How South Indian Films Stole My Heart

Monday, April 12, 2010
It really all started with Devdas, the extravagant Hindi period piece that was my third Indian film viewing experience. One of the main things I noticed in it and other later Hindi films was the distinct, beautiful dance styles of the actresses. Hands gestured in certain ways and postures and movements were defined along a similar plane. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, and it took a while before I discovered the connection of filmi Indian dance with Classical Indian Dance.

I had never seen anything as beautiful and as mesmerizing as Classical Indian Dance. I still haven't. It's vocabulary of movement was unlike anything I had seen, and I couldn’t believe that modern choreographers in the US were not more familiar with these forms and all the wonderful motions they prescribed. The dances I watched intently were so grounded and earthy. Rows of bells/ghungroos on the feet added another dimension to the dance as artists, particularly in Kathak, created intricate aural soundscapes with only their feet!

Dance in its Indian incarnation was a whole body experience: matching the rhythm of the music with the feet, creating beautiful pure dance lines and geometric angles with the body, telling stories with the gestural language of the fingers and hands, communicating emotion with the eyes and face… stunning. The carnatic/hindustani musical accompaniment was obviously incredibly complex with its intricate meters and percussion. On top of that, the costumes and fabrics and temple jewelery were the most beautiful thing I’d laid eyes on, surpassing even Balinese dance. I wondered- how had I never seen these art forms before? Artists like Alarmel Valli, Nahid Siddiqui and Sujata Mohapatra blew me away. The theatrical world of Kathakali and other Malayalee dance forms could take a lifetime to study. I became so obsessed that I had an entire YouTube channel solely devoted to uploading recent and archival clips of famous exponents of the classical dance forms. Unfortunately, my channel later got shut down due to a copyright claim. I like to dream that it's still floating out in between some microchips somewhere...



As I continued researching these dances and tried to distinguish between the forms, I sought other Indian films that featured classical dancing or were about classical dancers. I discovered a subset or subgenre of Indian films made with plotlines revolving entirely around classical arts such as dance and Carnatic music. They seemed to be more popular down in the south. K. Vishwanath was a director I kept reading about, so I blindly-purchased the highly-recommended Swarnakamalam. My love affair with South Indian cinema was kindled.

Swarna Kamalam (Golden Lotus) was made in 1988 and looks very dated and low budget. Yet, I simply loved it. In it, the houses were small and lived in, with dirt on the walls and unfinished floors. The women wore simple cotton saris and were shown just living their lives- getting ready in the morning, making homemade chapatis out in the sun, sharing their desires to have more money and marry well. It was realistic, and it was charming. Bhanupriya's character was mischievous, pissy, and simply didn't feel like practicing Kuchipudi dance half the time. She even humorously tries to throw her dancing bells down a well at one point so she won't have to practice anymore. :) I could sense that the film was perhaps reflecting a cultural shift at the time in which the younger generation was challenging or losing interest in the ancient art forms. As an American, I don't have a cultural precedent about this that I can relate to exactly, but it doesn't matter because the heart and soul of the film is about universal human concerns and emotions. I could identify with the characters and laugh with the jokes and get the gist of it all relying only on the subtitles! Regional cinema no longer seemed so cryptic and sacred and impenetrable.

Even more fascinating were the dances by one of my now-favorite artistes, Bhanupriya. She was quick and graceful and full of joy and life. Despite having an aversion to the ear-piercing levels of the female singers of the time, I fell in love with the songs and their melodious cuteness. "Akasamlo" was simply adorable, "Ghallu Ghallu" sweet, and the dances in "Siva Puja Ku," "Theeri Yashodaku,""Koluvaiunnaade," "Kothaga Rekkalu Vachena," and "Guru Brahma" were fab-u-lous. I totally understood how these could have been hit songs back in their day.

"Siva Puja Ku"

"Aakasamlo" - Cuteness personified:

Where then in the South Indian cinema world was I to go from there, I wondered! There were not nearly as many resources and recommendations for me to read about as there were for Bollywood, so I poked around on my own. One fine day I saw a bin of Telugu DVDs at a local Indian restaurant and picked a few that sounded good. One of them was, as fate would have it, the Telugu film Andhrawala. I browsed through it later that evening- a chubby male lead (NTR Jr.), overweight female costars, very bad production values. But then… the song “Nairey Nairey” came on and I was literally speechless. I kept rewatching it! This was what I now define as my first mass South Indian dance experience. There’s really nothing like group SI dances, and they’re even harder to describe with all the crazy leg moves and synchronized background dancer choreography. Too much fun! Despite being wowed, I still was discouraged by the bad production values.

"No, No, Buddy!" :D (Be sure to select 480p)

What happened next changed my life as I know it ;) - the Telugu film Desamuduru! Crisp cinematography! Slick, over the top fights! Beautiful locations! Silly comedians! And this sexy as hell actor named Allu Arjun! I practically melted into a puddle watching the song “Manasuley.” The dances were awesome; I was completely in love. WOW. Hot guys with chiseled bodies did exist down south! And the films could look as good as Bollywood! This film got me over the hesitation hump and I haven’t looked back since! From there it’s been an awesome journey from things as varied as artsy Tamil films to socially-relevant, bittersweet Malayalam films to kick-goonda-ass machete-wielding dance-off Telugu films. Mix, rinse, and repeat.

"Manasuley" from Desamuduru - pure fangirl service

Song and dance sequences continue to be my favorite aspect of South Indian films. I once thought Bhangra dancers were the most energetic performers on the planet, but then I watched kuthu street dance-inspired songs and changed my mind! Choreographers like Prabhu Deva and Raju Sundaram and Lawrence have created this distinct aesthetic that’s easy to recognize once you watch enough dances. In fact, I’m currently working on a South Indian dance fanvid to show it off. It simply ROCKS. Like, how did people think up this stuff? I love it!

Like the film Swarna Kamalam, things are more gritty and “realistic” down south. You tend to find more films about village life and underdogs and traditional value conflicts, all of which interest me much more than Hollywood-mimicing drivel. There is more focus on preserving traditional culture and classical art forms, and you see more saris and half saris and lungis and other traditional pieces of clothing wrapped and pleated in the grooviest ways. My search for films featuring classical indian dance was disproportionately filled with southies. In the films, the homes and streets look normal—I feel like I’m getting to see more of the “real” India, I suppose. That is until the hero annihilates an entire group of goons with his bare-handed prowess. :) Certainly the easy-on-the-eyes heroes like Allu Arjun or Vikram or Prabhas that all of us women-reverting-to-13-year-old-fangirls on the BollyWhat forum squee about repeatedly are of interest as well (exercising incredible fangirl restraint here...). And who wouldn't love the pure entertainment value of Telugu and Tamil masala films?

When I watched my first Tamil and Telugu movies in the theater with other Indians, I had a blast as the audience screamed and shouted and threw confetti and paper onto the screen as their favorite heroes debuted! Watching Magadheera with a bunch of crazed fans was an experience I'll treasure forever. :) The hero worship down south in the Tamil and Telugu industries is really fascinating to an outsider. I especially like the huge cutouts of stars as seen in the sidebar on the Film Zest blog. There's this ENERGY to southie films that I still can't even put into words. You know it when you see it, and it's addicting! I also love the very laid-back, casual atmosphere of all the bazillion film audio/pre/release/50 days/success meets. Film muhurats/puja ceremonies are another fascination to me as an outsider and another great example of the way religion intermingles with everyday life in the country. You just don't see it much in Hindi films! I wrote a post about it over on BollyWhat here.

South Indian popular film music is yet another aspect of SI cinema that I adore. After you listen to enough Hindi and South film music, you can tell a distinct difference between the two, especially with Tamil and Telugu songs. I am at present VERY partial to SI music with its gorgeous, raaga-influenced melodies and quirky compositions. More regional instruments show up in South Indian songs as well, and you hear gobs of off the hook rhythms using instruments I’ve still yet to identify. In fact, one of the very first things an Indian coworker told me back when I first got into Indian films in 2005 was “Hindi songs all sound alike, but Tamil songs are creative and different…and better.” She was from Tamil Nadu, of course. :) Since I’ve always been a person that focuses much more on music rather than lyrics, being able to enjoy compositions unfettered by potentially stupid lyrics is a joy. Indians might think a particular song is rediculous, but I can enjoy it completely oblivious! :D

Last, I feel like South Indian films have really enriched my knowledge of India as a whole. As we all know, the Indian film industry is much more than Hindi cinema. Likewise, the Indians that I meet in the US are not just from Mumbai, but also Hyderabad and Chennai and Trivandrum. I’m happy to be able to tell them that I know a little bit about their cinemas too. Though not everyone I meet is as equally enamored as I am. One of my good friends from Andhra just shakes his head at my love for masala films that he sees as “stupid” and tailor-made for the frontbenchers of cinema halls. Apparently these would be called "mass films," butI keep trying to tell him that I watch and love "class films" too like the thriller Eeram or the nostalgic Autograph.

Now, there’s also the fact that I enjoy Bengali films, but that’s for another post. :) And hopefully this all sheds some light on why I have such a rediculously pretentious blog title. :D

Here's a few links to some other groovy posts by my fellow non-indian indifilm bloggers about why they like Indian films (I'm probably missing some other good ones!):


  1. Great, i enjoyed reading your post, I'm yet to dip my toes into southern cinema, and looks like Magadheera and Kanathaswamy are likely to be the first ones i try. I really deplore attitudes like that of the guy who thinks masala is for frontbenchers, i like what i like, and class or intelligence shouldn't come into it, its entertainment afterall

  2. Wow!! Great read, very well written. It's literally energy flowing when you watch any south indian movie. I am a south Indian and even after having watched 1000's of movies, I never ceased to get this energy flowing around me while watching an yet another movie. The same experience that you had when you watched Magadheera.
    I would like to suggest you to watch a movie of one more star Rajnikanth (He is the SUPER STAR of Indian cinema from Tamil Nadu). It's an absolute experience when you watch his movie on the first day in theaters (be it anywhere, any country). No money can buy that thrill and excitement for you.
    Best of Luck. Thanks again for sharing with us your lovely experience.
    Btw, brother of your favourite star Allu Arjun, Allu Sirish (@allusirish) linked us to this experience of yours over twitter.

  3. Great read Minai. Can feel the energy in your writing too.

    You know Allu Sirish called you and Nicki Kickass don't ya? Com'on be more active on twitter!

  4. Exlnt encouragement was given by 4 southfilms n i recommend u to watch jagadekaveerudu athiloka sundari,Aditya 369,Arundathi,Bommarillu,Parugu

  5. Hi
    Have u watched 'Sagara Sangamam'?

  6. Thanks so much for this - I revel in it. I grew up in small-town California and then lived in a South Indian town in the Sixties when I was 16-17, and the dance that I saw there completely enraptured me. I loved Western classical ballet but these Indian dance forms were orders of magnitude more exciting to me. So I understand what you are saying here - it was a total brain shift to experience this different kind of dance, and you express very well how it feels to discover it.

    After that immersion in a different culture and then returning to the US, my opportunities to see more of anything Indian were so limited (at least in the places where I lived - except for one more year in India soon after) that I lived deprived of this part of myself for the next thirty years, the whole middle part of my life! - seeing fewer than a dozen Indian classical dance performances, and just a few movies, but each of these was a peak experience.

    That is, until recently, when thanks to the new technology I've been able to find Indian dance and movies again. And thanks to blogs like yours, I no longer feel the isolated gori in this part of my life. First I saw lots of Bollywood, because of the easy availability through Netflix, and I loved that, but when I found some South Indian movies they felt much more "right" to me.

    Now my challenge is finding the right Southie movies - and where to get them. I can't wait to check out all the recommendations here! And to catch up on your other postings.

  7. Great post! I have yet to check out any older Southie films but I am sure going to start looking up more youtube videos!

    I'm going to have to bookmark this one and come back... :)

  8. Wonderful article Minai! I'm so glad that SwarnaKamalam was your first south Indian movie. I love that movie to death & it is one my most rewatched movies. Bhanupriya is simply divine in that movie.
    I'm like you, i love both the mass films(like Magadheera) and the class films(Anand, Godavari) too. As long as they don't start immitating hollywood & in the process lose what is so unique about South Indian cinema - i'm happy.
    Already i'm seeing stupid nonsensical english lyrics in Telugu songs. I hope its just a phase & they get over it ...soon :)

  9. @Minai, It was very refreshing to understand an outsider perspective about South Indian films. After reading your blog, I can't even call you an outsider anymore.

    If you are interested in Telugu films based on classical music/dance. Check out these films.

    - Sagara Sangamam (someone already suggested above)
    - Shankarabharanam
    - Siri Vennela
    - Sruthi Layalu
    - Swathi Kiranam

    Will try to comeback and add more to the list. This is just my preference, others may or may not agree.

    Netflix does not have any classic Telugu films. Somehow most of the recent films that bombed at box-office landed in Netflix.

    Indian grocery stores are the best place to find good/old films, atleast in California. They rent DVD/VCD/VHS of old movies. Try to locate one nearest to you.

  10. Name: Kas
    Nice entry! i would recommend you to watch kamal hassan's movies he ruled north and south and won all awards until he personally wrote to the government to stop giving him the awards on the reason to let others be encouraged...
    Kadhal Oviyum -very famous tamil movie and illayarja songs
    some Famous Tamil Movies:
    Bombay, Kadhalar Dhinam, Roja, Vaaranam Aayiram, Aanivaer, Kannathil Muthamittal, Thillana Mohanambal, Rajaraja Cholan, Perazhagan...
    ..from black and white I would suggest sivaji's movies -i still watch it to this day because old movies are always for suprises and often wonder where are these writers in south these days despite them still doing better then bollywood

  11. Hi, Minai. I very much enjoyed this post too, and I can identify quite a bit with your story about how you developed your affinity, since I am another westerner who did not begin to fully appreciate Indian films (that is, become obsessed with them, as I am now ) until very recently. (My affinity for the music and dance goes back further via a number of influences, but I don't have the time and space to detail them here. :)

    Anyway, the first filmi Bharatanatyam dance that I saw was Padmini's "nine emotions" dance from Thillana Mohanambal (1968). I don't even quite remember where I first saw that dance (or parts of the dance, as the case might be), but when I saw it on YouTube more recently, I realized that I had a good visual memory of it going a while back. Then in about 2007, when I began my Indian movies obsession, I actually started with more Tamil movies than Hindi/Bollywood ones.

    Some of the first Tamil and Telugu movies that I viewed during this time were from the '90s or 2000s (three of which I found by tracing M.I.A. samples :) , but the ones that really caught my attention were the movies from the late '50s, and I totally fell for Padmini (and Ragini too, to some extent) after seeing Uthama Puthiran. I then started to look for all the Padmini movies I could find. Then sometime after that, I read about Kamala Lakshman aka Kumari Kamala, and when I checked out her dances, I was amazed. And I also got to appreciate Vyjayanthimala and Sai-Subbulaxmi...

    I definitely do like some of the contemporary dancers that you mention. But for me the utlimate South Indian classical dance films are the ones from the 1950s and the '60s.

  12. What a wonderful post!!
    My wife is a trained classical dancer. So I must get this movie. Indeed, the dance forms of South are so charming. :)

    After watching the movies, I realized why they have temples of their stars down in south India.

    I think there will be a day when South will cross over Bollywood. Lets see, what will happen then?!!

    Oh, and I too have written a small post on the subject. here it is :

  13. do you know that "Andhrawala" hero(JR NTR) is a "Kuchipudi" dancer? He learned it 7 years. That's y he got that awesome moments. If you want to see an older heros(especially dancing) see "MEGA STAR CHIRANJEEVI" movies, even in his 50's he is rocking. Shankar dada mbbs movie "ye zilla ye zilla" song. Movements are awesome. And as already said if you have intrest in classics then "SAGARA SANGAMAM" is the best one.

  14. I am delighted to read this article about South Indian films. :)

    I would like to sugget more movies if you're interested.

    Please try to watch YamaDonga, Kantri, Simhadri.
    The male lead in these movies is the chubby guy who danced for "Nairey nairey" song...Believe me he is a mass entertainer, great dancer and has good diction in delivering dialouges.

    Hope you'll like them :)

  15. Thank you so very much all for your comments. Will respond one by one:

    bollywooddeewana - I will be very interested to hear what you think of Magadheera! I so agree- we like what we like and no justification should be needed. :) Since I know you tend to like older films, I also hope you do a review or two or some southie oldies! :D

    Kasi Vishwanath – I did a ‘double take’ on your name- so similar to K Vishwanath! :D I have noticed that Rajni seems to be in the stratosphere of popularity even above Chiru and Mohanlal- a true super star indeed! In fact, I notice a lot of things seem to be more intense in Tamil Nadu, whether it’s the fans or the sense of pride in ones culture and the Tamizh language. Thank you so much for the compliments. I am blushing that Sirish linked me on twitter! :)

    Sreera – Thanks for the recommendations! “Kick”- exactly! I have Indra on DVD but have yet to watch it. After seeing the Rayalaseema spoof in Arya 2, I think I really need to see the original, non-spoof version in Indra. I have also watched parts of Chatrapathi- best shark fight ever! :D

    Filmizest – Hi there! So glad that my passion came through- I find writing this kind of stuff so difficult. Gah, I completely freaked out when I found out Sirish had tweeted that, lol. Makes everything more real. I really need to get with the program and twitter more! Promise I will! :D

    Naveen –Thanks for the rec’s! I’ve seen the classical danceoff from Aditya 369 on YouTube, and the film sounds awesome- apparently it’s a scifi? I wish Jagadeka… was easier to get on DVD! I keep hearing it’s a classic.

    Anon – I have seen parts of the Salangai Oli version of Sagara Sagamam! Kamal’s dancing is FANTASTIC. Yet to watch it all the way through though. It is on my list to watch! :D

    Christine Menefee – You have touched me dearly with your story. Thank you for sharing. I think you’re the first person I’ve met who seems to “get” it- yes, the “brain shift,” the excitement. It’s just almost beyond words. I can’t imagine how it must have been without YouTube and DVDs and the way the world has shrunk these days and brought everything into easy access. Especially having a passion to see dance! I agree- the blogosphere and internet have saved me- where else would we find people interested in this stuff! I highly recommend BhavaniDVD and KadDVD for buying south Indian DVDs. If you’re really desperate to find an obscure title, will probably have it- I’ve found some great stuff there, though they have some 2 in 1s and bootlegs and such. has some great resources in the DVD Discussions section too. :D Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  16. Continued...

    Filmi Girl – Yay! I’m still such a noob at older Southies, but there seem to be so many wonderful recommended titles out there. Would love to see a review from you on one someday!

    Kiran – Thanks! So glad to find someone else that loved Swarna Kamalam! I forever fell in love with Bhanupriya after seeing it. I own quite a few other DVDs of her films now, though she tended to star in quite a lot of silly masala films I found.  I’m working on a writeup about her and her films- will definitely post in the future.

    Scifi – Oh PLEASE give me all the recommendations you have of classical dance films!! :D I actually have a master list that I tried to compose over on BollyWhat at the following link, and I’ve been updating it ever since: So many of them are virtually impossible to find on DVD. It’s a shame.

    Anonymous/Kas – I did not know that about Kamal Hassan, that he was so gracious! I have seen his film Anbe Sivam and was VERY impressed. Obviously an actor par excellence. I still have so many more films to watch before I feel like I can say anything intelligent about him. :) And thanks for the Sivaji suggestion- will look further into that.

    Richard – Hello! Padmini is so wonderful- I can imagine how she would enrapture anyone who saw her dance. I love how you’ve blogged about her and Kamala Lakshman- it’s so informative, and I don’t think would have heard of these people had you not blogged about them. I go to your blog all the time to learn about old south dance stars and interesting biographical tips. Keep it up! Your passion for the subject is so genuine- love to see that. Love the M.I.A. reference- I’m also enamored with a lot of asian fusion music. Might have to do a post about it sometime. :)

    Darshit – I’ve vaguely heard about this phenomenon of having temples built in the south for stars. I think Khushboo was one? So interesting! And I love your blog post from the perspective of an Indian in the northwest. Will be over to comment soon. :) My dream is to marry a classical dancer. What a life that would be! :D :D

    Raja – Yes! I had heard that about NTR Jr and was really surprised. I wish I could find a clip of him dancing true classical style somewhere, not just the fimified classical in Kantri. Thank you for the recs!

    Sujit – I own and have watched the songs in Yamadonga and Kantri- NTRs dancing is fabulous, I agree!! I’m going to include some of it in a dance fanvid I’m making. Both fo those films look extremely entertaining. I need to sit down and watch them! Thank you so much for enjoying my article. :)

  17. I cannot believe I haven't commented you!! I read it when you posted too. Guess from all the excitement, I forgot :)

    Wow, I am very impress that you discovered Bollywood through dancing!

    The more I thought about it, I didn't blog about it, the reasons for my love for young Govinda was his dancing!! How could I forget! Seriously.

    I do need to see some NTR JR films but my heart keeps telling me to stay with Bunny who got me hooked on SI films in the first place, hehe.

  18. Nicki - Haha! I know, me too! Way to much excitement! :D So Govinda did a lot of dancing then in his early days? I just figured he just stood around and looked cute. Will have to look into this! Yah, NTR Jr is really an *excellent* dancer, but he doesn't have quite the same out-of-this-universe charm that Bunny does. No one can match Bunny's personality when he dances. :D

  19. Hi

    I am a bit late in posting a comment here - only discovered this very interesting article via bollywoodfoodclub of Sitaji.

    Your account of how you stumbled upon SI movies via dance is fascinating. Your blog is also very interesting. I am learning a lot from you despite being a NRI desi (of course living overseas for more than 20 yrs now!). I have to catch up on plenty of movies you have mentioned. Keep it up!

  20. Filmbuff - hello! Thank you very much for your comment. Isn't Sitaji lovely? :D Glad that you stopped by. :)

  21. But, why didnt you say anything about Malayalam and Kannada movies..?They are also 'south indian' ...rite..?

    You think only Telgu and Tamil constitutes South India???

  22. Hi anon - I do mention Malayalam movies (and cities) but not Kannada. The post described my experiences with South Indian films at that time as a beginner, not as an insider trying to represent all four industries. Yep.

  23. It's amazing how 2 of our interests are so much in tune ... I love Kuchipudi and practically grew up with all the Telugu films you mentioned. I would like to add 2 others - Swathi Kiranam and Swarabhishekam which also have classical dances.

    I am a great fan of Allu Arjun. I think it's his dance that captivated me...Incidentally it was his Desamuduru that made me a fan though I've been watching his movies a zillion times prior to that :)

  24. Oh yes...a couple more that I forgot to add - Apadhbandhavudu & Sutradharulu that have a folk element but are equally classical :) Great work and can't imagine you are not Indian...

  25. Hi anon- Happy to see someone with similar interests! Regarding those films you mentioned; I am working on a post to sort out all of the dance films of that era. I myself have a hard time keeping track of them all in terms of what each film was about, who was in it, who directed it, what remakes came from it... etc. Thanks for stopping by and the compliments. :) Cheers. ~Minai

  26. You have one fantastic blog out here. I am amazed at the depth of your articles. I have been following your blog for more than a year now on my reader, but somehow never left a word. There are some stuff that we don't notice and take it granted, but somehow your keen observation makes me revisit them again. Thank you for this wonderful effort.

  27. Sastha Prakash - That means a lot to me! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm delighted to hear that you find my posts useful and my "observations" (as a nonIndian, I presume :)) insightful. All the best. ~Minai

  28. Some of the best Bharathanatyam scenes : Adum azhage (Raja rajan-Tamil)

    Ambili kala choodum (Malayalam), Parvathi Manohari (Malayalam), Brochevarevarura (Shankarabharanam- Telugu), Angopangam (Devasuram- Malayalam), Oru murayil vanthu (Manichithrathazhu- Malayalam), katrodu kuzhalin (Tamil)

  29. Thanks for the lists anon! I love lists. :) Went through the songs and I've featured many of them on my blog. Happy to see you mention Ambili Kala Choodum from Rajasilpi with Bhanupriya dancing; I plan to feature that video (and her other dances from that film) whenever I get around to my "Bhanupriya Dances Part 2" post. And how nice to see someone mention that Katrodu Kuzhalin song from Kodai Mazhai- it's kind of a rare forgotten one among all the other 80s film classical dances out there. Thanks again!

  30. As you like bhanupriya, suggest you to watch the tamil movie Azhagan. She was outstanding in both acting and dancing in that movie.. watch that movie and share your thoughts..

    1. Thanks anon - I have seen Azhagan and agree that she did have some lovely dance scenes. I featured one of her dances in this post, and I will feature her other dances when I get around to posting Part 2 of my Film Classical Dances of Bhanupriya post.

    2. One scene in which she dances and at the same time she will have some argument at the hero.... that particular scene is amazing.... She is perfect in both the dances and the dialogues..

  31. I just wanted to point out that Kathak is a north indian classical dance form while Kathakali is South Indian classical dance (from Kerala) and the two are totally unrelated in their origin and form. Though Bollywood draws some inspiration from the South Indian dance forms, it draws more dancing inspirations from Punjabi wedding dances than anywhere else. Bollywood has always been dominated by Punjabis and Muslims and that may be the reason why Punjabi dancing has influenced bollywood so much. Also, punjabis tend to be irreverant and loud compared to the rest of india and have somehow managed to impose their culture on the rest of the continent through Bollywood.

    1. Hi 'Unknown' person! That is a good point regarding Kathak/Kathakali, a similarity which likely confuses those first learning about classical dances in India. You're right that Bollywood has a different set of dance inspirations than other film industries in India. I'll have to research folk/wedding dances from Punjab a bit more - will be interesting to see the influences. Thanks for stopping by!

  32. I am a a biologist, and I lived in Tamil Nadu for 30 years, and the next 30 years in the U.S. I have no foundations in music or dance, except to be impulsively carried away by the suggestive dances and songs of Tamil and other Indian movies of the last 40 years or so. In the name of recreation, entertainment and commerce, the movie industry has pretty much exhausted all possible human body movements. These days my mind automatically compares Michael Jackson, Brittney Spears, Lady Gaga and the like, and how much the dances of indian movie stars differ from the american stage entertainers in a broad sense. I hope unadulterated classical Indian dance survives at least for another hundred years!

    Your intensity and effort to delve into Indian culture is

    1. Anon - Hello! Thank you for your comment. Interesting view that the Indian film industries have mostly "exhausted" all possible movement types. I wish film dances would utilize "classical" movements more, from all the various regions of India, because there are endless possibilities!


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