There are two names that have had a catalytic effect on this ‘renegade-train-of-thought’, Achinthya and Minai.🙂
See, its like this. The average Malayali psyche, traditionally, has been a pathologically mortified entity when it comes to expressing exuberance, gay abandon, sheer joy – anything that symbolises an overt physical display of happiness, according to me. WE REVEL, WALLOW and FLOUNDER in STOICISM. To us, repression of emotion is something genetic. We must be probably the only regional community on the planet who looks at a wedding, the finest example of an an occasion that symbolises all of the above, as merely a stiff-upper lipped ‘social obligation’ than a celebration. Aww, c’mon, admit it, you would crawl to that dank, musty, dark place where beetles go to die, rather than dance at your brother’s wedding. I know things are slowly changing, but, traditionally we have been so stoic when it comes to expressing emotions that it has inadvertently seeped into our creative expressions as well. In the place of a full – throated ( more like a window-pane shattering war-cry) of Balle ! by a bursting-with-happiness Sardar in an occasion such as the above up North, the best you would come to face in a sea of crackling mundus and tinkling jewellery would be a stern admonishment from the patriarch, “ഇറങ്ങുന്നില്ലേ? മുഹൂര്ത്തം കഴിഞ്ഞിട്ട് അവിടെ എത്തിയാല് മതിയോ അമ്മയ്ക്കും മകള്ക്കും?” Shaking a leg, you see, is the last thing on his mind🙂 . I think this ‘Culture of Extreme Restraint‘ is a part of our anthropological set-up, so to speak, or else how else can you explain two regional communities lying within shouting distance, one who break into a jig at the drop of a hat , and the other who wouldn’t even think of even waggling his finger in rhythm to save his life?
It is in this ‘historical’ context that I wanted you to look at the dance sequences created and adapted for screen for Malayalam films, all the way from 1928. The first two decades had its inevitable (and, shall I say welcome) effect of the Tamil movie culture in the films, which included the number of dance sequences of the movies of those times, which gradually gave way to folksy-choreographed ones in the early Sixties. A shift, I presume that came with the indigenous stories that throbbed with the native identity and a bunch of talented film makers, lyricists and technicians who set about introducing the indigenous cultural idioms on screen. If I were to point out a movie that started off this infusion of our own ethos in dance onscreen, it has to be Neelakkuyil (1954). True, the hangover took a long time to wear off, ( a decade, I think) but the effort started picking up momentum from here on, to me. We got them all, packed tight in the Early years – single Dances, Twin Dances ( Minai’s favorite🙂 ), The Leading Lady in Love ‘Domestic’ Dances, the Mythology Hoe-downs – we had them all.
I wish we had the maximum number of movie dance sequences ever shot on film with Ragini, Padmini and Lalitha – after all they were our own ! Sadly, we have the least. I donot think we need to look far for the ‘why’ of it.
So what is Nruthashala at OMC all about?
It is an attempt to chronologically archive the Dances picturised in Malayalam films, which would help, it is hoped, impart a better perspective on the stylistics and ‘evolution’ of the specialised art form through the years. I just thought of archiving all the dance sequences on video found on popular video-sharing sites, with its years and relevant categories that would help sort them out easily right here on the blog. It would also help avoid any blazing copyright violations with any of the producers. Whatever is available, and if I can find, I intend to archive it here. Organised chronologically, I think it would help make you reach your own fair assumptions and conclusions on the stylistics and evolution of this unique art of Dance in Malayalam Cinema.
What I would love you to do.
- If you are a trained Classical/ Conemporary Dancer and you are reading this, and have the luxury of time and patience, to share your inputs on the whole aesthetics, uniqueness, peculiarities or massive goof-ups on the sequence.
- Sharing info on dance sequences from movies you remember. If you can’t track it down, leave the rest of the hunting and associated research to me.
So, when do we start ?
Now, would be good time Sire !
Ragini living it up with Aaru Nee En Maarivilley from Unniyarcha.