Director: Uday Shankar; Cinematographer: K. Ramnoth
Duration: 02:17:45; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 93.400; Saturation: 0.015; Lightness: 0.296; Volume: 0.182; Cuts per Minute: 13.684; Words per Minute: 2.069
A dance spectacular, four years in the making, orchestrated by India’s most famous modern dancer (and brother of Ravi Shankar). The narrative of the surreal fantasy is embedded within a framing story of a writer telling a story to a film producer, who eventually declines to make the movie. The writer tells of Udayan (Shankar) and Kamini (Kanta) and the young man’s dream of establishing an art centre, Kalakendra (a fictional equivalent of Shankar’s India Cultural Centre at Almora) in the Himalayas. Shot in the Gemini Studios in Madras, this ode to creative imagination mobilises the vocabulary of traditional dancing, which doubles as a metaphor for the dreams invested in the newly independent India. The choreography was specifically designed for the camera, with semi-expressionist angles and chiaroscuro effects, and became a model for later dance spectaculars like Chandralekha (also made at Gemini and shot by Ramnoth, 1948) and the dream sequence in Raj Kapoor’s Awara (1951). For many years, the unusual film was seen as exemplifying a successful fusion of Indian modernism and the cinema. Shankar, who had danced with Pavlova, was lauded by James Joyce in a letter to his daughter: ‘He moves on the stage like a semi-divine being. Believe me, there are still some beautiful things left in this poor old world.’ A 122’ version was shown in the US although one reviewer noted that the Indian government seemed reluctant to let it be seen abroad.
Dance - Folk dance between a young Udayan (dressed as a girl) and a young boy; the first dance in the film.
Dance - Kathakali dance, one of the few classical dance styles presented in the film.
Dance - First dream dance sequence in the film; features the undulating arm movements Uday Shankar was known for. Scene immediately before the sequence provides context (injury enables Shankar's arm to become instrument of flexible artistry).
Dance - Short dance practice scene led by Uma (Amala Shankar).
Dance - Folk dance by Uma (Amala Shankar); appears to be based on Rajasthani folk dance.
Dance - Appears to be based on Shankar's "Tandava Nritya" (later "Tandava Dwanda") which Ruth Abrahams describes as the "first major work choreographed by Shankar after his extensive trip throughout India" and after his training with Kathakali exponent Namboodiri. The number premiered in Paris in 1931 and was based partly on Kathakali movements/hand gestures and costume. Characters featured were Shiva (Shankar), Gajasura the elephant demon, Parvati, and Joya the maid servant.
Source: Abrahams, Ruth Karen. "The Life and Art of Uday Shankar."
Dance - Folk dance by villagers; presumably West Bengal after recovery from famine.
Dance - Montage featuring four quick dance sequences. 31:55 Bharatanatyam-inspired dance; 32:00 Tandava Nritya/Dwanda reprise; 32:05 wave-movement dance (by Lalitha?); 32:09 Shiva and Parvati image?
Dance - Stage dance featuring young women in deep half-seated (Kathakali?) posture.
Dance - Excerpt featuring Uma (Amala Shankar) and male dancers.
Dance - Short practice scene led by Uma (Amala Shankar).
Dance - Appears to be based on Shankar's choreography "Snanum" (Bathing), based in Kathakali style, which depicted a group of girls undressing and bathing in nearby water. The full piece began with the girls gathering flowers and one girl being stung by a bee and ended with the girls rushing out of the water after hearing footsteps.
Source: Paine, Jayantee. "Dancer Uday Shankar: Integrating East and West." Paine based her descriptions on her viewing of real-life video footage provided to her featuring a few of Shankar's choreographes.
Dance - This may be a brief excerpt from Shankar's "Kartikeya" choregraphy which is said to have been one of his most popular. Ruth Abrahams notes the piece depicted "a warrior-god preparing to fight a demon" and was "based on a few elemental kathakali movements."
Source: Abrahams, Ruth. "The Life and Art of Uday Shankar."
Dance - Folk "Bhil Dance" that appears to be taken from Shankar's choreography "Bhill Dance" that debuted during the 1937-38 US tour. Ruth Abrahams notes the piece was "derived from an aboriginal tribe of India-the Bills," and it "depicts a festival after the wedding, showing the jealousy between the husband and lover over the young wife."
Source: Abrahams, Ruth. "The Life and Art of Uday Shankar."
Do you know, Mr Nayak, there is now control over the sale of whiskey? It will cost Rs 20.
I have bought it in the black market for Rs 125 and even 150
If only man's Kumbh was saleable, like alcohol. It could at least be priced at the same price as liquor.
They say there will be a major famine soon
Famine is to hit!
Our poor country!
I feel a pity for India!
Whenever I read the news about the Bengal Famine, I would become unconscious! Then my husband said, Lily darling, don't read the papers. Your heart's weak. Oof!
I don't understand why! Hindustan has so many people dying. What a pity.
Oh let's forget tis pity. And come, let's drink the poison of the lakhs of people dying.
To the death of lakhs people - Cheers!
More than this, what can we do?
Why not? All of you are wealthy men. Help the country's art, culture and humanity.
Nice idea. This much we can certainly do.
No, not just that - call him the Prince of the Textile Mills
I'm no Prince, I am just a peasant. I am merely a servant of the people. A friend of the poor
My factory! My enterprise.
Ballet of Labour and Machinery, Dance, Modern Dance, Almora, Gemini Studio
Sequence choreographed entirely for this film, and never used again, this forms the most extraordinary dance performance from the entire film. At a drunken meeting of various rich patrons of the arts, a millowner unveils his dreams for his mill. The camera enters the model of his mill, and the dance begins. Udayan starts by being unsuccessful in getting the mill workers to come to any consciousness, whereupon the owner asks him to become a proper machine. In the rest of the sequence, Udayan becomes a complete mechanical instrument.
These incompetent workers of mine - I will make them men of steel. I will make men into machines.
The Ballet of Labour and Machinery
The millowner shakes up a somnambulent worker.
Look carefully: what is in our time.
The millowner's dance
Listen now to this. You should learn not only to work the machines, but to work as machines.
Work as a machine.
The call of the countryside
Having forgotten this earth, which demon have we been trapped by?
The millowner returns
Careful! Do not be trapped in his web.
Wah, my government!
Millowner become a worker-machine
Laughter, and fade back to the party
Dance - Features "dancers moving like puppets to a patriotic song penned by the poet Sumitranandan Pant." Source: Purkayastha, Prarthana. "Dancing Otherness: Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the Work of Uday Shankar."
Dance - The graduation sequence with dancers dressed in glasses/spectacles and graduation gowns. The young generation questions and criticizes the education system and their uncertain future. At the end of the sequence, a group of confident and assertive women face a group of older, "traditional" men who want to tell them what they can and can't do; Urmimala Sarkar Munsi notes "this sequence, known to the dancers as 'old and young', was performed by us as members of the performing troupe of the Uday Shankar India Cultural Centre as a part of the recreated choreography Labour and Machinery by Amala Shankar in the late 1970s." Source: Munsi, Urmimala Sarkar. "Imag(in)ing the Nation: Uday Shankar's Kalpana."
Dance - The iconic dance that features in many stills and images circulated about the film. It appears to be based on Shankar's piece "Kartikeya" due to the Nataraja-like frozen pose with one leg raised in front.
Dance - Punjabi/Sikh dance; one of the many regional dances presented in the film.
Dance - The latter portion of this group song features some stylized movements and walking.
Dance - Kandyan dance (from Sri Lanka) in the Spring Festival; multiple male dancers in Ves costumes.
Dance - Two folk dances/ceremonies in the Spring Festival.
Dance - Appears to be Southeast Asian dance in the Spring Festival; some have identified it as Manipuri.
Dance - After an imaginative introduction, a group dance featuring Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar as Shiva and Parvati; Uday is wearing the Shiva headdress seen in many photographs, and the ending pose of he and Amala is very similar to photographs of he and Simkie.
Dance - Manipuri dance sequence featuring first the Manipuri guru (likely Amobi Singh himself) and then Uma (Amala Shankar) and group.
Dance - Appears to be based on Shankar's "Rasa Leela" choreography which depicted Krishna charming the cowherds and milkmaids. Unusual in featuring a brief segment of footwork by Shankar. Parts of this choreography danced by Simkie and Shankar can be seen at BritishPathe's website.
Dance - Kathak solo sequence. A surprising inclusion since Shankar was said to not "appreciate" Kathak and felt "it had a certain cheapening effect, that there was always a kind of flirtation between the dancer and the audience. This sort of "look at how I am performing" effect." Source: Zohra Segal interview in C.S. Lakshmi's "Mirrors and Gestures: Conversations with Women Dancers."
Dance - Brief dance with women holding sickles.
Dance - Various dances, folk and creative.
Dance - Manipuri "Pung Cholom" drum dance. A solo "Pung Chalam" dance by Mahabir was part of Shankar's troupe's concert choreography at one time. Source: Abrahams, Ruth. "The Life and Art of Uday Shankar."
Dance - Sequence featuring usage and images of drums. At the end, the bare-legged spins of the young women send the "emotometer" to "Sex Appeal"!
Dance - Dance interlude with various dances.
Dance - May be based on Shankar's choreographies "Sword Dance" (in which women consecrate swords before their men leave for war) or "Astra Puja" (depicting a festival worshiping arms in which "the women place the sign of victory upon the foreheads of the men"). Sources: Paine, Jayantee; Abrahams, Ruth.
Dance - Tribal (Naga-inspired?) dance. Shankar had a solo dance piece "Naga" in his repertoire.
Dance - Group of young women perform confident walk and skipping movements; in this segment they become more "dance-like"
Dance - Sequence featuring multiple dance segments focused on Udayan (Uday Shankar) and Uma (Amala Shankar). Begins with Udayan identifying as man, Uma as nature, and various words are spoken throughout the sequence such as civilization, youthfulness, sadness, direction, society, etc.
Dance - The final dance sequence in the film; it sends the "emotomer" to "Ecstacy" and beyond.