After watching Roshan Kumari's wonderfully crisp and technical Kathak dance in Satyajit Ray's Jalsaghar, I wondered if there were any other Kathak performances in black-and-white Indian films that could match it! I've certainly come across lots of mujras, but I've been aching to find another performance aiming for more 'pure dance' style Kathak choreography.
While not quite matching the brilliance of Kumari's dance due to its lack of technical breadth and length, the dance in Tapan Sinha's 1960 film Khudito Pashan is so graceful and mesmerizing that it most certainly belongs in the upper echelons of filmi Kathak performances. Khudito Pashan (aka Kshudhita Pashan) was a national award-winning film about a man who moves into an old haunted house and falls in love with a dancer he encounters (and who turns out to be a ghost with a past!). The beautiful music in the dance scene was composed by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and the end of the dance, as all the performers fade away as if ghosts, is a nice effect in the film.
I am absolutely captivated by the second dancer and the minute touches she gives her performance that elevate it to something thrilling. Just look at how she makes the musical notes starting at 9:29 feel anthropomorphized as if they have emotions of deep sadness and mourning. I certainly find myself wishing the dance was not edited to splice in clips of the couple staring at each other- especially when the cut is right before what looks like a gorgeous choreography moment! And of course the dance should be much, much, much longer!
Here it is...
So who is the second dancer hmmm? It's driving me crazy! A search on all the names in the credits turned up no dancers. I wish I knew her identity and if she had done any other film dances because she is very talented. At first glance she looked just like Roshan Kumari (especially with that distinctive nose!), but as I looked closer I noticed differences in the width of the face and of course how different the style of each dancer is. It's interesting to compare the two; while Roshan goes for a rigid technicality and moves with a relatively straight torso, this dancer's style focuses on flexibility and a torso that bends with fluid grace. Each style has its own charms and aesthetic.
FYI: Angel (the wonderful folks who upload lotsa classic Bengali films with English subtitles) have uploaded what looks to be the first half of the film starting here. If you wanna watch the whole thing it looks like you gotta fork over $1.99 for a 24-hour rental.