Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kamala's Dances in Jwala (Hindi, 1971)

I have found two more Kamala Lakshman film dances! Yay! I happened upon them today completely by accident while searching for videos of Gopi Krishna's choreographies. When I saw a girl who looked suspiciously like Kamala in the Hindi film Jwala, I took a look at the credits and to my surprise "Kamla Laxman" was part of the cast! After browsing through the film, it looks like Kamala dances in the two songs below and has two short scenes where she speaks to the hero.  This is fascinating as I had thought Kamala's dances in Konjum Salangai (Tamil, 1962) were the latest filmwork I would ever get to see of hers, but Jwala was released almost ten years later in 1971!

But...don't get too excited.  This film and its dances are simply terrible!  The colors (Eastman Color?) are horribly washed out and offtone, the costume designer must have been on an acid trip, and the whole thing is one big, gaudy, ugly, kitschy mess!  It's not the kind of thing you would expect Kamala to have participated in.

Shhh... we won't tell anyone!
This is the first time I've been disappointed by Kamala's film dances.  Her dances in Veerakkanal were the first time I'd seen her stray from a classical dance basis and get closer to popular commercial numbers, but the dances were still fairly enjoyable because she brought her special talents to the table.  However, here in Jwala, the choreography, costumes, and sets she's been given would be hard for anyone to overcome.  No hint of classical influence can be found in the movements which is perhaps why she doesn't excel here.  I wonder why she agreed to do these dances... perhaps Gopi Krishna's involvement as one of the choreographers had something to do with her participation and expectations.


"Haule Haule" - You can immediately tell which dancer is Kamala as soon as she descends the steps and starts her quick moves, and as the song continues it's clear she's the best dancer in the room.  There are a few moments of brilliance where her speed shines through (and she does one of her backbends at 8:13), but the choreography is mostly quite sloppy, disjointed, and tacky.  It doesn't pass the "do I want to watch this dance again" test, which I never thought would happen with a Kamala number!
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"Mere Jwala Naam" - Kamala can first be seen in this song as the second "leopard tamer" before becoming the focus of the dance number.  The leopard presence must explain why she has such hideous leopard-print fabric sewn onto her costume!! Oh it's so ugly, I can hardly stand it!  Avert your eyes if you must!  Other than the beginning (which shows off Kamala's skills in fast movements), Kamala just prances about like any other run-of-the-mill b-grade Hindi film heroine. Sad, really.
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So now that you've seen Kamala in action, here is my question: this movie was released in 1971, which means Kamala would have been 37!  Does she look 37 to you?! She doesn't to me!  I suppose she is one of those people that forever looks much younger than their age.

Here's a few more screencaps of Ms. Kamala and her credits:

I think this last one is Kamala in one of her speaking scenes, but she looks so much thinner than everywhere else! hmm..

6 comments:

  1. Minai, nice to see these dances from Jwala! I thought they were enjoyable, but I can understand your being disappointed because you expect Kamala to be nothing less than great. But maybe it's also that this is a little jarring because she strayed from classical dance a bit less than some of our other favorites? It would not have been surprising at all to see Padmini or Ragini doing these kinds of dances.

    Regarding the date of the dances, I wonder when they were actually filmed. The release date of 1971 is clearly much later than when much of the filming was done, considering that the movie Starred Madhubala, who died in February 1969.

    BTW, did you ever get to see those scenes with Kamala and her sisters in the 1973 Malayalam film Chenda?

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  2. Hi Richard - Yes, I think that's a very good point and exactly the issue! I guess I never ever expected to see a number like "Mera Jwala Naam" by Kamala because that just wasn't her niche nor was it something I could see filmmakers casting her for. Her claim to fame was her classical dance prowess, and cute as she was I assume she was not considered "classically beautiful" in her day like the Travancore Sisters or Vyjayanthimala who got to do all sorts of different numbers (dance and nondance) that capitalized on dance AND beauty aspects.

    I didn't realize Madhubala died in 1969! The title of the YouTube videos mentioned it was her last film, but I think your right that it (or at least Madhubala's parts) must have been filmed earlier than the release date. That also has me theorizing that maybe Kamala was brought in later to give the film some oomph.. maybe Madhubala was supposed to do more dance numbers (in the vein of Mughal-e-Azam which the film sort of appears like a knock off of at times). Interesting!

    Funny you should mention Chenda- I've just found a source that may be able to provide me with the video songs from that film, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will come to fruition. If it does, I will be posting them ASAP! But I'm trying to not get my hopes up too high... we'll see! The Chenda songs will be a welcome respite from Jwala because they are almost guaranteed to have a classical dance basis with the Kathakali subject matter and all. :)

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  3. Dear Friend,

    We are honoring Guru Kamala Laxman on April 22 2012 for her life time service to Indian Dancing. We request who ever loved Kamalaji's dancing to come and honor her. She is 77 this year. Its that time, all of us remember her contribution. The details could be found at www.sooryadance.com

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  4. SPA - Thank you for the wonderful information! It looks like the April 22 event you're referring to is the St. Louis International Dance Festival at which Kamala will be awarded a lifetime achievement award! How wonderful- I wish I lived closer to Missouri and could meet Kamala in person. Thank you for spreading the word!

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  5. MinaiMinai ji,
    Film Jwala was actually a 1961 film,after Mughal e Azam.But as Madhubala fell ill,the film was shelved.After MB's death in 1969,the shooting resumed with many actresses doubling for MB.Finally,the film was released in 1971.
    At the time of its release,Hero Sunil Dutt ensured that Madhubala got Top Billing-above hin- to honour her.
    BTW,this was the only full colour film of madhubala in her entire career.
    This is the reason why Kamala does not look 37 !
    -ARUNKUMAR DESHMUKH.

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    1. Arunkumar - Hello! Interesting information, especially about the doubles for Madhubala and the top billing she received. Definitely explains Kamala's youthful appearance. :) Thank you!

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