Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Article - Bollywood Kathak - Shama Bhate

I always have wondered and thought about this newly coined phrase ‘Bollywood Kathak’. What exactly does that indicate or denote or even describe? Does Bollywood Kathak have its own characteristics or a framework or codification - rules, principles and thereby a specific aesthetics to it? To my understanding, when Kathak dancers choose songs from Bollywood films for dance compositions, it is called Bollywood Kathak and nothing beyond this! By the same virtue, if somebody were to dance Kathak to Bengali film songs, would it be ‘Bengali Kathak’? Or to Marathi film songs, would it be called ‘Marathi Kathak’? To me, people choose Bollywood songs because these songs are immensely popular and already have their impact on the public mind. A dancer therefore takes advantage by taking a populist approach because it clearly is an easy way to directly reach the common audiences. In brief, it is a short cut to get instant popularity with minimum amount of study, training, toil and hard work! Period!

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4 comments:

  1. Indeed!We need to eschew all these undesirable trends ,concentrate on elevating the understanding of the masses rather than stoop to that level.

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  2. Half glass full or half? It is how one views. We Indians are very democratic people with word, terms, definitions. So, at one level BOLLYWOOD KATHAK can mean , for common man, with no dance background, that it is more classical film dance and not purely filmy. To others, it could mean Bollywood is trying to imbibe some culture! No harm with the word.

    Problem lies when teachers in India ( and especially abroad) start teaching Kathak as Bollywood style! Or reverse. They do dis-service to form and content. It is easy to learn, popular and for average person easily accessible. Same happened to Bharatanatyam when Kamala Laxman did snake dance or such items in films. Bharatanatyam became popular. Later filmstars knew one classical form before they entered film world. Vyjayanthimala, Hema Malini, even Sridevi.

    No art is bad. Whatever be the label. Atleast children learn some art instead of being involved in time-pass activities like drugs or street violence. So dance - no matter what id - gives identity and purpose. For me it's a clear case of glass half full.

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  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeWFDel4wTY&t=2s

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  4. Shama-ji has clearly stated the issues of a contentious topic in the classical arts.

    I understand that many teachers for whom dance is a business, designed to subsidize their own Kathak careers, would like to make their classes popular and accessible. This fills the class roster. The class content short-cuts the long hours of drill needed, for example, simply to master Kathak footwork/tatkar and to understand its underlying theory. And so their classes include a mixture of catchy Bollywood tunes and a bit of classical technique. The slides, hops, sudden stops and posturings, pretty costumes and hip shakes create a movement vocabulary based on mannerisms rather than Kathak forms -- all designed to attract casual students and earn money for the teacher.

    If I am charitable, I would concede to those populist teachers who call this "Bollywood Kathak", that this strategy might lure the students who want a pleasant aerobic workout, to cross the line later into a serious study of classical Kathak. But on the contrary I have observed that the mentality which wants an easy path will rarely choose to persevere and dedicate itself to a classical art by entering through the backdoor of a populist art.

    The willingness to dedicate time and effort to learning any classical technique is inculcated by the example of the Guru and the Guru's demand for detail and respect for the foundational building blocks of a technique. Beginners who want easy gratification call the necessary drilling "boring". Students who want to learn Kathak will call this essential practice "riyaz".

    I do not condemn any dance form. I enjoy them all. I am happy that there are many options from which both the dilettante and the serious student can choose to experience the joy of organized movement which we call "dance". But I think our Kathak Gurus need to be clear about whether they are teaching an art or an exercise routine. A classical technique builds a progenerative engine, through which creativity can be expressed in countless new forms. An exercise routine creates momentary pleasure for the exerciser and for their witnesses. But the lasting, thought-provoking aesthetic enjoyment of real art - which we call RASA - is evoked in the audience by nuanced performances and recognizable command of a classical technique.

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