P.S. The director of the second piece, Sangita Shresthova, also has a blog that I’m adding to my blogroll. Check out her post of July 7 – excellent taste in filmi dance, if I may say so. :)
No Bollywood or Kollywood people in this one… The director was some guy named Satyajit Ray. (Hey, just kidding there about the “some guy” part!)
The music is marvelous, done by the famous Vilayat Khan. Reportedly, he had some kind of rivalry with Ravi Shankar. Like Shankar, though, he apparently worked with the kind of music that influenced western rock musicians who liked to alter their own minds some years after this film was made.
Almost needless to say, the dancing is quite a joy to watch, too. (Of course, that is the main reason I’m posting this.)
The very end is a bit unpleasant. When that one guy uses his walking stick to stop the other from tossing money, that looks like some kind of confrontation in the making. Well, at least he didn’t pull out a gun and blow the money away like in that scene from Pakeezah.
Actually, I am most interested in seeing this film because of the comparisons made with Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam over at Philip’sfil-ums.
P.S. Thanks to Bollyviewer/Old Is Gold for the Satyajit Ray link.
(Kamala Lakshman in Konjum Salangai (1962))
I’ve found a lot of good info about Kamala Lakshman, starting with the Web site for her dance school, Sri Bharata Kamalalaya. The school holds classes on Long Island (where she lives), as well in Westchester and in three different towns in New Jersey.
The front page of the Web site has the current date on it, but most of the information on this site doesn’t seem to have been posted after about 2003. Still, assuming that all the information is still applicable…
It tells us that Kamala is also involved in another school on Long Island, SUNY at Stony Brook, where she is an Adjunct Professor of Indian Classical Dance. And she teaches a class in bharatanatyam at the school’s Center for Indian Studies every fall.
That’s Kamala now, if anybody wants to take classes with her.
There’s also lots of good info on the site about Kamala then…
Such as the fact that she “enthralled” both Marshal Tito and Dwight D. Eisenhower!
The foremost exponent of the Vazhuvoor tradition of Bharata Natyam, Padmabushan Kamala is the ideal combination of Dancer and Guru. Her career in dancing has been a long and illustrious one. A recipient of the prestigious Padmabushan award from the President of India, she has performed extensively in India and abroad, serving as cultural ambassador of international acclaim. She performed at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and enthralled many dignitaries including Jawaharlal Nehru, S. Radhakrishnan, President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Chau Enlai and Marshal Tito, and the King of Jordan. She has been honored with several titles and has established a dance school, “Sri Bharata Kamalalaya.”
My favorite thing about this site is that it provides links to two very good articles on Kamala in the magazine Sruti. The first article talks more about her life, accomplishments, trials and travails, while the second article is more focused on her style of bharatanatyam and other specific aspects of her dance. The articles are posted as photos of pages, not actual text, so it might be impossible or very difficult to print out in a readable version (I know I couldn’t). However, they are still very readable on screen once you click on the individual pages.
Being that I am not all that versed at this point in the technical aspects of the dances, I particularly enjoyed the earlier article. In addition to having a bunch of great pictures (as does the other article), it’s got a fascinating narrative covering many different stages, including her rise to stardom as a kathak dancer at the age of five, the roles that she played in classic Indian cinema, and her days as an experienced dance guru in the U.S.
But the most interesting moment of the article, not surprisingly, is when it discusses the major part she played during the 1940s in the revival and transformation of bharatanatyam:
It was Kamala who transformed, almost overnight, the loathesome into the laudable. The timing was perfect. The conditions ideal. And her age was just right. She was still a child, a “baby,” and her innocence and charm endeared her to one and all. In addition she possessed the required blend of glamour and appeal that rendered Bharatanatyam a vitally alive art form contemporary relevance.
It was not just the mothers who looked upon their daughters as Kamalas in the making. K.M. Rangaswamy who has interviewed numerous dancers says that 99 percent of them admitted to having been inspired by Kamala.
The circle of audience for this art form swelled from a few hundreds to thousands to hundreds of thousands in course of time as Kamala’s dance sequences became one of the standard ingredients to a successful Tamil film.
Kamala – great dancer with a great story too.
Stupid judges gave her an 8… I think it’s fantastic that they got her on that show – they should have given her a 10.
Of course, I’m referring to her appearance on NBC’s Superstars of Dance:
Here’s a film on bharatanatyam that she made a couple of years ago:
And here’s a personal favorite, just among the clips that I’ve seen, posted at YouTube by the appropriately named Bharathanatyam:
A nice intro to bharatanatyam, featuring the excellent contemporary bharatanatyam dancer – and relatively recent child prodigy – Medha Hari. Video put together by Sancharram.
Oh, I love this dancing duo! When I wrote about them two weeks ago, I started off with the clip that people know most, “Aplam Chaplam,” from the movie Azaad. But Azaad was actually a Hindi remake of the Tamil movie Malaikallan. Now, thanks (once again) to Tom’s channel, I can post a couple of clips with Sai-Subbulaxmi in Malaikallan:
Malaikallan was directed by Sriramulu Naidu S.M. and the music is by Subbiah Naidu (and it would be interesting to find out if the similarity in names means anything). It stars M.G. Ramachandran (MGR) and P. Bhanumathi aka Dr. Paluvayi Bhanumathi Ramakrishna. There is a lot of interesting information floating around about the actress Bhanumathi, including one article at Super Telugu Profiles and one at Upperstall. The Upperstall profile describes Malaikallan as a film “about an outlaw who robs the rich to feed the poor while maintaining a double identity.” I guess that’s an old story, but it’s still one guaranteed to make me root for the hero.
The picture above comes from the movie called Kalpana, made in 1948. This is not to be confused with another movie Kalpana, made in 1960, although they have one thing in common, which is that my favorite actress-dancer was in both of them. The Kalpana made in 1948 was actually the first movie that Padmini ever was in. But it took me a long time to ascertain that this came out in 1948, and I still can’t be absolutely sure, because the date seems to vary from article to article, site to site, ranging from 1944 to 1950 (or actually 1952, but only one site claimed that year). This, though, is the conclusion I was able to reach in the end: Kalpana, as one or two sites said, took five years to make. Padmini performed for this movie in 1944, when she was only 12 years old. The movie didn’t come out until 1948, and probably a lot of people didn’t see it until 1949 or 1950. Following its release, Padmini started appearing in a few other films, so she started acting and dancing in films for real in 1949.
My quest for the true release date of Kalpana also took me into another, interesting direction, since I got to learn more about the creator of this movie, Uday Shankar. (By the way, I assume he was both producer and director, though it is hard to confirm that information, since most sources simply say that he “made” this film. He was most famous as a dancer and choreographer.)
Uday Shankar was the elder brother of the very famous Ravi Shankar as well as the father of Ananda Shankar (whose musicianship, though lesser known than his uncle Ravi’s, has been very enjoyable to many people, including me). He was also the uncle of another fine musician, Anoushka Shankar, who actually once did some bharatanatyam dancing too, alongisde Padmini’s niece Shobana in the 2003 movie, Dance Like A Man. (I like how that happened – it’s sort of like returning an old favor between the families…)
Uday Shankar was also probably the first teacher in the performing arts for none other than Guru Dutt, who joined Shankar’s dance troupe in the mid 1940s. (In fact, there is an interesting article discussing this fact and comparing the two artists, from the Dear Cinema site.)
Knowing about how all these great people were related to and/or worked with Uday Shankar, it would be interesting to find out more about what his work was like. But that’s a little more difficult… A tribute in The Hindu says as much as any other article I’ve happened upon, when it states:
The creative dance movement in India owes its growth to Uday Shankar. With his success in earning great respect for Indian dance in the 1930s, a unique movement of revival of classical dances had begun.
Though he had no formal training in any classical form, his dance was creative.
He used the essence of various traditions and techniques in his dance dramas and succeeded in presenting an integrated composition. His exclusive use of only Indian musical instruments is a remarkable feature….
His superb showmanship and perfection cast a spell on his audience, all over the world.
But where can we see a clip of one of Uday Shankar’s dances? The only ones I could find were parts of a contemporary interpretation, in three installments posted by Tripmonk. Here’s one of them:
This dance, by the way – and this clip in particular – reminds me a little of some clips from Shobana on Broadway. But that’s not surprising.
I read somewhere that there simply are no prints of Shankar’s Kalpana available commercially. That’s really too bad. But maybe there will be sometime. If anybody knows of some way to get a whole copy of that movie – or even just a clip from it – I’d love to hear about it.
This is Kamala Lakshman back when she was known as Kumari Kamala or Baby Kamala – at age 12 or 13 – dancing in the song “Gandhi Mahan” in the film Nam Iruvar. It’s very cute but also very interesting. First of all, though this may not be a big, dramatic kind of dance, it is still excellent. Look at the way she moves her arms – how does she do that?
This film is also significant as a patriotic statement in the year of India’s independence. (If only I’d had a chance to post this back in August…) Moreover, it was a major contributor to the explosion of interest in bharatanatyam, years before anyone would hear about the Travancore Sisters or Vyjayanthimala.
…Kamala’s dances not only proved to be the highlights of the film but also created film and cultural history.
Kamala also had two songs and dance items with lyrics written about Mahatma Gandhi, “Karuna murthy Gandhi Mahatma… !” and “Mahan… Gandhi… Mahan!” The songs were rendered off screen by the “baby-voiced” playback singer M.R. Rajeswari.
Nam Iruvar (1947) was a thumping success and Kamala’s dance ushered in a cultural revolution in the Tamil-speaking areas of the old Madras Presidency. Dance schools sprouted all over and Bharathanatyam acquired respectability
And also, there’s this comment in Wikipedia:
The film is remembered for the wonderful dance performances of Baby Kamala who has since become a legend. It is also remembered as the first film produced under the banner of AVM Productions. Following the success of the film, AVM moved his studio from Karaikudi to Kodambakkam in Chennai. Nam Iruvar was also the last film directed by A. V. Meiyappan and extensively portrayed the hopes and aspirations of a nation on the brink of independence.
She is not credited in this clip, and she looked a bit different to me at first (maybe because, there’s no bharatanatyam makeup or fancy jewelry, and she’s certainly not smiling – not when the hero here is about to be hung…and it looks as though she might be doing a sort of suicide dance as well). But I do believe the dancer is Kamala Lakshman. And this dance is OMG incredible.
By the way, if you also happen to like heroic battle scenes, you get about 45 seconds of that first. This is the story of the Maruthu Brothers, who ruled the municipality of Sivagangai in the last quarter of the 18th Century. They fought the British and were executed in 1801.
The film was directed by K. Shankar, produced and written by Kannadasan.
Originally, I only knew this as “V_0009,” from c3p10. Then (as you’ll notice if you read the comments) Stella_1 suggested that it was probably from the film New Delhi. Coincidentally, the next day, I found New Delhi when I took a walk to a store in Jackson Heights, Queens, ten blocks from where I live. I might review this sometime coming up. (I also might review just-purchased movies Mahal, Miss Mary, and Do Ustad. We’ll see…)
I haven’t watched the whole movie yet, but of course, I think this scene is very worthwhile all on its own. It’s one of my favorite old Vyjayanthimala dance clips.