India has a plethora of ways to display its history and culture. From traditional art forms to architecture, we can see the country’s rich heritage at every turn. The truest essence of the unique culture, as well as the emotions of people, is seen through the classical and folk dances of India.
The Classical And Folk Dances Of India
India is home to eight classical dance forms recognised by the Sangeet Natak Academy. They are Kathak, Kuchupudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathakali, Bharatanatyam, Satriya and Mohiniyattam. Apart from these, different regions, as well as tribes in the country, possess indigenous dances, performed on special occasions. These dances are called folk dances. Some examples are Bhangra, Bhiu, Bakho-Bakhain, Garba, Jhumar, Lavani etc.
Classical and folk dances of India have not lost their charm despite the influx of several western dance forms. In fact, many Indian films use traditional dance forms to portray the country’s history and tradition. Below we have listed a few of the films that beautifully showcase the traditional dance forms of the country.
Films That Showcase Classical And Folk Dances Of India
Lavani is a famous folk dance of Maharashtra. Performed in several cities, the dance form has tremendously contributed to Marathi folk theatre. The term ‘Lavani’ is derived from ‘Lavanya’, meaning beauty. It is a combination of dance and teasing lyrics together with the warm rhythm of a Dholak.
This dance form is performed by Bollywood’s leading actresses in several films. Helen gave an unforgettable performance in the song ‘Mungda’ from ‘Inkaar’. Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit performed the dance style in ‘Main Kolhapur Se Aayi Hoon’ from ‘Anjaam’ as well as in ‘ Humko Aajkal Hai’ from ‘Sailaab’.
More recently, the actress Vidya Balan also received praise for her Lavni in ‘Mala Jau De’ from the film ‘Ferrari ki Sawari’. The popular movie ‘Bajirao Mastani’ shows Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone performing this amazing dance.
Garba is a fascinating dance form performed during the Navratri festival in Gujrat. It gets its name from the Sanskrit term ‘Garbha’ meaning womb as well as ‘Deep’ meaning lamp. Traditionally people perform Garba around a centrally lit lamp or an idol of the Goddess Shakti.
This spectacular dance form is seen in the movie ‘Ramleela’ during the dong ‘ Nagada Sang Dhol Baje’. Other songs that showcase this dance are ‘Dolida’ and ‘Chogada’ from Loveyatri, ‘Udi Udi Jaye-a’ from Raess as well as ‘Shubhaarambh’ from ‘Kai Po Che’.
Rauf is a popular folk dance from Kashmir, performed during Eid and Ramzan. It is a springtime dance. Women perform this dance in sync with the rhythm of poetry. The most notable feature of the dance form is the intricate footwork, also called Chakri in the local language.
The dance form made its way into the famous movie ‘Mission Kashmir’ Performed by Preity Zinta and Hrithik Roshan, the song ‘Bumbro’ became a household name.
Ghoomar is a folk dance from Rajasthan. Derived from the word ‘Ghoomna’ meaning spinning around, Ghoomar, performed by women involves moving in and out of a circle. Donned in flowing skirts called Ghagharas, the spinning movement creates a kaleidoscope of colours when viewed from above.
The latest Deepika Padukone starer ‘Padmavati’ shows this exquisite dance form.
Odissi is a dance form that originated in the temples of Orissa. Originally, the royal women of the state performed the dance, especially when a new bride enter’s her husband’s home.
Vidya Balan presented this art form in ‘Mere Dholna starring’ from the movie Bhool Bhulaiya.
Kathak is one of India’s classical dance forms. It is unique as it possesses both Hindu as well as Muslim forms and cultural elements. Dancers perform Kathak on Urdu ghazals along with instruments invented in the Mughal period. Kathak has three distinct forms or Gharanas named after where the dance form evolved. The Jaipur Gharana focuses on footwork while the Banaras and Lucknow Gharanas focus on graceful hand movements and facial expressions.
This beautiful dance form has influenced many dancers. Firstly, in the song ‘Inhi Logon Ne’ from the movie Paakezah starring Meena Kumari. Secondly in the song ‘Ghar More Pardesiya’ from the movie ‘Kalank’ has a classic portrayal of Kathak. Unlike the previous mention, this song showcases both the Hindu and Muslim versions of Kathak. The former is performed by Madhuri Dixit as well as the dancers and the latter by Alia Bhatt.
Bharatanatyam is a colourful, energetic dance form from the state of Tamil Nadu. It involves rhythmic and strong footwork as well as spinning movements and striking poses. In Bharatanatyam, The primary focus is facial expressions and the Chilanka. Originally associated with temple performances, Bharatanatyam focused on one particular diety. Eventually, it became a form of storytelling.
The song ‘Marainthirunth Paarkum Marman Enna’ from the Tamil movie ‘Thillana Mohanambal’ has a beautiful Bharatanatyam performance by actress Padmini. It shows several instruments like the mridangam, veena as well as nattuvangam, traditionally used in the dance. In addition, the song focuses on the Navarasas or the Nine sentiments that act as the backbone of Bharatanatyam.
This classical dance form from Kerala is known for its heavy makeup which takes hours to complete. The performers adorn multiple layers of clothes, a headpiece and colourful makeup that signifies the character being played. The name ‘Kathakali’ comes from ‘Katha-Kali’ meaning story told. The dance is based on Vedic texts, mostly the Mahabharatam.
In the movie ‘Vanaparastham’, Mohanlal plays a lower caste kathakali dancer. Mohanlal beautifully portrays the essence of Kathakali in the song ‘Arjuna Vallabha’. The song focuses on the nuances of the dance form like performance timing, storytelling as well as the use of percussion instruments like chenda, edakka, maddalam and chegalam.
Dumhal is a folk dance from the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir, performed by the men of the Watal tribe on special occasions at particular locations. The dancers wear long and colourful robes as well as a conical cap studded with beads and shells. The dancers sing the chorus with drums to assist the music. They move in a ritualistic manner around a banner dug onto the ground.
The choreography of ‘Bismil’ performed by Shahid Kapoor in ‘Haider’ is a manifestation of this tribal folk dance. The song was shot at the sun temple and contained various key elements of the dance form.
Classical and folk dances of India are a great way to showcase the rich culture of the country. Its popularity knows no bounds and people still prefer to learn these dance forms.
Podium school offers Kathak classes to kids interested in learning the traditional dance form. You can find more information here.