Wow. Whenever I find myself watching allegedly show stopping choreography in new Bollywood films which style themselves as fantasies, this sense of total boredom always creeps in at the sheer unimaginative nature of the dance routines. They're ubiquitous of course. Everyone prances about like their fresh from the Brian Rogers Dance Connection on Seaside Special, same kicks, same cutaways, the lot.
And then I saw Navrang on satellite. Wow. This is a truly fantastical film. It looks genuinely unearthly. The plot: 19th Century sage/poet/artistic type Divakar (Mahipal, looking uncannily like William L Petersen circa Manhunter)has lost his muse. This is a time of British Imperial rule (booo), but there's no overt agenda here. Its a simple story via which Divakar starts to be tormented by his artists' block. Which is where Sandhya comes in. In a dual role of his beloved and his muse she performs some gob smacking classically inspired pieces. There's this scene where she's performing a kathak (?) style routine, balancing about 10 water pots on her head, she even bends down whilst balancing them on her head (no strings). There's fantasy set pieces that are simply beautiful too, notably the piece where she's in the temple, and it morphs into a whole white-out room full of giant temple bells, each with a dancer on the ringer, swaying to the music. This is up there with the glorious surreal set designs of some of the Hollywood musicals of the 30's, and the Powwll & Pressburger film "The Red Shoes" in terms of real skill on display. they make it all look so simple too.
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