A Bollywood movie just aren’t right until someone’s dancing. These are the greatest shape-throwing moments in Hindi film history
You might think you know exactly how to bust those Bollywood dance– but, trust us, it’s best left to the professionals. Here we’ve picked some of the most memorable and jaw-dropping dance scenes from Bollywood films old and new. So take a look, start copying these routines in the mirror, and soon you too might be able to dance like Shah Rukh Khan on top of a moving train (although we’d like to prefer it if you didn’t try that). Cue music!
1. ‘Dola Re Dola’
Film: ‘Devdas’ (2002)
Bollywood kitsch doesn’t get any better than this energetic dance performed on large screen in ‘Devdas’ by the two reigning divas of the time, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai.
Dance director Farah Khan dressed the two women in white chiffon saris, and each circles the other, intent on outperforming her counterpart. The result is a camp and colourful visual treat unsurpassed to this day.
2. ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’
Film: ‘Sholay’ (1975)
Before leading ladies in Bollywood were able to play bold and confident characters, almost all film included a ‘vamp’. She was usually the gangster’s moll and wore ‘western’ clothes, smoked, drank alcohol and danced in a skimpy outfit to a cabaret number.
Helen, Bollywood’s most popular vamp, may have well been past her prime when she gyrated in a belly-dancer’s outfit to this RD Burman track (inspired by a song from Greek singer Demis Roussos) – but still she managed to prove that she was Bollywood’s best.
3. ‘Kala Chashma’
Film: ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ (2016)
Inspired by the 2006 Adam Sandler vehicle ‘Click’, ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ was unloved by the critics and the box office, but this song took over Bollywood. Katrina Kaif, often lauded by her co-stars for putting her all into her dancing, serves some fierce choreography to this breezy bhangra-infused R&B bop. It’s no surprise that Bosco-Caesar, the illustrious Indian choreographer duo comprised of Bosco Martis and Caesar Gonsalves, picked up the award for good Choreography at the Zee Cine Awards in 2017.
4. ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’
Film: ‘Lagaan’ (2001)
Renowned choreographer Saroj Khan took this rustic, evocative melody by double Oscar and double Grammy winner AR Rahman, and designed a visual masterpiece to match. Bollywood heavyweight Aamir Khan and co-star Gracy Singh, who is trained in both Odissi and Bharatanatyam classical Indian dance styles, twirl, jump and shimmy to perfection, while Asha Bhosle and Udit Narayan provide the song’s vocals.
5. ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’
Film: ‘Dabangg’ (2010)
In 2010 the competition between ‘item songs’ in Bollywood films reached its peak as filmmakers tried to push the taste barriers as far as they could.
Malaika Arora’s ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’ proudly proclaimed that she was ‘infamous’ and did not go out with guys ‘with no money’, while Katrina Kaif’s ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ in ‘Tees Maar Khan’ just wanted to ‘express love’ to herself as she was ‘too sexy’ for anyone else. ‘Munni’ won as ‘Dabangg’ became a blockbuster and ‘Tees Maar Khan’ crashed at the cinema house.
Film: ‘Bajirao Mastani’ (2015)
The ruling queens of Bollywood, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Deepika Padukone, both of whom are now also making waves in Hollywood, delighted audiences with this emotive sequence that sees the pair dance off in same sarees. Choreographer Remo D’Souza was nominated at the Filmfare Awards and won the Producers Guild Film Award for Best Choreography for the performance. Providing the vocals are Shreya Ghoshal and Vaishali Mhade, while the film’s director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, composed the track.
7. ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’
Film: ‘Khalnayak’ (1993)
‘What’s beneath your blouse?’ is the opening line of this notorious smash hit. The camera then cuts to lead lady Madhuri Dixit who heaves her ample chest whilst giggling shyly and replying that it’s her ‘dil’ (heart).
The song was widely condemned for its naughty lyrics but Saroj Khan’s innovate choreography and Dixit’s nimble moves resulted in a dance considered sensuous without being vulgar. The popularity of this dance sequence was largely responsible for an unremarkable crime film becoming a blockbuster.
8. ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’
Film: ‘Mr India’ (1987)
Sri Devi was Bollywood’s leading actress in the 1980s, and in ‘Mr India’ she enthralled audiences by swaying her buxom figure in a free-flowing blue sari whilst ‘singing’ to her invisible superhero lover.
This is probably the most dignified example of the now-dated ‘saucy wet sari song’ template, which often sees a film’s heroine clad in a flimsy white cotton sari and getting drenched in the rain, so that the director can show off her body without resorting to actual nudity.
9. ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’
Film: ‘Dil Se..’ (1998)
Any dance scene that features one of Bollywood’s most popular leading men, Shah Rukh Khan, and one of the most revered dancers, actress-turned-host of ‘India’s Next Top Model’ Malaika Arora, deserves attention. Add the fact that the whole sequence takes place on top of a moving steam train (!) and you’ve got yourself something only the brilliance and wonder of Indian cinema could produce. The song, written by the legendary AR Rahman, is so catchy that it’s found its way into a number of English-language films and TV shows, like ‘Inside Man’ and ‘CSI: Miami’.
10. ‘Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya’
Film: ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1960)
This black-and-white movie set in the sixteenth-century imperial court suddenly bursts into vivid color for a classic Lata Mangeshkar song, danced intelligently by Madhubala, the movie’s leading lady. Filmed in a hall of mirrors, the dance explores the forbidden love a dancing-girl slave feels for a prince – despite the king’s displeasure.
The song title translates as ‘Why fear when in love?’ and it remains a defiant anthem for anyone who dares to love above his or her class or caste. It’s also one of those rare times in Hindi cinema when a dance assists to move the story forward.