of her childhood and teen years in Brazil...)

    Hello, barbie-o. You know, I found your profile to be very interesting, because for many years, when I still listened a lot to contemporary western "alternative rock," etc., I was a big fan of many of the relatively obscure bands that you listed - such as This Mortal Coil. (Also, Dead Can Dance... I have maintained for a while that their gloomy global tunes prepared me to fall in love with 1940s Hindi film soundtracks.)

    Back to Minai (since this is your blog :) )... You might be right that Vyjayanthimala "does her best seething" in the Hindi version, but with regard to the beginning part, when she is seated, your comparison confirms that she does more seething in the Tamil version - because she has more time to do so. :)

  8. Richard - I have to admit I cheated and used Google Translate (did you know it can actually speak back the Hindi (and probably Portuguese as well) that you type into it now? It's neato!). You're right, in terms of allocated-seething-time, the Tamil version is the longest! My favorite seething moment of Vyjayanthimala's at the beginning is the raised-eyebrows she does at 1:01 in the Hindi version- it's so much more "oh really!!!" than the Tamil, hehe. :)

  9. Holy...! I am quite a few years late on this, but I just found it! Your side-by-side video : INCREDIBLE!
    Thank you so much for putting it together! It is lovely, simply lovely! Delightful. Oh, how I love Tamil movies (they are sooo hard to find here! Gah!!!)

    1. Scherzadee C - Hello! I'm happy you liked it! And I'm realllly happy that someone else watched it so closely as to notice the differences in the pyjama fan's and such! I agree with your YT comments that everything was reshot, and isn't it fantastic how they could dance the choreography so similarly in each version! And I just noticed that the comparison video has over 33,000 views!! Wowza, when did that happen? 8)

  10. A very interesting comparison , meticulously observed . I saw this movie way back in 1958 or 59 as a child . There was no crowd at the hall as both Gemini Ganesan and Padmini were not recognized as stars in the North although Vyjayanthimala could be recognized because of her recent box office hits in the Hindi films , but her role was negative . Coming back to this number , this was the first ever filmed dance competition between two famous actresses who were stars too and superb Bharatnatyam performers in their own right.Beautifully choreographed although the rythm was more Kathak based . But Padmini did a remarkable job synchronizing Bharatnatyam style to the ' Parans ' played on the mridang . Vyjayanthimala's style was phenomenal , fitting in unclassical forms to classical rythms . Both had performed pure classical Bharatnatyam numbers in their previous films : Padmini performed a Thillana in ' Pardesi' and Vyjayanthimala an Alarippu in ' New Delhi '. After this historical jugalbandi , Padmini danced in competition with her sister Ragini in ' Kalpana' , but Vyjayanthimala never competed with a classical performer , only with Helen in two movies and an unknown classical dancer in ' Amrapali '.


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