When was the last time you saw a Kathak or a Bharatanatyam dance in a Hindi film? With fast-paced Western dance forms like salsa, latino and tango making inroads into Bollywood and being liked by the people, the casualty has been the graceful Indian classical dance forms.
Bollywood’s dancing queen Madhuri Dixit, who wowed with her classical dance in Devdas, believes the younger generation wants everything fast and the international dance forms are easy to learn compared to Indian dances that take years to master.
“What is happening is that people want everything quick these days. It’s a fast generation. And if you want to learn Kathak, you have to start from the basics. It takes time to learn the discipline,” Madhuri, a trained Kathak dancer, says.
“People don’t want to devote that much time. A hip-hop step can be learned overnight, but Kathak cannot be taught overnight. So I don’t think people have that much patience. It is saddening to see that classical dance that is our root and culture, is not getting that much prominence… somewhere it should be brought back,” she adds.
Choreographer Pony Verma agrees. “It is true that learning salsa, jazz, etc. have become a status symbol and are believed to be a style statement and as a result classical dance is getting suppressed,” Verma says.
“With a base in classical dance, the body postures and hand gestures of a dancer become completely different and add grace even to an international dance form,” she adds. Verma has directed dance for films like Namastey London, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and most recently Guzaarish.
Among the new breed of Bollywood actresses, Esha and Aishwarya know classical dance. In Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Vidya Balan’s semi-classical dance mesmerized everyone.
International dance forms are favored by the current lot of choreographers and after dance reality shows, they are showing them in movies as well. Such dance forms will be seen in forthcoming films like Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji, Saat Khoon Maaf and Patiala House.
Ace choreographer Saroj Khan, who made actresses like Madhuri, Sridevi, and Aishwarya Rai dance to her tunes, blames parents for the dipping popularity of classical dance forms.
“I respect all dance forms, but I blame parents for not encouraging their kids to learn classical dance. Like they encourage their kids to take classes for jazz, hip-hop, etc. they should also encourage them to learn Bharatanatyam and Kathak,” she said.
Yesteryear actresses like Vyjay-anthimala, Waheeda Rahman, Hema Malini, Asha Parekh, and Jaya Prada are still remembered for their graceful dance moves, all thanks to their training in classical dance, which en-hanced their acting skills as well.
Vyjayanthimala is a trained Bharatanatyam dancer and was instrumental in introducing semi-classical dance form in Bollywood.
Waheeda Rehman learnt Bharata-natyam from Mumbai’s Sri Rajarajeswari Bharata Natya Kala Mandir and has even performed many times on stage, while Asha Parekh charmed audiences with her elegant dance, courtesy her mother, who enrolled her into dance classes at an early age.
Bollywood’s “Dream Girl” Hema Malini is also a dedicated Bharatanatyam artiste and her daughters Esha and Ahana Deol have also trained in it. The mother-daughters trio perform together quite often on stage.
“For someone who has a base in classical dance, the expressions come naturally,” said Rajeev Surthi, who has choreographed for films like Don, What’s Your Rashee, and Wanted among others.
Surthi is optimistic and feels classical dance will get recognition slowly.