16 comments on “Bloody Footed Bharatanatyam

  1. Glad you liked *Sholay* – it’s one of my all-time favorites!

    She’s not South Indian and her training isn’t bharatnatyam – but if you are interested in dancing on glass, there is another famous such dance by Meena Kumari in *Pakeezah*. It always struck me as very different in character from Hemaji’s dance in *Sholay* – the dance in *Pakeezah* feels like character is punishing herself rather than demonstrating her strength defiance. I would be interested to know what you think.

  2. Hi, Carla. I’ve had to rewrite this comment a couple of times because I was doing some research while writing it… I hadn’t actually seen that dance until I checked it out tonight (I saw only half of Pakeezah – thanks to YouTube freebie that hasn’t been finished yet :) but I had read a little about it…and saw that this wasn’t actually Meena Kumari dancing in this scene, but Padma Khanna.

    Curiously, when I did some searching to check on this, I saw someone say as much in a thread in BollyWHAT forum that has your name in an earlier post :) :


    (Hope it’s not annoying for me to point that out… Don’t know how people keep up with this kind of forum over the months anyway…)

    Regarding the scene… Yes, your interpretation sounds right to me.

    And the blood actually seems more significant in the Pakeezah dance, more central to it, doesn’t it?
    Looking at the way she sort of drew a painting in blood on the floor… It seems to me that’s probably as important as any of the dance movements. But effective, too…

  3. You’ve been catching up with the classics, Richard! Mother India, and now Sholay. I think those are among the best known films of all time in India — at least, they were recommended to me, together, long ago when I asked about what to watch to get a sense of B’wood style. Very different films, though!

  4. Hi, Wayne. I think these films have differences but also some similarities. I just wrote a longer comment describing those similarities, but I got a “cannot connect” notice when I tried to post it and it disappeared! (I don’t seem to be having the best of luck in technological communications with you lately. :) (Other readers – sorry, inside joke, outside reference.) Anyway, I’ll get back to this, write the whole comment again, later.
    P.S. OK, I think I lost my first reply to you because other comments were coming in at the same time. I have now fixed the time stamp on my reply to you so that my answers will follow other people’s comments in the right sequence. (Maybe that’s sort of cheating?? But the WordPress.com program makes changing the time stamp pretty easy now, and besides, all the stamped times are way out of my time zone anyway (never bothered to fix that), so I don’t give them that much importance. And as you know, when it comes to blogging, I do like to edit a lot here and there when I can! :)

  5. You’re absolutely right, Richard; it slipped my mind that Meena Kumari did not perform that dance herself, due (I suppose) to her ill health at the time the film was shot. Unfortunately I do not have a limitless capacity for storing filmi information in my mind. :)

  6. Carla:

    I remembered that fact about this “playback dancing” (or is that “stunt dancing”?) only because I’d read about it recently. I also understand that, illness or not, Meena Kumari wasn’t much of a dancer anyway (far different from the case of the other actresses we’re talking about), but her illness proably made that substitution more necessary.

  7. Sholay, the Eastern Western. Excellent that you got it from the library. Thanks for pointing out the bloddy feet thing, I didn’t know about the bharatanatyam form being the source of that. I loved it in Sholay, and carla is excactly right about Hema’s dancing as strength and defiance in that scene It was awesome. I’ll have to make special note to re-watch the scene in Pakeezah again to observe the differences.

  8. Hi, Sita-ji. Well, I have you to thank for giving me that extra push to go to the library.

    I was not surprised that Sholay would be the first thing I’d find there (without having to make any special orders or even having to browse much), but I’m also pleased that it was.

    Generally, the selection isn’t as great as one might gather from the online list – especially not the selection on the shelves – for various reasons (including unexpected renovations of a certain branch…well, these snags were to be expected in NYC; I’ll get back to that another time :). But I do believe there’s enough to keep me “busy.”

    Plus, I have yet to really delve into the Queens Library.

  9. Glad you found the movie at the library. Don’t they let you order them delivered to the library of your choice so that you don’t have to go to different ones?
    All the best!

  10. Well, Siita-ji, it’s like this… Since I live in Queens right now, and Queens uses a different library system, I still have to commute to Manhattan to get an NYPL movie – which is OK because I have to go to Manhattan a lot anyway, and it’s usually only a 15-20 minute train ride to Midtown. Most of the NYPL libraries that have these movies are around Midtown too…

    Most that I liked, in fact, were listed at the Donnell Library on 53rd Street, so I thought I would just go there to pick them up. But when I went to the Donnell Library, it turned out that the library was being renovated and there weren’t any Hindi movies there. So, the listing was wrong. I was told that most of the Hindi movies had been moved to the branch on 40th Street – which is too bad, because I had just walked to the Donnell Library from 42nd Street. But I had to be in the same neighborhood in two days anyway, so that’s when I went to the 40th Street Branch and picked up Sholay (which I had seen listed at the Donnell branch).

    Many of the movies listed on the NYPL site are in VHS format too, and I don’t have an old-fashioned-style VCR, so I need DVDs – which were in much shorter supply.

    Given what’s available, I find it’s just better and easier to see what’s on the shelves than to order, wait, and commute to one particular branch where I ordered the DVD.

    I saw more at the 40th Street branch that I might like, and I am going back to Midtown Tuesday, so… And I am still going to look into the Queens Library.

    If I start with ordering things, I imagine I might have to wait a long time, and given the way they have been managing things so far, they might even get the orders wrong. :)

  11. LOL! I admit I have a VCR. I did notice that a lot were that format. Sounds like you’ve worked it out the best way. We have 2 systems here too. Sort of confusing. have fun!

  12. And after all of this…I ended up buying my next movie (Navrang – which I just posted about). Oh, well. Even being poor and unemployed and all, if I see a movie I’ve wanted to see for a while and it’s in a cutout bin for $5, how can I resist? Plus, I pass this store much more than any library – right across the street from the place where I’ve been buying all my bread and Basmati rice…that bin is, like, in my face constantly! :)

  13. Ah! The bloody footed cliche! Another one that springs to mind is the “zoom in on her trembling lips to indicate her desire to be with him” thing. Whose lips actually tremble like that?! Maybe when it’s cold outside…

    Anyway, the “dancing on glass shards and swooning from the sheer drama” thing – which I too LOVE – features in one of my favorite songs ever, Tohfa Qabool Hai Humein from the Smita Patil/Shashi Kapoor 1983 film, Ghungroo.

  14. Thank you, PPCC, for another good addition to the list.

    By the way, I just happened to find my favorite dancing-til-she-passes-out clip of all (I don’t think there any glass shards here, but her feet look pretty beaten up, and there’s plenty of drama, and by 6:45, it looks like she’s getting a heart attack!)… That’s Padmini (again – or I should say first, since this clip is older than all the others), in a scene from the 1958 movie Raagini:

  15. Thanks everybody for all these informations. I am also interested in dancing bloody footed in indian cinemas. I can add the last scene of Prabhu Deva’s Pournami to your list!
    Watch here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x124ogl_pournami-songs-bharatha-vedamuga-prabhas-trisha-and-charmi_music

    I am quite puzzled by what you said at the beginning of your post: “South Indian women trained in bharatanatyam, dancing on objects that cut their feet, having the world spin around them, nearly passing out” Could you tell me more about this tradition? or do you have a book or a link to recommend?
    Thanks a lot!

  16. Thank you for your recent comment! Unfortunately, you seemed to have stumbled on a post that is so old, the videos don’t work anymore. This post was written five and a half years ago, when this blog was still in its first year, which was its infancy. (I recently shared another post from around this time on Facebook – maybe that somehow drew more attention to this phase?) But now that your comment has taken me to this old post and I see that the videos are missing, I think I’ll replace them with new copies. Why not? I will within the next couple of days.

    The video that you posted fits the theme, though it struck me as a bit more creepy than the others. (It’s also very contemporary, whereas this blog has been focused more on classic films, both vintage and Golden Age. But back at the time that I did this post, that wasn’t quite as much the case.) Anyway, I think I’ll have to watch it again to figure out what I think of it. :)

    The links that I’d recommend to support my first statement are the videos that don’t work. :) When I pondered the “tradition,” that was somewhat in jest.

    By the way, if anyone else has stumbled on this comment, see how this blog was a bit different over five years ago! I liked Sholay more back then, just like everyone else. And I was open to discovering things from all eras. not stuck in the ’40s and ’50s as much as I am now. :) But it should be clear that I was already crazy about Padmini even back then!

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