So SRIDEVIPALOOZA 2010 has officially ended, but many of us are still going. The links will continue to be posted, so definitely keep sending any Sridevi-related posts my way!
I wanted to explore something that's a bit problematic for me, because my inner-Sridevi-fangirl doesn't want me to in any way imply that Sri is anything BUT perfection. But that's not necessary as a true fan. It's kind of like recognizing your parents or loved ones shortcomings but loving them regardless. I'm Sri's unconditional fan.
There is no doubt for anyone that Sridevi is a spectacular dancer. She's been touted for many years as being one of the best dancers in Bollywood. I absolutely adore Sridevi and think she is tremendously talented, but the one point that makes me a bit uncomfortable is when people state that she is a good CLASSICAL dancer. Being a good dancer, and being a classical dancer are quite different. Being the daughter of a renowned dancer and having been trained in Bharatanatyam since the age of 2, I'm quite critical when it comes to dance. Ok, I admit, I am VERY critical when it comes to dance. And I also get VERY irritated by the fake classical dance that's often featured in Bollywood, or when classical dance costumes are worn by dancers doing weird hip-shaking, thrusting moves. I feel it's disrespectful to the style that my mother, and so many others, have dedicated their lives to.
So when people try to tell me that I must like Sridevi because she's "such a good classical dancer", I bristle a little. She has openly admitted in many interviews over the years that she is not a classically trained dancer.
She's most certainly a good dancer in general! She does great at your typical Bollywood fare, and she made the odd choreography of whoever created those madcap Sri + Jeetu aerobic routines look good. That is no ordinary feat! She could take the silliest moves, and make them look classy. That's one of the things I loved about her ... the way she could pull just about anything off!
But CLASSICAL dance is different. Having a background in classical dance makes any dancer a better dancer overall. I've seen it in real life too, in the community I grew up in (the Detroit suburbs) ... whenever the girls of the community got together and danced to film songs, the ones that truly stood out were the ones with classical dance training.
So too are the best dancers in Indian Cinema the ones that have classical dance background, including Vyjayanthimala, Padmini, Hema Malini, Meenakshi Seshadri, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwariya Rai. In the South, there's Jaya Prada, Bhanupriya, Amala and Shobhana just to name a few. Even Urmila Matondkar, who I know took dance from my own dance Gurus in Mumbai (the one and only Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natya Kalamandir in Matunga!), has a defined classical dance style, so much so that she sometimes looks like she's doing Bharatanatyam when doing Hip-Hop type moves. Let me clarify that I am not saying in any way that they are superior actresses or that I like them better. Sridevi is my absolute favorite actress of all time. But their classical training makes their movement more refined, more graceful and more exact. It makes a difference! You can always tell when a dancer has had classical training, no matter what style of dance they are doing.
Now before the haters go crazy, let me say another thing. I believe that Sridevi had all the potential to be an AMAZING classical dancer. Without any training, she became famous for "Tandav" dance pieces in many movies, particularly Chandniand Chaalbaaz, and did a spectacular job in the popular "Mein Teri Dushman" song from Nagina. Items like "Jhanjhanana" from Nazrana, "Suraj Naache" from Patthar Ke Insaan, and the fabulous "Naan Vanangugiren" from Guru (video below) showcase her natural talent.
She is an extremely talented dancer and I believe has the unique ability to imitate very, very well, which helped her pull off a lot of the filmi-classical numbers she did over the years. If she had classical training, she would most definitely beat out ALL of the actresses I mentioned above (ok, maybe not Vyjayanthi, but everyone else) as the best dancer in Indian Cinema, hands down. She has inherent talent as a dancer, and would have picked up classical dance very quickly and easily.
And if you watch Sridevi's interview on Baaje Payal (posted below), she makes a VERY valid point. With dance, sometimes your expressions can mask any technical imperfections. This is why classical dancers spend so much time studying Abhinaya and training our faces to convey a myriad of emotions. I always say, a dancer can be the most technically gifted person in the world and the athletic prowress to leap from one end of the stage to the other, but if they can't make me feel any genuine emotion, then I'm not interested in watching them. Indian Classical Dance is spiritual in nature, and the whole idea is to connect with the divine through dance. Abhinaya, or the codified study of expression, is CRUCIAL to a dancer's success.
In that respect, Sridevi is tremendous. Her expressions are awe-inspiring, and I think far more powerful than let's say for example Aishwariya Rai, who is indeed a technically superior dancer, but her face often freezes in an overly-bright smile. Sridevi's expressions are always genuine and certainly are a highlight of her dancing.
Another great point she makes is that she loves to dance and enjoys it, and that might be why everyone likes her dancing. That is absolutely true. When someone genuinely loves what they are doing and expresses that joy outwardly, it is impossible not to enjoy watching them. That is one of the reasons I much prefer watching Sridevi to many of the other classically trained dancers, like Jaya Prada or Hema Malini. Sridevi's joy and exuberance is unbeatable!
For more SRIDEVIPALOOZA posts, visit either my Delicious or Tumblr links! There are many more Sridevi-themed posts to come!
I've been watching Bollywood movies ever since my consciousness set in, which was roughly around 1981-ish. I have a lot of Bollystalgia and I just wanted to share it. I'm also a Bharata Natyam Dancer, a singer, an avid reader, and a Harry Potter freak. I wish that life had a soundtrack. You can also follow me on Twitter or check out my Tumblr account.