Strictly Bollywood?: Story, Camera and Movement in Hindi Film Dance

Sangita Shresthova

Sangita Shresthova

Film dances, or filmed dance sequences accompanying film songs, are an important part of popular Indian cinema. Over the years, Hindi film dance has evolved from a cinematically simplistic, filmed documentation of performance traditions, to a recognized and increasingly respected dance category emulated in staged performances in India and abroad. Despite their significance, dances in Indian popular films have not been systematically analyzed, and their movement, history, cultural influence and migration remain largely unexplored. The ubiquitous presence and under-theorization of film dances raises many questions about why these dances emerged as key ingredients of film, how their production, dance and cinematic content has evolved over time and, finally, how these dances are received and reinterpreted by audiences outside India. The objective of my investigation here is to set the foundation for an analytical framework for understanding dances in popular Hindi films. Using the relationship between dance sequences in films and their re-staging as Bollywood dances at South Asian cultural shows as a point of departure, I explore the analytical challenges of exploring dances in Hindi films as a first step towards a larger study of the cyclical migration of these dances to be conducted at a later date. My rather formalist approach to Hindi film dances provides a foundation for investigating these dances in way that will allow me to expand on this research in the future. Most importantly, however, I believe my approach to Hindi film dances enables me to explore “Bollywood dance” as a site of reception of Hindi film dances as they move from films to stage.

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