While Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje is filled with Gopi's dances such as his infamous introductory pirouette-pillar dance and his energetic tandava with Sandhya, highlighted here is the "Kathak" dance competition in the film:
before that in 1953's Parineeta, I was surprised to find the dance below from Aandhiyan completely by accident. It's very possible that this was his first film dance or at least the earliest surviving one. As you can see from the screencap to the left, he directed his dance himself, and in the scene prior to the dance you can hear the announcer say his real name, "Gopi"! Gopi's signature spins and back-leans are showcased in the clip which is much too short and appears to be from a damaged or hastily edited print. There is another even shorter glimpse of what appears to be the same dance scene here. Shame that we are unable to see the full number as it was likely originally filmed!
Here he is in the first half of the song, first from :07-:29 and then from 2:15 to the end.
And in the second half of the song, he enters at 1:01, and then at 1:52 he transitions to the Kathak-inspired style that he is most comfortable with. He has such force and presence in his movements!
Gopi Krishna's Other Film Dances
|Naach Ghar (Osianama)|
More About Gopi Krishna
While Gopi was often behind the camera, he danced in quite a few films and his style certainly had detractors in his day most vociferously for Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (JJPB). Fellow choreographer Vinod Chopra wrote in 19583 that the film"insulted a particular North Indian Classical Dance style—the Kathak, by presenting a distorted and plagiarized version of it." In 1983 Projesh Banerji1 criticized Gopi's style citing a particular movement seen in JJPB: “The Kathak exponents of today, in order to get cheap applause from the spectators, very often indulge in practicing stunts and flashy climaxes on the sum. Gopi Krishna followed by his disciples, like Habiba Rahman, who has recently joined the film-world, and others are warmly clapped when they glide and slip on the floor dragging the body to a great distance on the stage, with their clap-trap tactics, to the detriment of the traditional rudiments of the classicality of Kathak.” Reviews of JJPB from recent years have been more gentle and even praiseworthy. A review at The Hindu6 called the dances in the film "blended Kathak" that merit " the epithet filmi," while Upperstall rosily recalls the film as "a series of sparkling vignettes and gorgeous ensembles of Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Manipuri..." (Bharatanatyam? Ha!)
|Gopi Krishna and Sukhdev |
Maharaj, 1950 (Source)
Gopi enters at :59
The dance school that Gopi established in the 70s, the Nateshwar Nritya Kala Mandir, is now headed by Rajendra Chaturvedi who organizes various annual dance shows in memory of Gopi whom he describes as having a "unique style." In a fitting legacy to Gopi's prolific work in popular cinema, Chaturvedi calls himself an "authorized Bollywood choreographer as well as an authentic teacher of Kathak in the pure classical style of the Banaras Gharana (Gopi Krishna and Sitara Devi style)." The disciples Chaturvedi chose to proudly mention include "well known personalities" like Kangana Ranaut and Jiah Khan, of all people! Another student of Gopi's is Vaibhav Joshi who says he studied Kathak from Gopi in a traditional guru-shishya parampara relationship.
It seems that Gopi married a Kathak dancer named Savitri at age 194 and in the 1980s had a daughter, Shampa Gopi Krishna (Sonthalia), who is currently following in her father's footsteps with film choreography in dance reality shows and films.
In the end, while I'm still unclear what Gopi's Kathak skills were really like, he certainly popularized "classical dance" through his work in films where he seemed most comfortable and perhaps best able to express his creativity and boundless energy. And luckily for us, the film medium preserved his joyous work for us to enjoy all these many years later.
1. Banerji, Projesh. Kathak Dance Through Ages. 1983.
2. Banerji, Projesh. Dance in Thumri. 1986.
3. Chopra, Vinod. "Dance in Films." Sangeet Natak Akadami Dance Seminar 1958.
4. "Film Industry has lost its Kohinoor." Times of India. 1994.
5. Kothari, Sunil. Kathak: Indian Classical Dance Art. 1989.
6. Rajan, Anjana. "Blast from the Past: Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje." The Hindu. 2010.
7. Rajan, Anjana. "State of the Art." The Hindu. 2009.
8. Shah, Reena. Movement in Stills: The Dance and Life of Kumudini Lakhia. 2006.
9. Sharma, Purnima. "Still Dancing with Her Eyes." The Times of India, The Crest Edition. 2011.
10. Sruti. Issue 115 Page 51. 1994.
Gopi Krishna's Tandav Dance: Bhookailas vs. Bhookailasa