Since the inception of Indian cinema, it is interesting to note that music and dance formed an integral part of the presentation, so much so that sometimes it was music or dance that dominated the entire film, hence was instrumental in the commercial success of the film as well.
Nevertheless times changed, hence the themes too varied. Music and dance dominated only if necessary, otherwise not.
Hindi cinema, popularly known as Bollywood, had wonderful visuals of varied types of dances, ranging from folk, tribal, classical, and western dances according to the theme or scene that demanded a particular type of dance.
While the southern industry was influenced by classical dances like Bharatanatyam and folk dances, Hindi cinema was impacted by Kathak and northern folk dances like Bhangra for instance, with great performers like Vyjayanthimala, Padmini, Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Hema Malini; actors with an ability to dance well, had greater commercial value as well.
The programme, Nazakat (Journey of Kathak through the Silver Screen), commenced with the song from the magnum opus, K Asif’s Mughal-e- Azam — Mohe Panghat Pe Nandlal... danced by the top heroine Madhubala.
With the visuals of the film in the background, it was exciting to watch the live performance by the dancers, to the number choreographed by Lachchu Maharaj, uncle of Pt Birju Maharaj.
This was followed by the clipping of Satyajit Ray’s commendable film Shatranj Ke Khilari based on Munshi Premchand’s story with the song Kanha Mein Toh Se Haari... in which one could see the young Saswati Sen dancing and Renu Sharma too.
After the thumri, it was interesting to watch Neelima Azim and Priti Agarwal dancing to the famous song from Kamal Amrohi's Pakeezah — Thade Rahiyo... Incidentally, Madhuri Dixit is also a disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj, hence it was thrilling to watch Bhakti Deshpande along with six dancers, performing the popular number from Dil To Pagal Hai, Sargam and Tarana was performed in ‘Roopmati’ followed by Baaz Bahadur with a male protagonist. It was amazing to watch so many dancers in different groups, performing together to reveal the ‘nazakhat’ (elegance) as performed in the Kathak style.
Top films like Devdas, that featured Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai with numbers like Kahe Chedo Nandlal... attracted applause from the packed audience. Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, in which the actor is seen as a Kathak dancer along with the group of dancers, was also well performed. While actress and dancer Prachi Shah performed the number Mohe Rang Do Laal, Nidhi Prabhu performed the popular number from Padmaavat.
The programme concluded with the ashtapadi Kuru Yadu Nandana by Saswati and the entire group of dancers concluded the grand performance with Taal Tarang.
While Sunil Sunkara was among the few male dancers of the programme, the entire credit goes to Saswati Sen and all the dancers for enacting and performing Bollywood Nazakhat in Kathak style and for the live performance that attracted a standing ovation in the packed Tata Theatre.