… but you’re welcome to try!
This week my favorite dance show, So You Think You Can Dance, got on the “Vindaloo Express” when the two of the contestants were asked to perform “something called Bollywood” as taught to them by someone called “Na-kull“. It was pretty awesome.
In fact, not even Bollywood manages to pull it off every time (hey everybody, wave hello to Manoj Bajpai as he hits rock bottom!). But the kids on So You Think You Can Dance are genuinely amazing and are up to anything (perhaps even the quick step one day) and they proved it by dancing to “Dhoom Tana” from Om Shanti Om.
Was it the best routine of the night? No. But it was fun and it was well done. While the judges went wild on the idea that they’d actually featured something that wasn’t from the Western hemisphere on the show (no, the “Vietnamese” waltz doesn’t count because, um, it actually Viennese), the most interesting part of the routine, for me, was to watch them try to critique the performance. I have a feeling it wasn’t just the audience at home that was wondering what that was all about, because I didn’t hear any of the three of them actually say anything other than how much they loved it and how happy they were to see something different on the show.
Which is fair, I think. When a dance style evolves around the dictum that a movie star must dance, you have to expect a certain flexibility of style and affinity to improvisation. And you can’t sweat things like flubbing your steps. Which is kind of hard for formally trained dancers.
Kudos then, to both Katee and Joshua for pulling it off. While Katee is a natural attention grabber, I was particularly impressed by Josh, who I’ve never thought all that but did those Bharatnatyam-esque moves with grace and ease.
In fact, until I saw Katee and Josh dance, I didn’t realize how little part technique really plays in a Bollywood production. I suppose I knew that somewhere in the back of my mind but it wasn’t until I saw two decidedly un-Indian dancers pull off a well-choreographed routine that the importance of chemistry in Bollywood dance struck me.
Driving the point home was the memory of this show I recently discovered on MTV India called iSuperstar. It sounds obnoxious but it’s actually kind of interesting because the people on the show are superfans who want to be just like their favorite stars. I didn’t quite get the ultimate objective of the show – or even if there was one – but they fly in these kids, give them a makeover (some of them quite tragic, poor things) and give them a chance to work it like pros. And some of them get really touchy when they’re made increasingly aware of their shortcomings. Drama!
Of the three episodes I’ve seen (featuring kids who wanted to be Madhuri Dixit, Abhishek Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan), I thought the Abhishek Bachchan episode was fascinating because they chose that hip-hop title track from Bluffmaster. And as the choreographer, Ahmed Khan, and his assistant kept trying to explain to the truculent, heavy footed contestant, that’s a song about attitude rather than moving your feet.
In direct contrast, we have the Hrithik Roshan kid who chose the “Main Aisa Kyun Hoon” song from Lakshya, which I absolutely love, and although he apparently already knew the steps, had to go through a couple of sharp lessons in technique.
All of which brings me back in a roundabout fashion to my central question: how would you judge a Bollywood routine? Is it one of those “you know it when you see it” things?