I am not sure how many people follow the Indian reality shows on TV but I have been following two dance shows: Dance India Dance on Zee TV and Jhalak Dikhla Ja on Sony. While JDJ is on the lines of “Dancing with the Stars” – where celebrities dance with some renowned choreographer; DID is a refreshing competition where young kids compete while they are trained by some top choreographers.
The judges (and in case of DID – judges double up as mentors and trainers) are very different. JDJ has two famous choreographers – Saroj Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant along with Juhi Chawla, the famous actress. DID has three top choreographers – Remo D’Souza (choreographed for films like Rangeela, 36 China Town, Dhoom etc), Geeta Kapoor (choreographed for films like Saathiya, Heyy Baby, Om Shanti Om, Dostana etc) and Terence Lewis (the internationally trained choreographer specializes in Indian folk and contemporary dance forms, and he has been part of films like Lagaan, Jhankaar Beats). The Grand Master is Mithun Chakraborty. The difference between the two sets of judges is so apparent!
Saroj Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant are so rank bad compared to the trio from DID that I sometimes get embarrassed. But the incident which clearly showed the difference was when Deepak and Parul – two contestants – showed a composition where Deepak danced the Yakshagana form of dance. Immediately after the performance Vaibhavi went after Deepak saying his mudras (or actions) were wrong… “You were doing Kathakali, right?”. He coolly replied “No Ma’am, it is called Yakshagana, and my Guruji is here as well”. (NOTE: while Kathakali is from Kerala, Yakshagana is from Karnataka) These two ladies, Khan and Merchant, were still not satisfied – they were viewing an ancient dance form from the lens of their Bollywood style dancing – and went on to argue with the Guruji himself until they could “prove” that Deepak had done a shoddy work!
I am sorry but Saroj Khan in my eyes was not a great choreographer. If it hadn’t been for the talent of Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit, this female would have been nowhere! Success of her compositions ONLY worked because of the charm and style of Sridevi and Madhuri and the way they carried off some of the even most mediocre dances to great heights. But the swagger that she and that other choreographer – Vaibhavi – have is just so irritating!
On the other hand, the choreographers on DID are very refreshing. Remo, for example, has been showcasing some dying dance forms on the stage and thankfully he has people like Salman to do them.
Like recently Salman did Chhau while covered in fire (under some real heavy clothing). That style is very rare and is from West Bengal.
There was another dance form that was showcased via Mangesh – I don’t remember the name – where the dancers go from house to house singing and hitting themselves and asking for alms. They are begging. For the Sorrows of the people. Effectively they say to the people, “We beg you to give us your sorrows, so you will be left with Happiness only”! I was dumbfounded when I heard this main sentiment behind this act – which is done on the streets of Maharashtra. Hats off and my respects for such sacrificing set of people!
Similarly Terrence tries to show some different dance forms from the international repertoire – like he showcased Argentinian Tango and Old School Jazz recently.
Geeta experiments in her own way and some of her choreography has been rather excellent as well. She had Seedhesh and Sunita in the latest episode do an unusual intrepretation of Bachchan’s raunchy song “Jumma Chumma de de” using Kathakali. She wanted to showcase the dance form so people in general could see and like it. I loved the sentiment and that she was able to train the kids in a week on this dance form to a point where they gave an incredible performance. And for Seedhesh, who in the last episode was warring with Prince on locking and popping and break dance nuances, this was an amazing show of something totally different!
It is so refreshing to watch DID because here are three bold choreographers who use very mouldable and fearless kids to create compositions in dance that have probably never been seen on Indian screen! Very few of the Indian movie stars could really perform some of the dances that these kids have been doing. And that is why I keep saying with each episode that “Dance India Dance is showcasing dance composition, the likes of which have NEVER been seen in India and probably we get to see the best dancing ever attempted in the country!”
Yes, I know those in JDJ are celebs (and some pretty old), but there is a distinct lack of imagination even in those choreographers. And when those choreographers DO experiment, it is too heavy for the old school judges like Saroj Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant, who are too full of themselves and have ZERO humility!
So go on Geeta, Remo and Terrence.. you guys are doing some truly outstanding work on dances in India.. I look forward to every episode of yours!
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