The uploader references a complimentary quote on Narthaki.com about Anjana's dance skills, and when I first saw the video a while back I thought “oh Narthaki must have mixed her up with a dancer of a similar name” because how could a dancer like that possibly be taken seriously in any way? And how did she get on TV in the first place?
Luckily for us, that is not the only recent dancing video of Anjana online. There seems to be a bunch of people who have taken it upon themselves to upload short preview videos ripped-off from DancingIndia.net (which itself is a rip-off site that rips-off other people's videos and DVDs and resells them as proprietary downloads). The videos are recognized not only by the "DancingIndia.net" watermark but also by their randomly-numbered titles with misspelled words and, most humorously, inserts of the uploader's opinions in the titles. So one may find titles with things like ru1bbish1 (rubbish), crappp, crappiest grp, idiotonscats (idiot on skates!), longjaaw (long jaw?), fatkid, or simply...supercow. :D
Among these lovely collections can be found a few more recent Anjana Banerjee performances. In the two below, she gets the distinction of having "faat horrror" in the title. :) I love the second video, where the introduction speaks glowingly of her dance as an "exposition of rhythm and melody." There are a handful more that are slightly-less-atrocious, like this and especially this in which she looks a bit younger and has more energy.
Anjana's Dances in Chandaneer
As I searched for more information on the film and who the the lead character/dancer "Seema" was enacted by, IMDB.com credited the role to Anjana Banerjee (as did the BFI). I vaguely remembered her name but didn't know why. A quick search on YouTube confronted me with the iconic, hilarious dance I'd seen a while ago. "It couldn't be!" I thought at first. But then I watched all the dances from the film closely and it was unmistakable that the dancer was the same Anjana Banerjee with a much younger appearance and energy filmed long before she clearly aged, gained weight, and suffered from a serious case of dance amnesia...or arthritis.
Just take a look at one of her best dances from the film:
Can you believe it! How could someone dance so decently here and fall so far later? Amazing. In case you're still thinking "no way! that's not her!" just take a look at these two picture comparisons:
|Same distinctive nose|
|Same mole near her right eye|
What is very interesting about her role as a headstrong Bharatanatyam purist in Chhandaneer is that it seems to reference actual events from her dancing life, which implies she may have been fairly well-known in West Bengal at the time as a Bharatanatyam dancer and the film was featuring or perhaps capitalizing on her local fame. In the scene below, she is interviewed about and then is shown demonstrating her blending of songs by Rabindranath Tagore with Bharatanatyam which as noted above she experimented with in real life. I'm sure this inclusion also helped the dance be more relateable to Bengali audiences who are very familiar with Tagore (and of course the Bengali language) as opposed to Bharatanatyam's traditional music and languages.
Another surprise in the film is the famous dancer Yamini Krishnamurthy’s appearance at the end to introduce the stage performance of Seema. It’s really her! She is woven into the story as the childhood guru of Seema, though she is not seen until the end (I don’t believe the teacher in this scene is her, but another actor). Here is Yamini’s small part (she's seen starting at 9:12) – no dancing, unfortunately:
The Remaining Film Dances
Credits Dance - Seema (Anjana Banerjee) is introduced with a fast-paced performance overlayed on the beginning credits. After a short break, she resumes dancing again at 3:44 introduced by some beautiful South Indian temple imagery.
Academy Dance - Her abhinaya-focused dance at the “Madras Music Academy” (that’s a real shot of the outside of the famed Academy at the beginning). Wouldn't it be great if the stage at the Academy really looked like a '90s Doordarshan TV classical dance set! :) The lyrics in this film, penned by Satarupa Sanyal, won the National Film Award for "Best Lyrics of 1989" "for the rare poetic heights reached."
Practice Scene #1 - I just love classical dance practice scenes! She doesn't get to practice long before she is rudely interrupted.
Practice Scene #2 - Interrupted again!
Seema teaching a group of students, and interrupted yet again!
Another abhinaya-focused dance bathed in a soft, warm light. Doesn't she look completely different from her other dances in the film? And might this be a Tagore song?
Seema's dramatic ending dance in a filmy costume (and Yamini Krishnamurthy in the audience).
How intriguing this discovery of Chhandaneer has been! I had no idea that the iconic "hilarious" YouTube dancer had such a history. I've not given any attention to the actual story of Chhandaneer because I thought it was simply awful - unrealistic, little character development, strange acting, and unlikable characters! To be fair, the English subtitles disappeared on and off so I didn't fully understand the whole story. I wonder if the film was a dud in its day, especially since there is very little information online about it. But even if the film really is as bad as I perceive it is, its value lies in its novel dance content and its giving us a peek at what the infamous Anjana Banerjee looked and danced like in her younger days.