12 comments on “Happy Brithday, Roshan Kumari!

  1. I am a bit rushed right now, so only had the time to read your very interesting post, Richard. Will watch these clips sometime later (though I am hitting myself for not being really able to recall any of those dances, even though I’ve pretty much seen all the films). The Jalsaghar one I remember vividly, the others I need to watch again. :-)

  2. Madhu, thank you for reading and commenting on this post even though you have been so rushed! :) You watch a lot of films, so there’s no need for you to hit yourself for not recalling Roshan Kumari’s dances in these particular films, especially if you were not looking for her. But it would be fun to see what you think when you do get around to (re)watching these dances.

  3. What beautiful dances! I actually think I most enjoyed the “Basant Bahar” song and the excerpt from the documentary, given that I hadn’t seen either one before. (What a color scheme they chose for those sets in “Kathak,” though—perhaps the Films Division people had just gotten a technicolor camera and wanted to show it off?) I appreciated being able to see her dancing full-length most of the time, as one would if when watching a stage performance. In the “Basant Bahar” song the effect is almost exactly opposite, with the individual gestures of the dance becoming somewhat divorced from her whole body by the other images. Despite the degradation of the image, I found it really compelling. It reminds me of an ‘80s movie that I recently rewatched a couple of times (simply called “Ghungroo”), in which the ghungroos are a visual symbol throughout the first half of the film.

    Of course, even in a documentary, the camera is guiding one’s eye somewhat. Still, these two examples got me thinking more about how camerawork and editing can present the same dance to an audience in different ways.

  4. ”In the “Basant Bahar” song the effect is almost exactly opposite, with the individual gestures of the dance becoming somewhat divorced from her whole body by the other images.”

    Yes, but you have to take into account that someone – either the uploader or the Angel media company – cropped (removed) picture in an effort to make it widescreen, as if they’re better directors and cinematographers than the original people. As a result of this all-too-common practice, heads and feet are cut off, something that’s especially bad for the dancers whose feet movements are so important. I agree with you that in spite of the chemical degradation of the film of that dance, it’s spectacular. As is the color Films Division one. Thanks, Richard, for your efforts to gather in one place all of Roshan Kumari’s filmed output.

  5. Richard,
    I must confess I knew nothing about Roshan Kumari. And after watching the clips and going through your previous article on Roshan Kumari, now I became aware of her bio un detail.
    I was supremely surprised to know about her mother. Zohrabai ambalewali is one of my most favourite playback singers of the 40s and I’m planning a post on her song next year.
    Thanks a ton for these posts. Really informative and insightful. And I should visit Vidur sury’s blog. I think it would be very interesting.


  6. Shelomit, I am glad you agree that these dances are beautiful!

    Most of the film clips of Roshan Kumari are great in their own way, so I can certainly understand liking a couple of them more than the others if you haven’t seen them before.

    I like your description about how the Basant Bahar clip is the opposite of the documentary clip – nicely put!

    I haven’t seen that ’80s film called Ghungroo, but I’ve seen references to it before. You’ve made me more curious about that movie, so I’ll have to watch it sometime.

  7. Hi, Tom. You are right about the technical stupidity of the cropping done by some of those people who put together the videos. (And, of course, you would recognize that more than anyone because of all the technical work you do on YouTube videos, yourself – but to make them actually look better, not worse!) But I’m also surprised at how filmmakers and videomakers, themselves, sometimes forget how important it is to give a full shot of the dancer’s feet – especially in a dance like kathak, in which footwork plays such a such a significant role.

    It is nice to see you concur that the Basant Bahar dance is spectacular in spite of those problems.

    And you’re welcome regarding my efforts to gather together Roshan Kumari’s filmed output. Thank you, too – considering that four of the seven videos in this post are from your YouTube channel and a fifth is one that you prepared and sent to me a while back so that I could post it on my channel. :)

  8. Anup, I am very glad to be the one who let you know about Roshan Kumari!

    I like Zohrabai Ambalewali a lot, too. Now as I’m writing this, for Naushad’s birthday, I am listening to the soundtrack to Rattan. :) I am looking forward to your Zohrabai post!

    Regarding Vidur Sury’s blog, if you follow the link to his name in the comments to that old Roshan Kumari post, you’ll find that the blog is blank. He had blogs that contained a lot of stuff to refer to, but then he canceled those blogs. He has some stuff buried in a newer blog that is more general, not completely devoted to old Hindi films and songs. I think I’ve been able to find some other old blog posts of his somewhere, but it’s not easy. I am not sure why he’s done things this way, but I thought I should warn you so that you won’t be disappointed…

  9. Richard,
    I visited the blog and couldn’t find much about old Hindi film. I was disappointed.
    Anyways, I did it before reading your reply.
    Zohrabai post for sure in next year.

  10. Hi Richard- aren’t you forgetting “the Music Room”, 1958, dir. Satyajit Ray? Totally unbelievable dance scene in there. It’s what led me to Roshan Kumari.

  11. Geo Homsy – your bad. LOL That’s all right. I can understand if you remembered the English title but not the Bengali title… And you had to scroll down a lot since it was Nuumber One. :)

    Yes, Jalsaghar/The Music Room was the first thing that led me to Roshan Kumari too. But then I saw her in Parineeta and a couple of other things… And I became more curious about her when I learned that she was the daughter of Zohrabai Ambalewali, whose singing I enjoyed very much also. And, so as you can see, I became a fan.

    Anyway, thank you for stopping by! Please feel free to comment here whenever you like.

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