I realize that the title of this post might be a bit confusing, because, given the country where I actually live, the only other country that I could dwell on that’s west and north would be Canada. But in the broad area of “filmi,” meaning Indian films and other films with great songs and dances that can somehow be connected to my love of Indian films, I have lately been spending a lot of time west and north. This wasn’t always the case, certainly not at the beginning of my filmi obsession. In fact, a few years ago, I was equally focused on South Indian films as I was on Bollywood, and certainly more focused on them than on, say, Lollywood. But I have been driven to the northern part of the subcontinent by my love of the northern music, especially singers and musicians from the Punjab. Of course, the person leading the way for me has been the woman who is now indisputably my favorite film performer, Madam Noor Jehan. (Not that I don’t still love my favorite dancers too, who come mostly from the south. But more on that in a moment…) And then, more recently, I have let my posts drift as far west/north as Egypt, because of my fascination with both the fabulous revolution (and whatever happens later, make no mistake, this has been a great historical accomplishment) and the Egyptian belly dancers (graceful, skillful gyrations by the sexiest women in the world). However, as I have already said parenthetically, I still have much love for filmi material that came from South India, and I still think the South Indian dancers and South Indian dances are the greatest. For this reason, I am grateful that a few other blogs in our little circle have done fine posts to champion some of my absolute favorite dancers from the South. In fact, in some cases, I think they are doing better at this than I ever did. And I say, hooray for them!
I have been simply amazed at how well Minai’s been been championing the cause of Kamala. There was a time when I had gotten myself into a frenzy of research and adoration over Kumari Kamala/Kamala Lakshman (and I still think she is the greatest bharatanatyam dancer in Indian cinema, in addition to being the first), but for some reason I never was able to find out half as much as Minai has done about Kamala’s filmography. Add to that the fact that Minai has actually managed to order so many of these obscure films and then make/post videos from them, and it’s clear that she has done much more to champion Kamala than I ever could.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to look at Minai’s January 30 post, Even More Rare Dances of Kamala. This group of clips includes dances by Baby Kamala that I looked for myself somewhat desperately for months but could never find, and it also includes great scenes of the adult Kamala Lakshman dancing in a 1960 Tamil film. (BTW, some were posted to YouTube by Minai herself, but at least one of the rare Baby Kamala clips had been posted on another friend who comments here sometimes; i.e., Cram. So, credit and thanks to Cram too!)
Then if you keep clicking for older posts at Minai’s blog, you’ll find a ton more rare and beautiful clips by the great Kamala. There’s also a scene of Kamala dancing at an awards show in 2010! I don’t know how Minai was able to find all this stuff, but I’m not going to think too much about it; I’m just very glad that she did. And I’m looking forward to more in the near future (as she has promised).
Speaking of favorite South Indian dancers, I still have been pretty attentive to the Travancore Sisters. But I haven’t been focusing my attention on them quite as obsessively as I did some months and years ago, and when I have lately, my posts have been centered on their Bollywood work. That’s why I’m happy that other people lately have given them some attention too, especially considering that they’re showcasing more of the Sisters’ work in the South.
I was positively delighted by the post at Old Malayalam Cinema, The Ragini Chronicles In Sarangapani’s Vadakkan Pattukal. Here, Cinematters (also known as Ebenezer) shows us that there was, incredibly, a whole genre of Malayalam films from the early ’60s into the early ’70s, based on a series of medieval Malayalam ballads, starring Ragini as a great woman warrior! There are apparently tons of fantastic songs and dances in these movies, and Ebenezer shows us some wonderful clips and stills as well as a beautiful poster, in addition to describing the films in loving detail. In case I haven’t made this clear, I can’t recommend this post enough!
And then there’s Padmini… No one could say that I haven’t written enough about Padmini on this blog over the years. But since I’ve strayed from that topic a little lately, I just wanted to mention a post that I discovered at a more eclectic blog from someone who just sent in a nice comment, Sriram Khe. Under the title Remembrance of Things Past, we’re given something much more fun than Proust – why, it’s Padmini in Mannavan Vanthanadi, from Thiruvarutchelvar! This was one of the first Padmini dances that I became acquainted with, but at the time, I was by many standards already middle aged. Yet, here’s someone who was hearing this song at the age of three or four – and who likes Padmini more than ever now! Its was nice to read that perspective in this charming little post.