Gupt, which starred Booby Deol (I know, it's Bobby, but you know - ever since Stardust made that typo, I can't call him anything else), Kajol and Manisha Koirala, was a surprising murder-mystery that in a time saturated with repetitive storylines was incredibly exciting and refreshing. Booby plays Sahil, who is in love with his childhood sweetheart, Isha, played by Kajol. Sahil has a complicated and problem-laden relationship with his stepfather (Raj Babbar), who wants him to marry Sheetal (Manisha Koirala). When his stepfather surprises him by announcing Sahil's engagement to Sheetal at a party, he goes ballistic on him and threatens to kill him in front of the entire crowd. The next day, his stepfather is found dead, and Sahil is the prime suspect. From there spins a wild web of murder and suspense with Sahil on the trail to find the real killer.
Booby wasn't a revelation or anything, but the ladies made this film fun to watch (Kajol was good, but I particularly liked Manisha's character, who was calm, collected and mature about the fact that the boy she loved was in love with someone else). It's a bit difficult to watch it today because of the amazing 90s styling, but it certainly stuck in my memory all these years - though that is clearly because of the amazing soundtrack by Viju Shah. I mean come on, the guy came up with gems like "Saat Samundar" from Vishwatma, "Tip Tip Barsa Paani" from Mohra and "Aankh Maare" from Tere Mere Sapne!
I adored the soundtrack of Gupt long before the movie came out, particularly "Mere Khwabon Mein Tu" and "Mushkil Bada Yeh Pyar Hai" -- but by FAR my favorite song was "Yeh Pyar Kya Hai" which uses the beautiful flute intro from "Yashomati Maiyya" (Satyam Shivam Sundaram) set to a techno-ish beat. It works. I love it.
What I DON'T love and what drives me crazy about this song's picturization is the total rape and abuse of classical dance. They have a full stage set of dancers in four of the traditional classical dance costumes of India - Kathakali, Manipuri, Kathak and Bharata Natyam. While they are wearing the costumes, the dancing they are doing is anything BUT. I will go so far as to say the dancing is atrocious and an absolute insult to the costumes they are wearing. The Kathakali dancers might use an actual move or two from the dance style, but they are performed so awkwardly that I was cringing. The Kathak and Manipuri dancers are just flailing about, but I am most disturbed by the Bharata Natyam dancers - since I AM a Bharata Natyam dancer, obviously.
First, their costumes are the versions wore by little girls that don't have bosoms yet. Adolescent dancers and older always wear an additional piece called the dhaavani or melaakku across the torso. Seeing adults not wearing that piece is basically vulgar in my eyes. And then the dancing ... oh god, it's awful. Their feet are yards apart, there's absolutely no technique, it's just SO bad. And I just can't understand why people insult the costume, thinking that it just looks cool to wear it and you don't have to have any respect for the actual art itself.
I know I'm getting unnecessarily upset about this, but it's just so representative of how our own people treat classical dance, and traditional arts in general. Why dedicate yourself to 8-10 years of training and discipline? Just throw on a cool looking costume and shake your hips! It's what I see at all these college and community so-called cultural shows, and it pisses me off. Kids think that doing a Bollywood/Hip Hop/Fusion dance means they are in touch with their culture. There's usually 20 of those items, and then one token "classical" dance that usually has very little classical content to it - and everyone applauds them for making classical dance "interesting" by doing it to Western or Bollywood music or doing a few basic classical dance steps (not even truly doing one style, but mixing moves from Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi) and then waving their arms around all over the place.
That aside, I love the song. I LOVE the crazy, totally 90s dance moves Booby, Kajol and Manisha are trying so hard to do. I dig the weird hairstyle on Manisha and I really want to know if Kajol's wig is attached to the beret. I love how Manisha can't dance to save her life (can you say HOT MESS?) and Booby almost falls over doing some of these moves in his tight jeans, while Kajol just looks awkward and uncomfortable but is still trying to rock it out (you go girl).
And I do give credit for the concept! If they had REAL classical dancers doing ACTUAL dance steps, I think I would have found it quite beautiful and interesting. The classical dance costumes are incredibly fascinating (particularly Kathakali, with those elaborate masks, makeup, crowns and dresses) and the idea of all the classical dances presented on one stage is very exciting. If they had just taken the time and effort to hire real dancers and choreographers, I would have absolutely loved the final effect.
|Image of Kathakali costuming by Rahul Sadagopan|
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