18 comments on “In Praise of Feet…

  1. Had time only to watch the first two videos. Exquisite!

    Did you mean the ‘class struggle’ at the kotha, when you said that you had missed some of the elements in it? ;-)

  2. Oh! I’ll have to check these when I’ve got time and I’m at a computer (non-work) that allows me access. In the mean time, I’m wondering how Bharatnatayam would look/sound using tap shoes? Just something to ponder.
    All the best!

  3. Am I right in believing that Meena Kumari was too ill to dance for a lot of Pakeezah’s filming and that the dancing and the footwork were Padmini’s??
    I hope someone can clear my memory on this.

  4. OK, a quick search has yielded this: it was Padma Khanna (not Padmini as I thought) who stood in for Meena Kumari in Pakeezah.

  5. The hand work in the clips is as fascinating.
    Again a first for me is the ‘painting’ done as a result of correct footwork. Amazing!
    If only one understood what the ‘pujari’ (?) mumbled in the beginning, the mystery of those feet could be solved in the 5th clip.

    There’s another thing called ‘alta’ which is normally put on the feet. It’s a bright red liquid made from ‘lac’.
    That’s why the colour on the feet looks so red. Of course mehndi too, but that’s time consuming.

    The historic significance can be read here;

    Click to access MKT_Doc_LAC.pdf

    The second para of the second page mentions alta.

    If you scroll down this page on the second link you’ll see it in pictures.

    The dancing feet usually had alta.

    *end of lesson* LOL

  6. Ah, nice to come back and see so many comments :) …

    Harvey, I guess your comment was based on my use of that too-theoretical word “elements” combined with your knowledge about my political leanings? Anyway, yes, those first two are exquisite, indeed!

    Sitaji, hope you’ve had a chance to go back and look at this more… I guess you have a point about the tap shoes. Though I have seen some Indian film dancing with classical elements done in unexpected shoes (by Sitara Devi or Cuckoo or Helen or all of the above – will have to look through my “archives” to find out the specifics again).

    Bnann (who I guess is Bawa – but if someone else, sorry, it’s just that your “name” contains part of one of Bawa’s e-mail addresses)… Thanks for the comments and research. However, you didn’t have to do a “quick search” outside of this blog, as I said as much in the paragraph before the first video. :)

    Pacifist, thank you for providing so much good information! I will have to get back to that later and read in more detail. Lesson much appreciated!

    Oh, and yes, there is great hand work to be found here, too… Sometime, I will have to do a post just about that.

  7. Hi Richard, It IS me Bawa (sorry about the bnann thing). Of course you have, but I got so carried away watching these and all of Pakeezah’s other songs that I missed it totally!

  8. Nice selection of videos here! The decoration on those dancers’ feet hide a lot of pain… ;)

    Apparently the foot painting comes from a Kutchipudi tradition – I had never seen it before hearing Ananda Shankar Jayant speak recently, she does a version which can be seen on youtube here (starts at 9.40 thought te whole clip is interesting!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ-5swhJHUk
    Different technique, in this case the cloth is placed over a bed of clay, so that the pressure of the dancer’s feet create a picture.

    On foot doubles, apparently choreographer Kumudini Lakhia had to foot double for Rekha in one shot of Umrao Jaan when she just couldn’t get the footwork. Not sure which song though!

  9. Bawa, thanks for confirming that it was Bawa “speaking” before. :) And I certainly can’t blame you if you got carried away watching the Pakeezah videos…

    Insomniac, thanks for all the info and the video. I’ve had time to watch the actual foot art section – very interesting. I’ll get back to this later to see it in the whole context.

    Regarding the foot painting, well, Kuchalakumari herself, in reference to that competition with Kamala Lakshman, mentioned that the technique comes from dances at Mysore Palace, and I assumed that she was talking about a tradition in Bharatanatyam. But I’m not insisting on that – for all I know, you could be right. :)

    Anyway, I included quotes from the inteview here:


    In that post, there is another conversation about foot painting in the comments, and references to Vyjayanthimala’s amusing rumored connections to Mysore.

    And, Vyjayanthimala was involved in what I would assume to be the most widely seen foot painting dance scene in any movie, within the danceoff in Amrapali:

    But I didn’t include that dance in the present list, because there really isn’t all that much focus on the feet, and I’m not all that crazy about the cymbal crashing and violent stick fighting. :)

  10. At least amongst my generation, the ‘feet’ dialogue of Pakeezh is very popular. But I am glad you picked this, the time when Meena finds out that she has found the love she has been looking for, for screencapping.

    I think I like kathak best among all dance forms. I have had the fortune of seeing some masters perform on TV. I wish they would bring out DVDs of those programmes for people like us. We are reduced to watching dances in movies, which can often be watered down or glamourised.

  11. Oh, I wish I could decide whether the dance forms should be capitalized or not! I was typing them un-capped for so long, but so many people capitalized them and insisted that was how they should be. But when I see “kathak” with a small “k” that still looks right to me. :)

    Anyway… Kathak is the dance form I look for most right now, but that’s because I am first discovering all the Kathak dances that are out there after years of obsessively hunting down Bharatanatyam. I don’t know which I’ll prefer ultimately, but these two forms are very different (I think), so they’re hard to compare. I generally like them more than, say, Odissi (and maybe more than Kuchipudi, though it’s hard to say, since that’s so often so much like Bharatanatyam).

    By the way, when I talk about the dances that are “out there,” of course, I am thinking mostly about what I’ve seen on YouTube. You don’t find this stuff often on American TV (though I have sometimes). I did see DVDs of classical Indian dance in a couple of stores in Jackson Heights over the years… Though I haven’t actually grabbed them off the shelves because my economic situation isn’t so great and it is easy to find individual dances on YouTube… :)

  12. Haha.. I rarely capitalize anything, so the issue gets resolved on its own.

    You are right about comparisions between bharatanayam (oops) and kathak. Why do I place kathak on top? Because its more operatic, the songs sung are tuneful and more like stories. By contrast, bharatnatyam (which i nearly equally love) seems a bit rigid.

    You know, I just got back from watching the pakistani film Bol. There is a delicious reference to the same ‘feet’ bit from Pakeezah in it. One of the main characters get involved with a prostitute, and she has this huge Pakeezah hangover, and even calls herself Meena. I think you will like that part of the movie.

  13. Great post as always! I love the song from Sudharshan (1951), watched it recently, a very interesting and captivating film with excellent music. My favourite character was Lalita Ji herself, a young, brave, generous and sweet lady.

    The 2 songs from the film you’ve posted are one of my most favourites, did you like the songs? The singer is my favourite (since half a year or so :) ) Tamil playback singer, P. A. Periyanayaki Ji. What a range, what a seasoned, powerful, lovely and sweet voice which is vocally so flexible.

  14. Hi, Vidur, thank you for the nice words! Yes, I like the songs from Sudharshan (1951). They appear and disappear on YouTube, but I think I’ve seen at least three. That voice is very nice, but I don’t know enough about P.A. Periyanayaki (yet); I’m sure I’ll find out more. And, unfortunately, I haven’t seen the whole film… I am sure I will sometime, though, of course, it might not have subtitles, and so then I still will have to like it mainly for the music and dance. :)

  15. omygoodness. there cannot be an operable category of more Indian film dances than is good for you. thank you so very much.

  16. The 3 songs shot between 1960 – 1964 –
    Inhi Logo Ne , Thade Rahiyo and Chalte Chalte were done solely by Meena Kumari.
    Infact The legendary Kathak master Pandit Lachhu Maharaj praised Meena Kumari’s dancing skills and remarked on the unique way in which she would take a turn. He said, “The way in which she would turn, the angles of her shoulders, come naturally to her and cannot be taught.”
    -( Lacchu Maharaj choreographed ‘Thade rahiyo’ while the othr songs were choreographed by Gauri Shankar.

    The other 3 songs shot between 1969 – 1971 :
    Mausam hai Aashiqana – again no body double

    Chalo Dildar Chalo – a body double Bilquis was used in place of Meena kumari for all parts

    Teer – E – Nazar – Padma Khanna was used as a body double only for this song.
    All the close ups were given by Meenaji while the fast dancing and long shots by Padma Khanna.
    Hope this was helpful regarding your doubt about thade rahiyo and othr songs of Pakeezah 😊

  17. Tashmi Vyas, thank you for reviving this post seven and a half years later with such good information! So now we know that Meena Kuamri did do all the dancing for herself in most of these songs… Though when you say that “Chalte Chalte” was one of the songs in which dancing was done “solely by her,” that’s not really true because of the two dancers in the background – who do all of the more active dancing.

    I am surprised to see that Meena Kumari’s dance skills were praised by a Kathak dancing master. I had never thought of her as one of the great actresses who would be praised for her dance skills. Though she was obviously a far better dancer than, say, Nargis. :)

    Now that you have brought me back to this old post, I am going to have to take a good look at all the old comments again. I may also update a couple of the clips with better versions (or, in one case, a version that can be embedded).

    It’s always pleasing when someone comes over to an old post and revives it with comments, etc. – though sometimes that forces me to see the things that need updating. (This post is is relatively good among ones this old since only one clip has disappeared completely.)

    Skimming over some of the things I wrote here, I see that this was a time when I was just starting to prefer Kathak to the other dances (after a long time of admiring Bharatanatyam). Since then, my fondness for Kathak has grown disproportionately – that is I now love it far above all the other Indian classical dances!

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