The picture above comes from the movie called Kalpana, made in 1948. This is not to be confused with another movie Kalpana, made in 1960, although they have one thing in common, which is that my favorite actress-dancer was in both of them. The Kalpana made in 1948 was actually the first movie that Padmini ever was in. But it took me a long time to ascertain that this came out in 1948, and I still can’t be absolutely sure, because the date seems to vary from article to article, site to site, ranging from 1944 to 1950 (or actually 1952, but only one site claimed that year). This, though, is the conclusion I was able to reach in the end: Kalpana, as one or two sites said, took five years to make. Padmini performed for this movie in 1944, when she was only 12 years old. The movie didn’t come out until 1948, and probably a lot of people didn’t see it until 1949 or 1950. Following its release, Padmini started appearing in a few other films, so she started acting and dancing in films for real in 1949.
My quest for the true release date of Kalpana also took me into another, interesting direction, since I got to learn more about the creator of this movie, Uday Shankar. (By the way, I assume he was both producer and director, though it is hard to confirm that information, since most sources simply say that he “made” this film. He was most famous as a dancer and choreographer.)
Uday Shankar was the elder brother of the very famous Ravi Shankar as well as the father of Ananda Shankar (whose musicianship, though lesser known than his uncle Ravi’s, has been very enjoyable to many people, including me). He was also the uncle of another fine musician, Anoushka Shankar, who actually once did some bharatanatyam dancing too, alongisde Padmini’s niece Shobana in the 2003 movie, Dance Like A Man. (I like how that happened – it’s sort of like returning an old favor between the families…)
Uday Shankar was also probably the first teacher in the performing arts for none other than Guru Dutt, who joined Shankar’s dance troupe in the mid 1940s. (In fact, there is an interesting article discussing this fact and comparing the two artists, from the Dear Cinema site.)
Knowing about how all these great people were related to and/or worked with Uday Shankar, it would be interesting to find out more about what his work was like. But that’s a little more difficult… A tribute in The Hindu says as much as any other article I’ve happened upon, when it states:
The creative dance movement in India owes its growth to Uday Shankar. With his success in earning great respect for Indian dance in the 1930s, a unique movement of revival of classical dances had begun.
Though he had no formal training in any classical form, his dance was creative.
He used the essence of various traditions and techniques in his dance dramas and succeeded in presenting an integrated composition. His exclusive use of only Indian musical instruments is a remarkable feature….
His superb showmanship and perfection cast a spell on his audience, all over the world.
But where can we see a clip of one of Uday Shankar’s dances? The only ones I could find were parts of a contemporary interpretation, in three installments posted by Tripmonk. Here’s one of them:
This dance, by the way – and this clip in particular – reminds me a little of some clips from Shobana on Broadway. But that’s not surprising.
I read somewhere that there simply are no prints of Shankar’s Kalpana available commercially. That’s really too bad. But maybe there will be sometime. If anybody knows of some way to get a whole copy of that movie – or even just a clip from it – I’d love to hear about it.