My Latest Collection of Lesser-Known Film Classical Dances

Sunday, July 31, 2011
I'm happy to present my latest collection of classical-oriented dances I've found recently (or have been holding onto for a while) that are either lesser known or have been difficult to track down. Enjoy!

"Vikraama Rajendra" - Bhakta Kuchela (Malayalam, 1961) - Attention!! New Kamala Lakshman material starting at 5:00!  I originally talked about this song on my post about my favorite twin dances and the only version online at the time was quite poor in quality and ended abruptly.  I since got a hold of the original film and also what appears to be a Kannada dub and was amazed that the Kannada version adds about two minutes of extra footage of a third Manipuri dance that's missing from the Malayalam version!  The only downside is that it cuts a little bit of footage off from the beginning, so I included the beginning from the Mallu version and the rest from the Kannada version to create a complete whole. The old uploader had split the original song into two pieces so that is all taken care of as well. I am 100% convinced the taller dancer is Kamala Lakshman, and Richard of the Dances on the Footpath blog suggested the shorter dancer might by Kuchala Kumari.  So enjoy the two minutes of Kamala Lakshman material you've probably never seen before!

Melnaatu Marumagal (Tamil, 1975) - A white chick dances 'Bharatanatyam'!  That's enough to make this one a must watch and it turns out she actually does fairly well and clearly has some dance training. She outshines the Indian chick, me thinks.  Unfortunately the print of the film I have really struggles at times.  The film was later remade into America Ammayi and starred another white chick Devayani as I mentioned on my obscure dance films post. The second page of this restrospective on America Ammayi claims that the white chick in Melnaatu Marumagal was American.

Pavithram (Malayalam, 1994) - I was struck by this beautiful Mohiniattam stage performance when I watched this film; it's very short but superbly done.  Mohanlal's character looks on as his younger sister performs and then he reminisces about raising her over the years.  I'm sure there's more of these kinds of Mohiniattam performances tucked away in Malayalam films, but I haven't been able to find any more. 

Arangetram (Tamil, 1973) - I originally bought this film thinking that with a title of Arangetram it would be about classical dance!  It's actually a hard-hitting film by K. Balachander about social issues and while it does contain a dance scene of a young woman's arangetram, the dance is intercut with shots of the beginning of another woman's rape scene which makes for a powerful message and according to this review of the film was very controversial.  Perhaps I'm continuing in the tradition of the controversy but I've edited the dance so the assault clips are removed and the dance is presented in its pure form without the out-of-context (from the film) shots.

Dance Like a Man (2003) - Sitar player Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar and half sister of Norah Jones, plays a classical dancer in this film and dances a couple scenes of Bharatanatyam.  She is first seen practicing and then performs on a beautifully decorated and lit stage.  I think she does quite well considering she revisited the dance form she learned a bit in her youth just for the film so many years later.

Mizhikal Sakshi (Malayalam, 2008) - This film about a mute mother who mourns for her son contains some lovely Kathakali clips featuring Vineeth!  Yay, I found more Vineeth dances!  Here's a little montage of the dance scenes that are interspersed throughout the film.  The cinematography makes the colors just pop; it all looks so otherworldly. 

"Manjutharasree" - Mizhikal Sakshi - Set to a beautiful melody, this song has sumptuous shots of Kathakali preparation and slow movements and such.  I would upload a better quality version but the strange thing is my copy of the film does not have this song on it despite my combing through it twice!

The Tiger and the Flame/Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) - I've read online that Kathak dancer Roshan Kumari was in this film and I highly suspect the dancer in this song around 2:13 is her though the jury is still out from what others have noted over on Richard's blog post about her (which has some great research on Roshan).  The dancing is quite unusual, and hard to define (and the costumes can be, well, bizarre); as I noted in my post on the film, it fits in with the whole birds-eye, foreign view of a "strange" and "exotic" India that the film flirts with.  While the dancing isn't classically-inspired, I still think it fits here in its overall presenation.  There's also a second song from the film in which I think Roshan dances in as well.

"Black or White - Michael Jackson - This is here for fun because I had forgotten that among the world dances presented in this song was a lovely Odissi performance.  Michael had good taste! :)  I also love the Indonesian dancers which further rounds out the Asian dance representation.


  1. Nice! I watched Punyam Aham (Malayalam, 2010 w/Prithviraj) last night. The movie was a little too artsy, but there were some nice kathakali sequences that you might want to check out.

  2. Thanks Liz for the tip - I'm always delighted when someone finds a film classical dance I haven't seen before, yay! The first half of the film is on youku- I saw a short scene of a performance so a group of white tourists- looks interesting!

  3. hi minai

    long time no see...saw this one youtube. thought i should let you know.

    and this is the latest addition to my channel:

  4. another one:

  5. hi cram! good to see you around. :) Ah yes, the Mannadhi Mannan dance! A humorous classic. I love your second link that you uploaded of the Ellam Inbame song! It reminds me a whole lot of the Manmadha Leelai song. Do you know who the dancer is? I like the way her eyes light up when she's emoting strong or angry-looking abhinaya. Thank you for sharing, that's a wonderful song! I love the last link you posted of Lalitha- Rameshram shared it with me some time back and I love how old it looks. You feel as if you are watching an old lost treasure. :)

  6. Hi, Minai. This is a great collection. And I didn't realize that you'd given me two kind references, thank you! (Sorry I took so long to get here and comment - is it really two weeks since you posted this?)

    By the way, regarding Anoushka... I would also add that she's Uday Shankar's niece. That's the only explanation of how she could have done as well as she did, given the limited amount of time she had to train for that dance. :) (I once posted a clip of Ravi showing old footage of Uday to Anoushka and Nora, who were sort of lounging around in a slovenly way on the couch. Do you remember that? If you haven't seen it, I'll try to dig it up.)

    The Kamala dance is great too, of course. And I really like that dance in Arangetram - and I am glad you cut out the nasty parts! (Did you see Vanaja? I kind of wished that that nice dance film hadn't turned into a rape film - not that I don't appreciate people's efforts to do serious social commentary...)

    Well, anyway, hope to see more posts like this soon...


  7. Hi Richard, I always forget about the Uday Shankar piece when talking about Anoushka! :) Certainly artistic creativity runs through the genes in that family, no doubt! I do remember that old footage clip- it was very nice.
    Luckily the Arangetram parts I cut out weren't anything disturbing- just a physical struggle. It actually made for a powerful statement regarding a young woman's "ascending the stage." I did see most of Vanaja and agree with your sentiment; the film is just too sad and depressing! Anywho, glad you liked this post. Without Anytamil I'm afraid my "new content" posts will be fewer and fewer. :(


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