Who is Bollywood’s best belly dancer? – a belly dancer’s perspective.

Lately there have been a number of articles in Indian media about belly dance and who is the best bollywood starlet to try the style. Belly dance has held appeal in Bollywood films for many decades but seems to have made a recent comeback. So who is the hottest?

Katrina – hot stuff but barely a hint of the Middle East in the way she moves

After having read over yet another article – I just had to check out the clips and see what all the fuss is about. If you are not familiar with Bollywood films, then you are missing out! While there are many styles within the field, most commonly they are quite spectacular and almost always include several song and dance numbers. That’s why they are great for dancers to watch.

This article is inspired by the photo article and particularly the photo captions from http://ibnlive.in.com/photogallery/7592-13.html

I so disagreed with what they had to say I felt it necessary to speak up on.

First of all, in reference to another recent article in Indian media – Belly Dance is not an Asian dance, it’s Middle Eastern. I am sure Indians would not like it if Egyptians for example, claimed classical Indian style dance to be Eastern Middle Eastern dancing!!! (they haven’t btw, just making a point).

First up for discussion – “Mashallah” from  Ek Tha Tiger starring Salman Khan & Katrina Kaif

This was only released 15 August 2012 and is a great song. I love the blend of Arabic rhythms and sounds. It’s in Hindi with a bit of Arabic thrown in. The video clip has a Middle Eastern feel but ..

I am at a bit of a lose as to where the apparent belly dancing occurs.

The men do a bit of a pelvic thrust at one point and that’s about all the hip movement we see from them. The ladies and Katrina’s much acclaimed belly dancing??? Well there is a bit of a hip drop with a lean  that last for a few seconds at 1:21 and a shake of the shoulders, that’s not really a shimmy. She then rolls in sand and does a fairly vulgar bit of floor work with a body undulation, shoulders on the ground legs apart, pelvis in the air. Floor work has not been popular in Middle eastern dance for some time having been more of a piece of a classic American Cabaret set. Even so, I have not seen any respectable dancer perform this move – ever! Then follows some indistinct hip swaying and a few chest circles.

At best I would say it a fun clip with a tiny bit Belly Dance inspiration and that’s being kind. One of the captions refers to how Mallika (another Bollywood actress) could not compete with Rani and Katrina’s perfect moves. I have to assume they are referring to the bollywood dancing in the clip because Katrina would have had do some belly dance in order for it to be perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I like the clip and Katrina is gorgeous but her belly dance skills are not highlighted in this at all.

So I looked up the apparently sultry but belly dance impaired  Mallika Sherawat in ‘Maiya Maiya’ from ‘Guru’.

The description for this song is ‘ sexy’ ‘big boobs and sexy thighs and waist’, hmmm I think this gives us a clue as to the real reason belly dance is being included into bollywood clips – its the sex appeal not any appreciation for the art form. I think it is of real concern that Bollywood choreograhers all seem to think that belly dancers spend a good deal of their time rolling around the floor. From this selection of clips that would be the only continuous theme despite them all being ‘belly dance’ clips.

So Mallika, can she dance? Yes! She is actually doing recognisable belly dance moves in this clip. There is a definite belly dance flavour to this bollywood piece although please disregard some of the strange contortions on the floor.

Mallika loves to writhe on the floor – unfortunately!

Katrina’s other belly dance offering ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ from ‘Tees Maar Khan’ features mostly bad English lyrics and a montage of dance styles including being wrapped in a sheet on a bed on the stage and what I think is a broadway fusion section. She sings that she is ‘tooo sexy for you’ and ‘ain’t no body got a body like Sheila’. LOL. Anyway there are far more belly dance moves in this including some maias (downward fig 8’s) and bit of a choo-choo, some camels, some hip drops, etc. Predominantly the clip isn’t belly dance even when she is in the belly dance inspired costumes, it is very much a fusion piece. She dances well but I don’t know if she has the feel of the Middle Eastern style.

Scheduled to be released on October 12, 2012 is Rani Mukerji in ‘Aiyyaa’ – ‘Aga Bai’.

I am not sure if by scheduled to be released they mean the movie or the song because the clip was easily available on youtube when I looked it up while writing this on the 10th!

It features a very well built male star Prithviraj Sukumaran whose main job it seems is to be oiled up, look moody and flex .

The belly dancing includes hip flicks and hip drops, a fast popping accent combination, maias, shimmies and fig 8’s. There are other moves that I guess are supposed to look a bit belly danceish but the wide leg stance is not a feature real belly dancers aspire too especially in the Egyptian style. Again its fusion but with a much greater belly dance component than Katrinas numbers. So I say – not bad Rani!

Going back in time to 1979, Zeenat Aman for red costume in the song ‘Raqqasa Mera Naam’ from ‘The Great Gambler’. This is much less of a fusion and more a serious attempt at belly dance. The moves are simple and she isn’t as WOW as the other dancers in the clips above but at least I was not left wondering where the belly dancing was.

Then we have Helen in Mehbooba’ song from ‘Sholay

Sigh – she maybe well loved and lively but her graceless and completely inaccurate ‘belly dance’ left me cold. A few hip bumps was about all I could say were true to style and I had to endure watching yet more rolling in sand.. groan.

Rani wins the modern stakes in my books and thumbs up to Zeenat for a good try.

Do you agree? Comment below

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 10:25:59

    I found this article very interesting.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Dance On Your Limitations | Our Birth Write
  3. l r
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 01:46:28

    I have seen , many girls just move their abs side to side resembling belly dance ‘8’s , but their upper body also keep moving . There is no isolation .
    Actually they try it just by swaying their hips side to side (or may be like horizontal 8) . They (and their proud mothers) claim it to be belly dance .
    After talikng to them , it seemed that they are highly inspired by and trying to imitate Shakira .

    I dont feel it to be proper belly dance , but after their strong claim , I am a bit confused also . What do you think ?

    And during belly dance , should you stand with your hips and knees bent ?
    I have seen this in some tutorial videos . But those girls strongly disagrees with that .

    Like

    Reply

    • jadebellydance
      Dec 04, 2012 @ 14:47:57

      Without seeing what the girls in question are doing, I can’t really comment.
      However I will say that isolation is a key point in good belly dance technique and it is something widely agreed upon. If the dancers in question can’t do a fig 8 with their hips without moving their upper body and head about, then they need to keep practising.
      In Australia, it used to be (years ago) that you were taught to stand with your feet hip width apart and have your knees bent. This is also the same with almost every American DVD I have watched. However, in Egypt I was taught that a softer knee rather than a bent knee was currently ‘correct’. The thing is, what is ‘correct’ will vary depending on who you ask, when you ask and where the were taught. I have seen some very heated debate over the knee issue over the years. Dance changes over time and as far as I can tell there is no definitively right answer with the knee. As far as stance is concerned this varies regionally, Egyptian belly dancers tend to have their feet much closer together but Turkish for instance will often have a much wider stance. Hope this helps!

      Like

    • l r
      Dec 05, 2012 @ 23:36:57

      hmm..Thank you .
      Can you please suggest , which one is more helpful for the isolation part ..
      Feet closer or wider ?
      The hips and knees bent or straight ?

      And by ‘softer knees’ do you mean..the knees are being bent and straight as required ?

      Like

    • jadebellydance
      Dec 05, 2012 @ 23:43:44

      I think feet hip width apart works best (it’s what I do and what I teach).
      You rarely use a completely straight leg in belly dance. Soft knee means, slightly bent, not locked.
      For those struggling with isolation I favour good over all posture and a bent knee, basic postion.

      Like

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