Street Dancer 3D is one of the most highly anticipated Bollywood films. It marks the return of much-loved actors Shraddha Kapoor and Varun Dhawan, on the big screen together.
Plus, it will also see choreographer Remo D’Souza take the director’s seat after a two-year gap, that too in a genre he knows best – dance.
Dancing is a form of expression, liberation and art… As we know, D’Souza has encompassed this notion very well in his works.
Not only is it an exercise, but for many, it’s a veneration which has played an integral part in Bollywood and Indian movies as a whole.
As such, the richness of music or dance number can be a key deciding factor when it comes to a movie’s critical and commercial response.
At times, dance is more than just complementary and contributes towards a film’s storyline.
Filme Shilmy reflects on themes exhibited in various Bollywood ‘dance’ films over the years and how dance has played an essential part in the entire narrative.
The Power of Classical Form: 1950s
The 50s is regarded to be a part of the ‘Golden Age’ of Hindi cinema.
Most of the films at that times explored social themes, primarily dealing with working-class life in India (particularly urban life) especially Post-independence.
During such a period, V Shantaram’s Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje showcased, reportedly as one of the first Technicolour films to release in 1955.
Jhanak exhibits two passionate dancers whose love is tested under competitive and professional pressures.
We see some mesmerising Kathak and Tandav dance numbers, which portray dance as divine and how human sentiments can interfere with the spiritualness of it.
Following this movie’s success, Shantaram explores Indian classical dancing further in Navrang, an exuberant and colourful venture.
The dancing here comes to prominence when a poet (Mahipal) fantasises a more glamorous idea of his wife (Sandhya) and starts relating to this image.
As he gets more engrossed with this fantasy, the dance quotients become more opulent and heavy with props… Remember the ‘Adha Hai Chandrama’ song?
In both these films, dance is like an additional third character amidst the principal love interests… But presented on an opulent canvas.
The ‘Disco’ Emergence: 1980s
Although many film critics hail the 80s as a “low point” in Indian cinema, the decade saw a prominence of ‘Disco’ style movies… Many of which include synthesised music by Bappi Lahiri.
Being a career-defining decade for Mithun Chakraborty, he appeared in several B Subhash films like Disco Dancer, Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki and Dance Dance.
Many of the popular dance numbers i.e. ‘Yaad Aa Raha Hai’ and ‘O Beraham Tune Kiye’ are quite confrontational when the hero would finally get his vegenance against the villain.
During these portions, the choreography would be quite energetic and expressive. The disco genre was equally popular with Govinda.
For instance, in Ilzaam, being a street dancer partially forms the central protagonist’s identity and a pivotal trope to their personality.
Besides the disco and vengeance themed films, the biographical venture Naache Mayuri is based on Bharatanatyam dancer Sudha Chandran, who lost her leg in an accident.
After getting an artificial Jaipur Foot and eventually learned to dance again, triumphing over her fate, and ultimately becoming very successful in her life.
In that instance, dance becomes hope and objective for the main character.
When Dance Fuses With Drama: 1990s
Amidst the predominant family-oriented romantic musicals during the nineties, Yash Chopra’s Dil Toh Pagal Hai (DTPH) and Subhash Ghai’s Taal are an ode to the arts and dance in particular.
In the films, the dances play a major role in reflecting the emotions. For instance, due to the growing jealousy of Nisha (Karisma Kapoor), we see a fierce face-off between Pooja (Madhuri Dixit) and her in ‘The Dance Of Envy’.
The song depicts the truculent and loud movements, topped with stern expression convey the negative emotions. Whereas if you observe the expressions and movements in a song like Pyaar Kar, these are more subtle and soft.
Taal also makes the art an instrumental narrator. There are a song and dance reflecting random aspects of love.
For instance, during ‘Taal Se Taal’ the joyful and soft dance movements symbolise attraction and in ‘Ishq Bina’, there are more classically-inclined steps to highlight reverence.
Both movies portray dance as attainment in life, be it the fame, or just putting on a great show and so the journey up to this point is heightened drama.
The Fight For a Cause: 2000s
The 2000s witnessed the establishment of largest production houses, among them Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions were the bankrollers of new modern films.
Anil Mehta’s Aaja Nachle and Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi were two YRF films that exhibited dance as the rewarding battle for a cause or better life.
The steps in RNBDJ‘s ‘Haule Haule’ are more fluid and easy, highlighting Surinder’s simplicity and patience.
Comparatively, the movements in ‘Dancing Jodi’ are more stylish and zealous because disguised as Raj he is determined for his counterpart to win the competition.
Aaja Nachle‘s title song exhibits Madhuri grooving in a quintessential manner in which she entices viewers with elaborate, expressive, energetic and grand moves.
Given that the title track is at a crucial stage in the film where she requests people to help her save the theatre, therefore that fierceness is also present in her performance.
Dance Becomes Motivation: 2010s
Marking the start of a new decade, the 2010s saw established actors making big-budget masala films, many of which resulted as profitable. There was also an onus on ‘underdog’ stories.
Chance Pe Dance chronicles the life of a struggling actor and dancer (Shahid Kapoor), whose newfound love (Genelia D’Souza) convinces him to enter a talent competition that could make him a superstar.
Initially, his dancing (in ‘One More Dance’) helps to gain recognition, but after a series of setbacks and failures, his grooving (in ‘Pump It Up’) results in him winning the contest and pursue his dreams.
Dance as a source of hope and motivation is clear in Remo D’Souza’s ABCD, which exhibits a choreographer breaking-free from a corrupt manager to faithfully set up his own academy – with passionate performers.
Given that many of these dancers come from working-class backgrounds, as well as other miseries, this academy becomes their ray of hope, a means to live a life of passion/ambition, rather than mediocrity and hardship.
On a similar vein, ABCD 2 also manifests dancing as the second-innings of one’s life. Plus, the routines in the film also introduce characters and their personalities, as well as key narrative tropes.
Breaking Cultural Boundaries & Stereotypes: 2020s
The 2010s concluded with several trends and turning points, be it the prominence of realism in commercial cinema or rise in female-centric content.
Bhangra Paa Le has been the first ‘dance’ movie to jumpstart the 2020s.
Told through a dual-narrative style, it is a bridge between Bhangra from Punjab and its juxtaposition with western dance forms from all across the world.
The ‘bhangra’ during pre-independence quotients is more traditional, but when we see the dances during the present day scenario, there is a more upbeat and modern touch to the movements.
Following this, Street Dancer 3D revolves around 2 rival dance groups from India and Pakistan, who realise that they stem from the same root and have a common purpose to stand for their people from the Asian subcontinent.
In both films, they break (or promise to break) boundaries between various cultures and stereotypes. Hence, dance is projected to be a means of unity and peace.
On the whole, dance has played an integral part in Hindi cinema for several decades.
But in spite of this being an essential aspect to filmmaking, the genre is often unsung or appreciated as much. It can be definitely said to be an underrated style of cinema.
In the examples which we have highlighted, dancing has been a focal point in a film’s narrative and often enriched by human sentiments as well as other themes.
As such, the key facets to dance revolve around: love, hope and revenge. Therefore, it would be interesting to see how Street Dancer 3D (which releases on 24th January) will pay yet another heartfelt tribute to the art form.
We are sure that not only will we get to witness some spectacular dance numbers, but we can also anticipate some high-octane drama.
Watch the Street Dancer 3D Trailer here: