If you ask me which area we, as Indians, need to focus our energies on in 2012, I, after carefully weighing the pros and cons of the very many issues of national importance, will point to that one sphere of strategic significance: Dancing in public.
I know what I am talking about. I speak with the immediate memory of having made a stupid clown of myself when I tried my hand at dancing at a New Year bash. Now I understand that might have been the problem, I should have tried my feet at it.
And there were many like me who couldn’t shake a leg to at least passably match any rhythm. Yes, you are right: Most of us were middle-aged, exactly belonging to that generation that had grown up seeing Bhagyaraj dance on screen.
To those not clued in on the Tamil cinema of the 80s, the period of Bhagyaraj’s rise as a hero, he, in his peak days of commercial stardom, exhibited the dancing skills of a fax machine.
The jiving sensation of 80s cinema was, of course, Kamal Haasan, who had this rare skill to match the diverse musical styles like disco, classical, folk, with essentially the same set of movements.
The highlight of his terpsichorean repertoire was (and is) is to perform a handstand while insouciantly tapping both the feet in air, which is also exactly the routine one would suggest if one’s aim is to kick the dust off one’s shoes in the most clumsy manner possible.
Talking of dance, the 80s filmi generation cannot but bring up Thangamagan, in which Rajni was pitted in a pulsating jiving competition with Poornima Bhagyaraj. To cast Rajni as a dancing sensation itself requires an impossible leap of faith, exactly like the one required to pick a dancing star like Hrithik Roshan to play the role of a paraplegic.
Now Poornima, even though she was far from qualifying for the adjectives ‘svelte’ and ‘lissome’, could have just turned up and done nothing, and that would have been good enough to beat Rajni in the contest. But the hero had to win in that pulsating duel of music and moves. After all, this was a Tamil movie.
Anyway, the battle reaches a fever pitch, with the heroine matching the hero in every step and style. But our hero has one final killer sashay that can brook no response from the heroine: He yanks out his shirt and spirals it away in a jubilant joust to an accompanying crescendo. The heroine is crestfallen and is unable to come up with a fitting riposte. Game, set and match to the hero.
Yes, undressing officially became a dancing routine with that film.
The generation before ours had Sivaji Ganesan. The thespian that he was, Sivaji could dance standing still while he emoted out all the dance movements just on his face.
And then there was MGR. Dancing, in his uncomplicated times, was defined as running and sprinting.
MGR, in that song in Anbe Vaa (Puthiya Vanam…), was not so much dancing as much as competing with Usain Bolt. If MGR had not bothered to shake his head and wave his arms alongside, it is most likely that he was the first person to have been part of choreographed cross-country run.
Across meadows and valleys, across alleyways and train tracks, and even across cities and States, MGR zipped along on his feet with boundless energy. It is quite conceivable that movie-making was shifted out of studios in those days just to keep pace with MGR’s hot-footing methods.
Also, in MGR’s times, the most famous dance routine was the: Twist, which, as any dance master will tell you, is that classical jazzy jiving routine that organically ensues when you have live eels crawling in your pant pocket.
Cutting back to the present, and to the New Year parties, which is where many of us cut a sorry figure, the main problem is they unfailingly play Sheila Ki Jawani, a rambunctious song conceived for and choreographed on Katerina Kaif, who has a figure that can be acquire if only there is a technical possibility to photoshop people in flesh and blood.
When we 30 or 40 something paunchy men and podgy matrons attempted to keep pace with that song, it looked as classy and skillful as it would have if Sheila ki Jawani was actually thought up for Kanthimathi and Vinu Chakravarthy.
They also shot a video of us shamelessly boogieing, which, when I think about it, might turn out be the sole positive. Yes, it was supremely silly and enormously cheesy, exactly the kind of stuff that goes viral on Youtube these days.
When you catch it on the net, do look out for me. I’m the guy with the French beard and Katerina’s pout.