As I mentioned before, I’ve decided to do a post of a bunch of my favorite Ragini film dances, as my tribute to this great actress-dancer on her 34th death anniversary. I’ve also tried to add a little extra information regarding why I like so many of her dances so much. I’ve posted some of these dances before, some multiple times, but I thought it would be a nice idea to put them all together. So, here’s to Ragini!
10. OK, I don’t know if I’ll ever see Cobra Girl; it’s not at the top of my list for some reason. And while Asha Bhosle does some very amusing vocals, I find S.N. Tripathi’s music, at least in this film, to be kind of boring compared to, say, O.P. Nayyar’s or C. Ramchandra’s (see later in the list!). But Ragini has a number of fine dances here…

I like the one below in part because it’s not often that we got to see this South Indian dancer get “Arabian,” but still, much of it is very distinctly Ragini, with the great expressions, the graceful, fluid movements, and lots of energy…

9. Adhi Raat Ke Baad is like a B-movie answer to both Howrah Bridge and Singapore, and this dance reminds us a bit of dances by Helen and Padmini in those movies respectively. The movie takes place mainly in Rangoon, and Ragini does a fun East Asian impersonation here, pretty funny for the most part, but still showing her skills. I particularly like some of her arm movements, and there’s one place where she does a very good floor slide. And there’s fun music by Chitragupta, with amusing vocals by Asha Bhosle. (Asha seems to be Ragini’s usual voice in Hindi movies, and she’s pretty good at it.)

8. Ragini does quite a few fine dances in Yeh Dil Kisko Doon (1963). I’ve posted a different one before, and I thought of posting a clip that shows her doing a couple of great dances in front of a chorus on stage. But this dance outside on the fairgrounds is actually my favorite. It could be because of the music in this dance, with composer Iqbal Qureshi at his liveliest and the inspiring duet between Asha Bhosle and (especially) Mohammed Rafi. But Ragini also seems to have an extra amount of exuberance here, and she has surprisingly good screen chemistry with Shashi Kapoor, considering that they apparently didn’t like each other. I also love the danceoff at the end. The flamenco lady(?) is very funny, and Ragini was always great with danceoffs.

7. Wow, speaking of danceoffs… I’ve talked before about that interview in which Helen mentioned two favorite dancers from the Golden Age, Vyjayanthimala and Ragini. Maybe Helen has a special fondness for the dancers with whom she got to have the best fictional competitions. But unlike in so many danceoffs with Vyjayanthimala, Helen actually wins this one. Although I know that I personally would have picked Ragini (but I do like Helen, really I do)… And by the way, there’s no Asha singing in this one; it’s Usha and Lata Mangeshkar. I actually find their vocals in this song to be pretty addictive too, in a mellow way. I admit that I know very little about the music director, G.S. Kohli, but his music is nice here.

6. I saw my first favorite Ragini-and-Padmini dances in the Tamil film Uthama Puthiran. I think I saw my first favorite Hindi ones in Amar Deep, which was a remake of a Tamil film. I saw these a while before I saw the movie, and I was simply blown away by the combination of this duo’s dancing and the rocking music of C. Ramchandra. And Johnny Walker makes a very good MC/drummer in this scene too.

5. IMO, Ragini’s best film, beyond a doubt, was Kalpana (1960). Padmini played a more central role in this, especially near the end, but it’s arguable that this was at least as much Ragini’s film, especially in the dances. “Hamko Samaj na Lyjiye…” may be the least dazzling of her three great dances in this film, but I love how she shows off her expert moves in the informal setting of a train car, dressed very plainly, all (so it seems) for the purpose of intimidating her hapless fellow passenger, played very amusingly by Ashok Kumar.

(And by the way, I have another favorite Ragini train scene, in another film, in which she doesn’t even dance. Though I’m still not sure I even recognize her as Ragini in that one – I was informed that it was her by someone else. As a little bonus in this post, take a look at Ragini on the banjo(?!) – it’s quite hilarious.)

4. Ragini’s character in Mujrim had a few chances to show her talents dancing solo in front of many people, including a fugitive on the run played by Shammi Kapoor. Among all those solo dances, I guess I’d have to give the edge to the one that follows, which is also just so O.P. Nayyar! In fact, it reminds me a lot of a couple O.P. Nayyar songs that Padmini danced to two years later in Kalpana. By the way, notice how Ragini goes through a few fun costume changes. But of course, she does scene after scene with her usual grace and vitality.

3. Although Ragini did all those fine solo dances in Mujrim, none of them are quite as good as the one that she did with Padmini. And both sisters deserve equal credit for that… There are some real classic Travancore Sisters moves in this, especially in the way each one frames the other’s head with her arm, hands, or elbow, and the way they seem to form one continuous moving shape at times. (This may be a “Punjabi” dance (in classic O.P. Nayyar style), but I’ve seen them do this in quite a few Tamil bharatanatyam dances too.) Their expressions are classic also, and it’s fun watching Ragini play the “female” role to Padmini in drag, since it had been the other way around often in the past.

2. The classical Ragini-Padmini dance in Kalpana could very well be my favorite by the two in any language. I’ve written enough about this before – it is really fantastic! I just wrote above about the classic O.P. Nayyar style, but sometimes it was even more satisfying when Nayyar did something atypical for him, e.g., a genuinely classical number. The singing by Rafi and Manna Dey helps to make this song great, but the most outstanding thing about the whole scene is the fierce bharatanatyam competition. And while it was built into the plot for Padmini to win, can we really say that she did for certain?

1. Padmini has some wonderful solo dances in Kalpana too, but I think Ragini ends up with the best solo dance of all – if we can actually call it a solo dance…. I’ve raved about this one before; it’s one of my favorite dances in any film. Now, here’s a version that’s new and improved compared to the one I posted previously. And by the way, note the similarities to the Padmini-Ragini dance in Mujrim above, only this time, Ragini dances even better with…Ragini! This scene also contains some of the most gorgeous costumes I’ve ever seen, and it is so dreamy and so marvelously psychedelic in the end, it’s good as a reminder that the hippies of the west hardly invented anything new seven or eight years later. (O.P. Nayyar’s music also reminds me a bit of some stuff that The Beatles did seven or eight years later.) Naturally, there are some fantastic dance moves in this scene, too, and Ragini seems to have some wonderful flirtatious chemistry with herself, which must take some unique kind of talent.

Much of Ragini’s acting and dancing, as we can see, leaned toward the comic side, in contrast to Padmini, who did quite a few weep fests. So it’s sadly ironic that Ragini died such a tragic death (from cancer), not even getting to reach the age of 40. (Though as we’ve discussed here before, she’s not the only Bollywood actress in that club…) But I am glad that so many years after her death, I’ve been able to find quite a few great Ragini dance scenes, even though I would be happy to find a whole lot more, knowing that there could be many more out there…

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