Helen sent me an email about feet the other day, which I haven’t responded to because I keep thinking about it.
The gist is that there are all kinds of benefits to walking barefoot, especially on the ground, because it puts your brain to work in certain ways.
And today I was just feeling so grouchy, so I took my shoes and socks off and after about twenty minutes, I felt so much better.
I also stood out on my front porch in a t-shirt and underpants yelling at the dog to wait a minute and not roll in the mud after his bath, so I’m not claiming it’s a miracle cure for all that ails you. But I am thinking about how it is good for us to touch things, skin to dirt or wood or grass or whathaveyou.
I was wondering if you’d ever seen/heard this number: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nd5NLbUu44
It relates the beats of the dancers to different forms of the sound beat — played and sung — in a way that’s not quite like anything I’d ever heard. Also, barefoot dancing of a kind that wouldn’t work with shoes on.
That is incredible.
Apparently it was considered shocking and controversial when it came out 25 years ago. There’s a fair amount of lascivious double-meaning to the lyrics, and I really can’t speak to the subtleties of the lyrics because I don’t speak the language. But from what I’ve read, a major part of what shocked people about the whole number was the cheerfully out-there assertion of female desire that exists for the sake of female desire, not for the sake of male agendas. Madhuri Dixit’s amazing dance performance — and she makes facial expression core to her dance performances — really takes the assertion of female sexual agency to the next level.
It was also revolutionary in terms of quality of Bollywood cinema — that single number completely changed the landscape of what people wanted to see because it completely changed the landscape of what people thought was possible to see on the Bollywood screen. Quality of dance and acting took off. Of course, the easiest was to get that for a while was to go see anything with Madhuri Dixit. Prior to this movie, it was standard to whimsically interrupt a movie to have a music and dance set piece with some actress/dancer not part of the story performing it — she’d only be there for the one number. Madhuri Dixit and this number meant that the lead would be the star of the set piece. It also began the trend of two women singing and dancing together in a stunning set piece as a way to query aspects of the film (and make stunning set pieces).
More Madhuri Dixit being stunning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfAFHZ2usIo
Dixit in probably the most famous example of two women performing the big set piece, but this time properly bounded by it being entirely about the male hero and therefore not unacceptably shocking despite it being a courtesan dancing with an aristocrat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbn39j-xa-k&t=21s
Ooo, and I have to add another one, the funniest example I have seen of the two-female-lead set piece.
First, here’s one from later in the movie that shows the female lead character simply having a good time boogey-ing down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pux92WFYL0
This provides the contrast for when she’s in male drag, which she is for a good half the movie, because she’s a badass athlete but they won’t let women on the team. Because a male performer is suddenly unavailable, she winds up performing the male lead in a dance show with her good buddy, and the two of them turn the number into a hilarious send-up of a specific style of toxic masculinity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV4sLBZkU8M
I knew nothing of Bollywood except the name until now but I’m loving these clips. Especially because of the commentary! Thanks Helen!
I just discovered that the movie that contains that first clip I posted is on Netflix. The quality is far, far better than the youtube version. The dance is about 55 minutes in, and the movie is called Khalnayak. The movie isn’t very good, except when Madhuri is dancing, but it’s worth checking out that dance scene in the higher quality, plus it has subtitles if you want to catch the lyrics she’s dancing to.
rheather, they also have a movie called Jab We Met on Netflix at the moment — that’s a really good one for a first time watching a Bollywood movie. They took the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, mixed it up with a bunch of Bollywood tropes, and then stood it on its head by making her agency drive the movie rather than his. Plus it’s a seriously cute movie.