9 comments on “For Shobana’s birthday, three dances from Mahamayee (1991)

  1. I’m always amazed at your knowledge of south Indian cinema. :) I don’t know why I should be, perhaps because it’s Hindi films that are more popular.

    Have you seen this film? The dance at the climax is wonderful, with the same actor who pays the nadaswaram in Mahamayee as her co-dancer.

  2. At last, some dance videos. :-)

    I like the first one very much. Does anyone know what’s the significance of the cobra in the second clip?

    Anu, the clip you’ve posted seems to be quite popular because I’ve seen it somewhere. She’s good.

  3. Anu, Thanks for the flattering comment. :) I doubt that I know that much about South Indian films, really. But, yes, I certainly know about the film you’re referring to. Here’s a link to the review I wrote about three and a half years ago:


    If you want to check out a blog of an American/westerner who really knows a lot about South Indian films and the dancers in particular, go to Minai’s blog (listed on the side bar). And I think she’s acquired the knowledge even more recently than I have.

    I’ve recently neglected the South a bit more, because I’ve been making some effort to learn a little Hindi (with the help of a friend sometimes), so I’ve been wanting to view more films in which I could try to catch a few words here and there. (And if there are decent subtitles, it helps to give me more vocabulary as well.)

    However, in the past, I have been drawn to South Indian material just as much for various reasons. While most of the people I’ve known here in New York City are from the northern parts – and a couple of people from northern India or Pakistan have had a personal influence on me – there are other reasons why I’ve been drawn to the South. I have had an interest in Kerala for quite some time. Here’s a post that I wrote a little over four years ago about my “Fascination with Kerala” (well, the post is four years old, but I just replaced one of the clips):


    It is also strange how South Indian films make their way sometimes into the products of western culture – or into “fusion,” certainly…. For instance, I first found out about the Tamil film Thalapathi (especially its good music – which is actually far better than the film) because I liked an M.I.A. song released in 2007 that sampled music from that film, and when I saw the credit listed, I wanted to find out more about it. Actually, as I’ve said before, there were three South Indian films that I found by tracing samples or phrases in M.I.A. songs. :)

    And Pacifist, yes, I agree the dance in the top clip is very good. Though I like all of them almost equally. As you said, she is good There might have been a few things in her upbringing that gave her a bit of an advantage :) , but there’s no denying that she’s good.

  4. Richard, up to my hairline in work, so I’ve bookmarked the links to your posts for when I have some time to relax and read them.

    I know of Mina’s blog through Cinematters, and have taken a quick glimpse now and then.

    In the ‘here’s another coincidence’ chapters of my life: It’s interesting that you’re fascinated with Kerala (I have to find time to read that post of yours today) since I’m originally from the place. :) And I live just a bit north of you here – MA. :))

    M.I.A would have south Indian influences in her songs – she is Sri Lankan, isn’t she? Of Tamil descent? I think her stage name stands for her initials.

    @pacifist – the film is pretty famous. It was murdered in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, and finally buried in Hindi by Priyadarshan. (oooh, I feel another rant coming on!)

  5. Anu, thank you for making time to read all these posts tonight (as evidenced by your messages on my other posts. :) Yes, that is a nice coincidence re. your origins in Kerala. (I know there are a few Malayalis who read this blog, but not many. :) ) And, apparently, a few people who visit here also live in Massachusetts. (Is there an actual word for someone who lives in, or comes from, Massachusetts?)

    Regarding M.I.A., I was a fan of hers in the days when I started this blog, back in 2007. But I think she hasn’t been as good since her two breakthrough albums, Arular (2005), and Kala (2007)… And also, her music kind of wore off for me little, especially when I started listening more exclusively to…old Indian film music!

    But she did do very innovative stuff, especially in the sampling… Given her background, as well as more recent visits to India, it’s not surprising that she knew about the Tamil film music that she sampled on a few songs on Kala… But it is more remarkable that she actually sampled them and got a way with it – especially in the U.S. – both artistically (or at least to the critics’ liking) and commercially (somewhat).

    And, by the way, her real initials would be M.M.A. (Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam). M.I.A. says the “M.I.A.” stands for “Missing In Acton,” a reference to the London neighborhood where she lived from the age of 9 or 10 on, as a refugee.

  6. There is a phrase for people who come from Boston; I think the best (or worst, depending on which side of the political spectrum you fall) you can do to describe Massachusetts’ residents is to call them ‘Massachusetts Liberals’. :))

    Thanks for the explanation of M.I.A.’s name. I was too tired to Google her yesterday. I first came across her because my son liked one of her songs. It would be from her older albums.

  7. Oh, I almost forgot about “Massachusetts liberals.”

    If I had to name one resident of Massachusetts who’s had a big influence on my own political perspectives – going back a number of years now – it would be Noam Chomsky. But he’s not a liberal. :-)

  8. Richard!!! I have never seen these film dances of Shobana’s before! How exciting to see her doing a “practice” number and a temple number- that first song is especially lovely, look at her crisp lines (and what long arms!). The one person whose filmography I’ve never delved into is Shobana, and for some reason I had the idea that aside from Manichitrathazhu and a few other film dances she had not been given much ‘serious’ filmi classical dance material (a lot of her dances were very beautiful but very filmi). But seeing these dances here is thrilling- I wonder if there are any others with a similar feel? It’s possible that I’m forgetting some of her film dances- I have a tendency to do that when I don’t visit a topic for a while. Anywho, thanks so much for posting! A lovely treat on her birthday. :) And thanks for the mention above – you’re too kind!

  9. Minai, I previously typed an answer to your comment but I lost it. :( Apologies for taking a week to get back to it (and who knows if you’ll see my answer now?) Anyway, I agree regarding the relative small quantity of full classical-style dances that involved Shobana. Or that’s also been my experience, at any rate.

    And you are most welcome. I have mentioned your blog in this way at other blogs too. :) I just very much appreciate how much you have picked up where I left off when it comes to some of our favorite dancers, and have delved into the subject(s) much further. Some day, I am going to have to ask you more about how you manage to accomplish so much good research. And you have also done technical things with some of the videos that I never even thought of trying. :)

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