Saturday, March 22, 2014

Found: Vyjayanthimala's Other Bharatanatyam Dance in Chittor Rani Padmini (1963, Tamil)!

In my first post on V.S. Muthuswami Pillai, the nattuvanar who among many things choreographed most of Vyjayanthimala's best Bharatanatyam in Indian cinema, I had discussed a beautiful Bharatanatyam dance of Vyjayanthimala's in the 1963 Tamil film Chittor Rani Padmini but lamented that I couldn't locate the second dance at the end of the movie she was said to have performed for the king.

Well! The dance has now been located, at the rich treasure house of Kandasamy Sekkarakudi Subbiah Pillai's YouTube channel, and it is fantastic! Whereas "Devi Vithayar Bhavani" depicts the dance of a devadasi inside a temple, "Paarthuk Kondirunthaaley Pothum" depicts the dance of a rajadasi at the king's court. Muthuswami Pillai choreographed the numbers differently; the former dance is restricted to a small physical space and the choreography is performed very precisely, but the latter court dance is snazzed up with expansive flourishes and speedy embellishments fit for the court. And what elevates it from so many other mundane and sloppy Bharatanatyam-inspired court dances in cinema is Vyjayanthimala's sheer talent and training.

The dance starts at 2:16 with a Bharatanatyam salutation (quite similar to that in New Delhi) and raises ones hopes of seeing classical choreography come to life on screen, but the next three minutes are a mix of abhinaya and "filmi classical" movements that reminds me so much of the way that Padmini danced in cinema, though Vyjayanthimala has a more methodical grace. At 5:10, some refreshingly-skilled tabla playing kicks off a four-and-a-half-minute, fast-paced, pure-dance segment in which Vyjayanthimala energetically mimics through dance the raaga-scaling vocal antics of Sivaji Ganesan's character in a "call and response" fashion. The speed she is performing at is too fast for a lot of the adavu-fusions, but despite that she manages to lock her limbs into place and create beautiful visual geometry. Look at her go! Only Kamala and Vyjayanthimala are capable of dancing Bharatanatyam in films with such speed while maintaining relative poise and form.

  

Wow! Of her film choreography that stays quite close to Bharatanatyam, this is her most energetic and exciting dance number! The knee spins at 8:20 are an interesting inclusion. I found the ending quite disappointing because the lazy footwork and editing didn't match the increasing excitement of the vocals and pace. Wouldn't some of this song's choreography have been spectacular in the epic danceoff in Vanjikottai Vaaliban!

Since I'm on the topic of Vyjayanthimala, I realized that when I previously created the playlist of her Bharatanatyam/South Indian-based film dances, I forgot about her Bharatanatyam segment in the 1954 Tamil film Penn (also made in Telugu as Sangham and in Hindi as Ladki) which is quite an egregious oversight because it is among her best film Bharatanatyam! It is the one authentic-leaning Bharatanatyam film dance of hers that is not choreographed by VS Muthuswami Pillai. Instead, the nattuvanar KN Dhandayudhapani Pillai, who choreographed many film dances (including Kamala's Bharatanatyam in Chori Chori), crafted it. Here's the playlist again starting with Vyjayantimala's beautiful dance in Penn followed by its very similar reproduction in Sangham and Ladki (notice in the Hindi version the raaga/melody is changed to what sounds like a distinctly North Indian one):



And last, here is another new dance of Vyjayanthimala's from Chittor Rani Padmini in a filmi North Indian style (and there's also a dance by Ragini in the film too!):

   

6 comments:

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  2. Good to see you back after a rather long gap.

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  3. Good to see you back after a rather long gap.

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  4. Happy to see you are still a regular reader. :) Yes, I have been a bit busier these days, though I do post things a bit more frequently on my Facebook page between posts.

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