Readers Write In #34: Dancing to Bollywood’s tune

Posted on February 10, 2018


The title is as literal as it gets and makes me a little unhappy for not coming up with a smarter heading.  But hey, as a first time writer I forgive myself.

Growing up, dancing was an alien concept. Parties in our tiny Mumbai flats meant men drinking rum and whisky, women chatting and kids playing saap seedi on the bed. Music at home were tapes of selected songs to be enjoyed for ourselves but when people came, we mostly talked. Somewhere during my early teens people started dancing on New Year’s Eve. Songs were usually from the one or two albums and for some reason Funky Town was always played. Bollywood music had a presence via Chitrahaar and Chaayageet and those were never to be missed, but not really played at home for parties. Dancing was very foreign and it followed that only western music be played because it was a foreign thing to do. (Disclaimer – I am sure Punjabis always knew this ‘dance to celebrate’ pat down.)

So when did Bollywood dancing become a thing? I tend to think of Madhuri Dixit and Ek Do Teen being the spark after which trademark steps and choreography became a thing. Fast forward a few years, better music systems became available in homes and dancing in parties to hit songs became a thing. It was still mostly Michael Jackson and Madonna and other ‘English’ songs. Someone grooving to Hindi songs was usually a comic relief. Unless there was this one person who knew how to do the exact Tamma Tamma step but that would then be a performance.

In the late nineties, private albums and music videos started becoming popular and gradually Indian songs started to take over. Gori naal Ishq, Pari hoon main, Ghaagro jo ghoomiyo, all these popular numbers along with Daler Mehendi became the music that brought maximum participation on the dance floor in middle class parties.

I had now moved to the other side of the world. Finances improved, home sizes grew, spending habits changed and dancing became more frequent. Party planning starts with Save the date, book the DJ and order food. Some people even mention dress codes but I digress. Dancing is now more common than not. The frequency much more than just New Year’s Eve. Today there are desi DJs who know how to get the crowd moving. People talk about how a particular DJ gets the pulse better than the other. Hindi song requests are made and English songs are when a lot of us take a bathroom break or rest the leg. We seem to have come a long way and Bollywood music is firmly in.

By the way, I love to dance. Much to the chagrin of my children, often my spouse and perhaps polite others who are er polite. With two left feet, no formal training in dance, growing up being shy in the rare party scenes and completely alien to the concept of a discotheque, it gives me great pleasure to just let go and dance. But only to Bollywood music. With age came the ability to realize that it is ok to not enjoy dancing to certain music over others. Perhaps it is the familiarity of the song that makes it easier to dance to them. Perhaps Bollywood music is just better.

So what are you dancing to?

Anamika Chatterjee