Monday, December 15, 2014

The Role of Dancing in Tamil Cinema.


     Like most other arts, dancing is  known for its varieties, nuances and subtleties. Some of the enchantingly  popular names of India’s proud dancing varieties include Bharatha Naattiyam Bhangra,Dandiya,Kuchipudi, Kadhak,Kerala Nadanam, Mohini Attam,Keisabadi,Odissi AKA Orissi {the last two from Odhissa }and so on.These traditional Indian  dance forms particularly Baratha Naatyam used to be a preferred addition  to Indian Cinema.Tamil films offered immense scope and opportunity to professional dancers, in the early decades. Famous dancers like Gopi Krishna, Kumari Kamala {who started her dance celebration even as Baby Kamala} Vaijayanthimala Padmini{with her sisters Lalitha and Raagini} and L.Vijayalaksmi were all professional dancers creating a brilliant appeal in their dance shows. Later  entrants like J.Jeyalalitha, Shobana, Sankarabaranam fame Manju Bharghavi, Amala,Banupriya and Revathi were also trained well in Baratha Naattiyam to lead their respective generations.
    Among  actors, the two notable dance numbers assiduously practiced and enthusiastically delivered by the mass hero MGR, can hardly be erased from the memory of those, who saw them in the films Mannaadhi Mannan and the other, Kudiyirundha Koil,{rated to be one of the best films of MGR} The former was a classic Bharatha Naatiyam piece and the latter a Bhangra variety.The most important fact here is,MGR competed with two veteran and dynamic dancers like Padmini and LVijaya lakshmi. Sivaji Ganesan’s  grand dancing display as irate Lord Shiva, dancing his Rudra thaandavam in Thiruvilaiyaadal brought out his grit  and conviction in giving his best in any performance.Sivaji’s tumultuous dance sequence in spite of his fat physique poignantly presented his tremendous capacity for emoting through his body and mind. That was indeed another rich show of Sivaji  the actor par excellence.
    Can Tamil Cinema ever exist without the golden memories of the dance scene, flawlessly demonstrated by the two magnificent women ,Vijayanthimaala  and Padmini, in the epic like film Vanjikkottai Vaaliban? The competitive dance programme  showed them both, as equally competent and equally incomparable. It was not only P.S.Veerappa  the unbeatable villain actor who said’ Sabash Sariyaana Poetti’{Well done! A proper cotest.} but also the entire audience in all the theatres who corroborated his statement. What a splendid performance in dancing that was, with infallible body movements, involving the whole gamut of Bharathanatyam  and with the musical component fantastically augmenting the quality of the dance scene. It is one of the most glorious chapters of Tamil film history.
    Vijayanthimala’s  dancing might could have been witnessed in quite a few other movies like A.V.M’s Vaazkai,Gemini Pictures’ Irumbuthirai, and Modern Theatres’Bagdad Thirudan  But Padmini’s  dancing caliber was fully utilized by Tamil Cinema in a number of films, of which her peacock dance in Iru Malargal and the initial dance sequence for the sog Mannavan Vandhaanadi Thozhi, in Thiruvarutchelvar,stay as ever green memories.Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal  an epic stature movie on music and dance, will be an immortal work of art for various reasons, including the two dance sequences of Padmini,for the songs ''Maraindhirundhu Paarkum Marmamenna'' and ''Nalandhaanaa?'' 
    On the lighter side were, the titillating dance scene of K.R .Vijaya  for the song Thedinein Vandhadhu in Ootty Varai Uravu, and J.Jeyalaitha’s several beautiful dance sequences including the one for the song Oraayiram Naadagam Adinaal in Sumaddhi En Sundari.Of the two actresses,Jeya lalitha was a trained classical dancer and her expertise in this regard was a visual extravaganza  from her very first film Vennira Aadai in which she was shown as a character interested in dancing. Films such as Aayirathil Oruvan, Kannan En Kaadhalan and Adimai Penn continued to display her dedicated dancing potential. Latha,her successor as MGR's heroine, was also moderately trained in classical dancing.Her dance in MGR's last film Madhuraiyai Meetta Sundara Pandian deserves a special mention.
     Among the next generation actresses,Shobana's  dancing credentials were established in films like Enakkul Oruvan and Thalabathi. Later, it was Revathi who showed interest and acumen in classical dancing and her power of dancing was sufficiently vindicated in that most popular dancing scene in Vaidhegi Kaathirundhaal  for the song 'Azhagu Malar Aaada'.Ramya Krishnan   who is another good dancer has gracefully exhibited her capabilities in this regard in Padayappa for the song 'Minsaara Kanna' and in a few other films.The other notable dancer is Banupriya  an actor contemporary of Revathi and Ramya Krishnan. Similarly,Aiswarya Bachan's sparkling dance scene for the song 'Kannodu Kaanbadhellaam' in Jeans was also adequately appealing. 
    Heroes  and heroines of today, have shifted their focus towards Western varieties of dances like Disco.Break dance,Belly dance,Ballet,Salsa,Line dance and a few others. In fact, even during the last century,Western dance types were celebrated by many actors, including the fabulous comedian J.P.Chandrababu, whose rock and roll numbers were of a striking mode. Films like Periya Idathu Penn,Pudhiya Paravai, Parakkum Paavai  and Panam Padaithavan gave a fillip to Western varieties of dances that were a great delight to watch. But almost all heroes of today, have moved towards novel  concepts in inventing stunning body movements, both sprint and gliding, as if the entire course of dancing is a sequel to profound training sessions in calisthenics.
    The credit for the highly innovative concepts creating exquisite dimensions of physical excellence in the name of dancing, goes to trend setters like, dance master Sundaram, his sons Prabudeva and Raju Sundaram and others like Raghav Lawrence and Kala.The nimble body movements, establishing a fascinating reach with the audience, showed Prabu Deva,Raju Sundaram and Lawrence as dancers of exceptional standard in many films.The ebullient  dancers among heroes today are, Vijay, Barath, Simbu, Danush and Vishal  and they all have their performance dedicated to the trainers mentioned above.
    The only actor who  has untiringly retained the gusto of  multiple dancing potential is,the all rounder Kamalahasan.He is well versed in classical dance, Western varieties and some of the age old multi-cultural dance types like Kadhakali, Kuchipudi  and Mohini Aattam. Whatever he performs, he takes into himself the original stuff, with zeal and unquestioning commitment. Be it Salangai  Oli or Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu  or the latest Viswaroopam,  Kamal   as a dancer is a class by himself and proves to be the truest son of Art in its totality. There are a number of films to prove his excellence in imbibing the Western  dance forms too.
    Dance, like music, is an inseparable segment of cinema; but unlike music, it makes vital visual entries to visit the mind for a while or to stay as memory, for long. Unlike songs which can be heard even without watching the movie and enjoyed as an invisible treasure, dance requires at least a one time watch, to be watched again either on the screen or through imagination. A highly exhilarating dance number like the one  for the song ‘Ada Aalthotta Boobadhi Naanadaa’ from the film Youth, can be re- experienced through the imaginative process, any number of times, after a single visual absorption. 
    Beyond all this, it is a known fact, that dance by itself can not exist without the musical addition.It is music that  energizes the existence of dance and binds the dancer to the appropriate mood and form of dancing. In other words,dance percolates into an audio visual experience on the screen, only by travelling on a musical track, as the foremost aesthetic principle of film making.Tamil films in this respect, carry the legacy of dancing, with periodical addition of interesting and inventive patterns, as the greatest pride of human imagination.


  1. I am searching for a Thillana sung by P. Leela. Only the swaras and jathi were there. Unfortunately I don't remember the film, but it used to be played once in a while in Ceylon Radio, every Thursday for half an hour in the mornings in the early 1970s. Could you give me some clue to trace it? It is not traceable in the regular lists of film songs by P. Leela or dance music, etc.

    1. The only two famous P Leela songs for dance sequences that I remember are Kaathiruppaan Kamalakannan fom Uthama Puthiran and Mugathil Mugam paarkalaam from Thanga Padhumai.I do not know this will help your memory lane.Sorry for not being able to help your memory and sorry for this late response from my end.