24 comments on “Sitara Devi (and Nimmi and Kumkum) in Anjali (1957)

  1. And her body is so atheletic. I like the accompanying music too–not the usual snake charmers tune.

  2. Yes. her body is quite athletic in these films. I don’t know if that’s absolutely necessary for good Indian dancing (it seems the ballet culture of the west makes much greater demands in that area – though maybe more in the direction of anorexic than just athletic), and my “male gaze” tends to be more drawn to the Padmini kind of figure. But I’m sure it didn’t hurt for her to be in such good shape either. (I would guess that Sitara was in her late 30s when this particular film was made – but she probably had greater stamina than her younger co-stars.)

    The music is great; that’s by Jaidev. Anjali apparently was one of the “big breaks” that he got earlier in his music directing career. By the way, everything I see indicates that this film is Chetan Anand’s Anjali, not a film called Arpan, so I’m puzzled at why the YouTube poster keeps saying Arpan. (It would be good if someone out there might be able to help solve this mystery. :)

  3. To add to the general consensus- Wow!

    I liked Sitara Devi’s unusual anklets very much…that snale design on the blouse looked weird though, like a (bad) after thought.
    I think you need to be in real good shape- although it can be curvier- to be a professional Indian dancer too. Saw Sonal Mansingh live when she was not that young anymore, and with the hour and half that a performance lasts: I don’t think you can have much extra left in your body after that!

  4. But that is the thing Bawa.Most dancers do have extra. Just look at Hema Malini who has been dancing all along and Vyjayantimala too. Most middle class South Indian brahmin girls
    learn classical dance. I am from that community and have seen these gals and their girth. And since they attribute their figures to their dance, one can only imagine what they would look like if they didn’t.

  5. Richard,
    Have a look at this. The title track of the film .”Arpan/Anjali”.

    The title shows Arpan! Yet Chetan Anand’s entire filmography available says Anjali, including himself.

    Hope someone comes around with an explanation..

  6. Hi Richard,

    Just found this..

    The title shows Arpan! But the entire filmography available now on the digital realms, including the Director’s letter in 1960, refer to the film as Anjali.

    Hope someone comes around ato clear this up.

  7. Ebenezer, it is a bit confusing, because, as you pointed out, all sources everywhere refer to this movie as Anjali. I guess it’s not that unusual for an Indian film to come out with two different titles, but isn’t that usually because it’s come out in two different languages?

    I Googled the names together and did see a couple of listings that said “Anjali (Arpan)” just like that (though for all we know, they could be taking their cues from us).

    Meanwhile, hmm, it looks as though you have two names too! :) Will we be seeing more at that Malayalam cinema blog? And are you connected to the YouTube channel too?

    BTW, as you can see, I let both versions of your message go through. Maybe you didn’t see the “cinematters” one at first because it was a new name, waiting for my approval… Now I’m wondering if I should delete one…

  8. LOL..the two Avatars were a result of boredom.And Yes, am just setting it up, and will start posting by today. Have a whole load to unload from my attic:)..There is a profile page that I hv at Youtube, but think of enriching it from now on, for OMC.It is a stop gap arrangement till hv the time to build a suitable design for a full site.

    PS.You could delete the cinematters one:)

  9. Dear Richard,

    I am a first-time commentator on this blog, even though this blog, like a couple of others, have been my life blood for the past 3 years. I am doing a PhD on screen-dance in early Indian cinema and your blog has been a treasure trove.

    Coming to this incredibly brilliant dance sequence, I would like to point out that this is not really a snake dance. This film Anjali/Arpan (even I am not certain of the name) is an adaptation of Tagore’s Chandalika, where, as Chetan saab has mentioned in his article, an untouchable girl meets a Buddhist monk who takes water from her and that changes her life forever. Now there is a subplot where the girl, Chandalika, asks her mother, who is into indigenous tantra of sorts (associated largely with some lower castes in Bengal), to find Anand, the monk. This dance takes place in that context.

    Hope this helps.

    Love and Regards,

  10. Thank you for your kind comments, Pritha. I would love to hear more about your research for your Ph.D. in dance in early Indian cinema!

    Now, I posted my original description of this dance more than eight years ago. I learned a little more about this film since then. I may have also posted this dance or had some conversation about it in another, related thread.

    I have understood that the film had something to do with a Buddhist monk. (You mention the article – I assume the one that Ava posted? I just looked at it now and I don’t remember reading it before. But if I reflected on it, I must have read it before. Maybe I skimmed too fast before – or else I forgot. Oh, well.) So, anyway, I learned – at least sometime after the original posting – that the film wasn’t completely about snakes or snake-related magic like Vyjayanthimala’s Nagin or Sridevi’s Nagina and Niagihen. But, on the other hand, the film clip here is certainly connected to snakes and the dance seems to be for some sort of snake god or demon. Also, in the description under the film clip, the YouTube user wrote, “In this film she plays the role of mother of heroine Nimmi. To get her life back she is dancing before the Naag Devta.”

    Now that you’ve provided the title of the original work (Tagore’s “dance drama”), I looked it up, and there seems to be a pretty good scene-byscene description here:

    Maybe the dance scene could fit somewhere into scene number 6 in the drama, in which Maya (the mother) calls upon the forces of the spirit world?

    And maybe this film doesn’t follow the original story exactly?

    I see that the film is posted on YouTube in full in an abbreviated incarnation, called Arpan. (Actually, two copies have been posted; one is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXJ-wYytG1c . ) Maybe I’ll watch this sometime (though I will be limited in terms of what I understand of the dialogue, since there are no English subtitles). Have you seen the film or would you like to watch the version on YouTube?

    If you happen to see the whole film and the dance in the context of it, it would be great to see more of an explanation from you! But you are probably very busy, so it’s OK if you don’t get to that. :)

  11. Dear Richard,

    Yes, you are right. This is part of Scene 6. The song Tagore uses is also “Nagini, Ekhono Jageni, Rosatolo Basini Nagini” (Snake goddess, who haven’t yet woken up, she who lives in the ‘hell’). Actuallly the word used for hell is ‘rosatol’, literally meaning abyss. So it wouldn’t even be a deviation from Tagore if he has used a snake dance. All I was trying to say is that the usage is different from say the Nagin of Vyajayanthimala or Sridevi. As for the film, I will definitely see it soon and confirm. That is as soon as I am done with my thesis, which can’t be more than 2 months :P Also thank you so much for your encouragement.


  12. Pritha, thank you for clarifying all of this so well! And I am happy to encourage you so that you will come back here with the knowledge that you have in this area (which I am already impressed by) to clarify and translate other things in the future. :)

    Best of luck with your thesis. (Regarding Ph.D. theses that I’ve heard about, that has to be one of my favorites!)

    Gratefully :) ,


  13. Hello. There are a couple of copies of this film on YouTube under the name Arpan. (There weren’t when I first wrote this post,close to a decade ago. :) ) Unfortunately, the quality is not great – bad aspect ratio (and the different copies are really the same). I think Anjali might be a slightly abbreviated version of Arpan (unless it’s the other way around – I would have to check to confirm that). But, yes, they are basically the same film.

    Here is one of the YouTube copies:

  14. Hi Richard, something really weird is happening – now, my blogroll reflects this post, not the one it was showing all along. (But it allowed me to read this post, so that is there.)

  15. Hi, Anu. Thanks for letting me know – that is interesting… There have been some recent visits to this post since I called attention to it in comments below the film review of Arpan at Dustedoff. Now this post is also at the top of the “Top Posts” list on my sidebar, which is an automatic listing function from WordPress based on recent visits. Maybe the list on your blogroll is reflecting whatever post on this blog people are visiting the most at the moment, or whatever is at the top of that list on my sidebar. I don’t have the time right now, but at some point, I might remove that “Top Posts” function and see if that affects anything. :)

  16. Richard, thank you for pointing me to this and to that conversation with Pritha. I read through that summary of the Tagore play, and no, while Arpan obviously borrows from it, it’s not the same. The princess plays an important part in the film, while she is missing from the play.

  17. Thank you for clarifying that, Madhu. I’m going to have to look at all of this again more thoroughly. :) And thank you for bringing this dance and the subject of this film back into discussion in the blogging world :) !

    On this blog, as I’ve said, it’s been almost 13 years since I first posted that dance clip and started the discussion about this film. Looking at this whole thread again, I am also reminded that it was actually another 8 years before Pritha revived the topic in such an interesting way. And here we are again thanks to your recent post at Dustedoff!

    Of course, you did a good writeup… The post here was nothing – just a clip that I greatly enjoyed for the dance but also misinterpreted at first in terms of the context. Especially going a while back in this blog, sometimes the real contents of the post exist in the comments. (Or I might say the meat of it, though there may be vegan and vegetarian readers out there who would be offended. :) ) Anyway, it’s a good thing, as you pointed out, that our comments don’t have to sink here the way they do on Facebook. ;)

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