In my last post, I pointed out at the end that I was finally drawn into being a big fan of Hindi films when I saw Shree 420, in April of 2008. Of course, that was far from the only thing that drew me into Hindi cinema or Indian cinema in general; it’s just that it was the movie I watched that brought me to the point of becoming an eager consumer of entire classic Hindi/Bollywood films.
But, as I mentioned, by this time, I had already been watching lots of song-and-dance videos and listening to lots of Golden Age soundtrack music.
Going back to the end of 2007, I had been especially drawn into Indian cinema by two of its classic dancers, Padmini and Vyjayanthimala. I know I had seen a Padmini dance or two years before (I had had access to some clips of old Bollywood movies on certain TV stations in the past) and I may have seen a Padmini dance incorporated into a rock video related to something from the ’90s “Asian Underground.” But I wasn’t fully aware of who Padmini was and the great dances that she did until I started watching old clips of her in the fall to winter of 2007. After seeing a bunch of clips, I did run right to some movies, but they were mainly Tamil films (which I could find with English subtitles online). As I recall, the first of those films was Uthama Puthiran (where I also got to witness the greatness of Ragini and Sivaji Ganesan, and where I also found the iron mask that became my blogging avatar). And I probably watched at least a couple more around that time…
But Padmini’s appearances in Hindi cinema were relatively limited – at least compared to Vyjayanthimala’s – and this was especially true when it came to what was available on DVD. (By the way, in case I didn’t mention this – or it isn’t obvious – Hindi/Bollywood DVDs were always much more available in New York than Tamil films.) So, the first dancer who caused me to gobble up lots of full classic Bollywood DVDs – in the spring to summer of 2008 – was Vyjayanthimala, who just happens to be celebrating her birthday as I write this post.
In June or July of 2008, I saw two prominent Vyjyanathimala movies from the ’50s, Sadhna and Naya Daur. Both of these films impressed me on all fronts – dance, music, social themes, song lyrics (subtitled, of course) and acting. But out of the two, the real Vyjayanthimala fest was Sadhna. I can distinctly recall the time I brought that DVD home from the store, put it into my player, and nearly fell over at the sight of her great dances as they appeared within the film.
And when I think of that experience, I recall that the first dance was the one that impressed me the most:
So, shortly afterward – during that summer and early fall – I ran out and grabbed a whole bunch of her films…
And here are some examples of the major dances from them:
From New Delhi:
(By the way, this song/dance is not labeled in the video, so I’ll just add that it’s the Bharatanatyam dance that surrounds the song “Murli Bairan Bhai.” Some people consider it all part of the same song/dance performance, but I like to consider the Bharatanatyam performance separately, since I think that part, alone, is much better than the rest; in fact, I’ve often considered it my favorite.)
Meanwhile, I continued to enjoy clips of dances by her on YouTube without watching the entire films. I never did get to see all of the 1969 film Prince, but in the summer of 2008, I saw some of my favorite dancing by Vyjayanthimala in a scene from that film, the famous competition she had with Helen to the song “Muqabla Hamse Na Karo.” And just recently on YouTube, I saw that someone had excerpted Vyjayanthimala’s parts from that competition and made a video of those excerpts alone. Now, I don’t mean to slight Helen, but I very much appreciate that someone did this and I am happy that I can post such a video here.
And with that, I think I will wrap up this post for Vyjayanthimala’s birthday – her 81st or 84th, depending oh whom you ask – which doubles as Part 2 of my post for the tenth birthday of this blog.
P.S. Seven years ago, I posted another Vyjayanthimala birthday tribute which included clips of seven dances, most of them actually lesser known than the ones above. One has vanished (and I have no idea at this point what it was) and the other is a repeat of a film clip included here. But if you go to that post and watch the others, that adds up to eleven wonderful dance scenes that you can enjoy in celebration of Vyjayanthimala’s birthday. Of course, you can also go to YouTube and other posts on this blog to find many, many more.