Happy Birthday Prabhudeva!

Woo-hoo!  Prabhudeva’s birthday!  45 reasons to love him, and an excuse to post A LOT of Prabhudeva songs!  And maybe a few facts scattered in.  But not many. (I know you may not have time to watch all the videos I put in this posts, but some of these are truly not to be missed, so the ones in bold you MUST WATCH!!!)

1.1. I love you because you have a lifetime of training in dance, your father was a film choreographer and you spent your childhood learning Bharatnatyam, along with modern dance.

2. I love you because you made your first appearance on film in Mouna Ragam at age 13, meaning it let us see both the very earliest Man Ratnam style, and the very earliest Prabhudeva dancing, two geniuses in embryo together.

(He’s not the main dancer, he’s the little boy with the flute at 2:20.)

3. I love you because you made your big breakthrough at only 21 with not one, but two major all time classic hits in the same film.

4. And the other hit, the one that became your lifelong theme song and a youth anthem for generations to come.

5. I love you because that first breakthrough performance also started your collaboration with AR Rahman.  Both of you were classically trained in traditional Indian musical art, but interested in exploring how those traditional forms could interact with the new Western music.

6. I love you because you and Rahman managed to drag Indian song videos into the modern era, without giving up their traditional basis.  Look how this love song mixes the vision of the mustard fields of India with the bright lights of America.

7. I love you because you showed off your classical training mixed with your pop music influenced dance in a super fun song with Shilpa Shetty of all people!

8. I love you because you reunited with Mani Ratnam 11 years after Mouna Ragam for Minsara Kanavu.  Featuring a truly spectacular dance number in which Ratnam’s camera, Rahman’s songs, and your dancing all came together.

9. That’s the more spectacular one, but for me I love this song more.  For one thing because it’s the first song that made me go “Hey!  He loves Gene Kelly as much as I do” because it is a clear homage to the “Love Is Here to Stay” number from An American in Paris.

10.  Speaking of Gene Kelly, I love you because when you were asked to choreograph for Madhuri Dixit, you looked to one of the all time great female film songs, “Get Happy” from Summer Stock, for inspiration.  

11.  I love you because in addition to Madhuri, you also worked with Hrithik, not even appearing onscreen with him, just choreographing, possibly the biggest compliment you could give a dancer, trusting his ability to do your choreography.

12. I love you because you managed to straddle multiple industries for years, in a way only your collaborators Rahman and Ratnam managed to do.  You never fully left the Tamil industry, and yet you were known through out India just because of the excellence of your work.

13.  I love you because you might have stayed in the Tamil industry primarily, if it hadn’t been for great personal tragedy which lead to great life changes, your son dying at 13 from cancer in 2008.

14.  I love you because you suffered an even more public problem when your wife filed a petition two years later against you for living with an actress, and you handled it with as much dignity as you could.

15.  I love you because you were smart enough to react to these issues not by trying to get your life back, but by accepting that your life had changed and changing industries to cities, moving to Bombay and working in Hindi film.

16.  I love you because you refused to move backward in your career, you had become a director in Tamil cinema, you took your first Hindi directing job the year your son died, and came back to Bombay as a full time director in 2012, as your marriage had ended and the actress you had left your wife for had also left you (possibly driven away by all the public hatred directed towards her).

17.  I love you because you started your Hindi career with a bang, bringing a remake of one of the all time hits from the south (Pokiri, which I loved, and which you had already remade from Telugu to Tamil), and combining it with Salman Khan’s star power to blast of a whole new genre of Hindi films.

18.  I love you because you also proved that you could choreograph for even weaker dancers.  I love Salman, and think he is the best natural dancer of the Khan’s, but I assume his health issues have severely limited his abilities, and you worked around that.

19.  I love you because in the middle of this career transition, you also agreed to appear in a supporting role in a Malayalam historical film, Urumi.  Not a very good career decision, but a really interesting artistic decision.

20. I love you because you came back to Hindi films another southern remake, Rowdy Rathore.  Once again, you were working with a so-so dancer (fine for normal songs, but not Hrithik or Madhuri level), but you still managed to come up with a unique dance.

21.  Multiple interesting songs!

22.  And one song where you brought in professional dancers as ringers (including my favorite item girl!)

23.  I love you because in the middle of all this, you didn’t forget your dancer roots, appearing in an item song yourself.

24.  And when you were stuck directing a launch film for a producer’s son, you pulled at all stops and appeared in a song yourself in an effort to save it.

25.  And you made another “playing a flute” cameo, just like in your first film at age 13, in a film with Akshay Kumar.

26.  For your 4th directing job, you finally had a trained dancer to play with, along with an actress you had worked with before, and you made the most of it!

27.  Even in a less “dance-y” song, you can still see the perfect grasp of rhythm and control of the body from someone who isn’t an “actor who learned to dance” but rather “a dancer who learned to act”.

28.  Of course, even so, it was still clear who the better dancer was when you appeared onscreen.

29.  I love you because by your 5th Hindi movie, you were self-aware enough to make fun of how your stars can never manage your dance moves.

30.  I love you because you put an actual lion into a movie!

31.  I love you because you are so good, you became an internet sensation in the West a few years back when one of your songs was sent around as “Benny Lava”.  And, okay, it’s horribly offensive.  But I like to think that under all the making fun of different cultures and languages, there’s also an appreciation for your dancing.

32.  I love you because possibly the biggest tribute is that even your fellow choreographers considered you the best, Remo D’Souza (whose birthday was yesterday, Happy Late Birthday Remo!  Here’s your post from last year!) wrote and directed a movie based on that premise, and Ganesh Acharya and Soraj Khan joined you for the final song.

33.  I love you because even in a song where you are just standing there while others dance around you, you are still so graceful that I can’t look away.

34.  I love you because that film proved you had real national and international star powers.  No name actors besides yourself, a dancer who had barely been in Hindi cinema before, and it was a massive hit.

35.  I love you because it was followed up by a sequel with name stars, and you were still the main attraction and made it an even bigger hit.

36.  I love you because that sequel has this amazing song in which the special effects take a backseat to your dance moves.

37.  I love you because you were the reason that Devi/Tutak Tutak Tutiya/Abhinetri released last year in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.  You were the one draw that brought together all languages.

38.  I love you because in the next year you will be starring in a Tamil film, your production house is producing to others you aren’t even involved in, and I am sure you are still fielding offers for Hindi directing jobs.  Such a multi-tasker!

39.  I love you because it’s not just in films that your talent stands out.  You shared a stage with Katie Perry and Amitabh Bachchan for the 2012 IPL opening ceremonies, and you were still the headliner.

40.  When Michael Jackson died, your dance inspiration, Shahrukh Khan put together a tribute video, and you were the centerpiece.

41.  In live performances, you have done dance offs with Sridevi and held your own (you will have to take my word for this, IIFA keeps pulling youtube videos)

42.  You held your own against Madhuri too, and for that I do have video, very very grainy video.

43.  I love you because your special appearance in Happy New Year got cheers all 4 times I saw it in theaters.

 

44.  I love you because you just announced a tour with Salman which means, unless plans change, I WILL SEE YOU LIVE IN 3 MONTHS!!!!

45.  And finally, I love you because even in your 40s, in a 3D all new dance film filled with special effects and spectacular group numbers, you still managed to beat them all with just one simple solo.

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34 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Prabhudeva!

  1. I didn’t know Prabhudeva was trained in Bharatanatyam. Do you have any videos of him actually doing Bharatanatyam, the way Kamal Hassan has done in several films? While Prabhudeva is very, very good at what he does, to me he looks like doing the same style of dancing in every film or video. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about Prabhudeva looking the same, but I suspect it is more that people always want him to do the same thing than that he can’t do anything else. Although that’s also kind of his fault since he choreographs his own stuff most of the time! So I guess I am made at him not for being less talented, but for being less aggressive in pushing the boundaries of what people are used to from him.

      Oh, and here is a Bharat Natyam clip. I think this whole film is about him learning Bharat Natyam to impress Nagma.

      On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 7:43 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Thanks. It looks like Michael Jackson doing Bharatanatyam, ha ha. Also, it shows that PD isn’t really all that trained in Bharatanatyam — his hand gestures (called “mudras”) and arm positioning are way off. A trained BN dancer would never be so sloppy.

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      • Are there any newer movies with Bharatnatyam as a part of the plot?

        And I love how you can see positive things even in bad situations, like in the scandal Prabhudeva’s wife made when he was with Nayanthara 🙂

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        • Vishwoorapam has Kamal Haasan playing a Bharat Natyam dancer. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say how much of the plot it is, but I know that much just from the poster images and stuff. Vanaprastham (if you can find it) was one of the first Malayalam movies I watched and it was fascinating and very informative about classical Malayalam dance (can’t remember the name of the form). Iruvar is another good one, about Mohanlal as a classically trained performer who becomes a movie star.

          I am sure other people know many many more options, those are just the ones I can think of.

          On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 4:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Viswaroopam has Kamal playing a Kathak dancer, not Bharatanatyam. Except for the opening song where he is teaching a Kathak class, there is no more dance in it, the rest is all brutal action.

            Vanaprastham is about a Kathakali dancer.

            The film with the best Bharatanatyam dancing by Kamal Hassan is Saagara Sangamam (Telugu), which released in 1983. I don’t know if that meets your definition of “recent.” If it does, there is a whole slew of dance based films by the same director (K. Viswanath) around that time frame (late 70’s through the 80’s).

            There is also the Telugu film Mayuri, starring Sudha Chandran, which is about how a Bharatanatyam dancer deals with the loss of her leg — an adaptation of the star’s own real life story. It released in 1984, and apparently was remade in Hindi as Naache Mayuri in Hindi, in 1986. I’ve only seen the original Telugu film, and recommend it.

            There was also a TV mini series starring Hema Malini, called Nupur. It is again about a dancer, and has excellent dancing by Hema and others. It is (or was) readily available on dvd with English subtitles. It was also made in the 1980’s.

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          • Oh! I remembered another one! Ramante Edanthottam. Not sure what the dance form was, but it is all about a woman rediscovering herself partly through rediscovering her dancing.

            On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 4:56 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • One dance-based Telugu classic movie I’d like to add – Jandhyala’s Ananda Bhairavi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda_Bhairavi_(film)) about Kuchipudi – similar to Bharatanatyam, but different. Can you believe, there were times when this dance was supposed to be only for men and that women were not allowed to practice/present.

            Two good Bharatanatyam dance based songs in Telugu (other than Viswanadh’s movies) – both by Bhanupriya –
            1. Vennello Godari from Sitara – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG2KEuD_tyw
            2. Aakanulalo from Aalapan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlmZr-8tBdE. Check other songs from this movie too

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          • Thank you all for reccomendations. I wrote the titles and will try to find the movies.
            I have watched Saagara Sangamam some time ago, but without subtitles, so I only could focus on dancing. Now I’m watching another one with Kamal Haasan – Punnagai Mannan, because the description says he plays a dancer.

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          • Ramande Eden Thottam was mostly Mohiniyattam, with a little bit of Bharatanatyam too in the montage. Recently Ennum Eppozhum had Manju Warrier doing Kuchipudi in one dance, and she also dances throughout the movie though its not a part of the plot or anything.

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    • Most movie dancers had a signature style though, at least in Hollywood. You think of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, you can instantly conjure up how they moved. The only big Hollywood dancer I can think of who changed up their dance style in different films is Cyd Charisse. In other words, I don’t hold that against Prabhudeva, especially when his moves are so spectacular.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One point missing in this post – Actually, he made his directorial debut in Telugu – first 3 out of 4 were in Telugu. The disaster of Shankerdada Zindabad (Remake of Lageraho Munnabhai) with Chiranjeevi shut him out of Telugu. You should watch his debut movie – better than its Hindi remake Ramaiya Vastavayya.

    Ramaiya Vastavayya has an interesting anecdote. It’s actually a Telugu phrase, not Hindi. This title is taken from song with same name from Raj Kapoor’s Shri 420 movie. One of its music directors, Shankar, was a native of Hyderabad. He picked the phrase from a Telugu folk song and used it as a catchy start in Shri 420.

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  3. I saw the Benny Lava thing years ago and of course had no idea who Prabhudeva was. He really is a spectacular dancer, right up there with anyone from the golden age of Hollywood musicals. He’s got the charisma too.

    One thing I’ve noticed about Bollywood is the stars tend to be better dancers than the chorus which is the complete opposite of Hollywood where you often see the lead strike a few poses while the chorus sweats their asses off around them. I find that difference fascinating.

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    • Have you seen any dances by the Tamil star Vijay, or the Telugu star NTR jr./Tarak? Both of them are quite spectacular, and when they get to the really tough bits, the backup dancers are usually sitting in the background, clapping their hands or tapping their feet to the rhythm.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The recent Hollywood musicals drive me crazy. Because I see it as just a disrespect to dance, and to the audience, that they are casting people who can’t actually dance. It’s supposed to be a “musical”, but they just use the same actors they would use for anything else, clearly not putting the “musical” part of it as a priority. Especially when there are these amazing low budget dance movies being made (the “Step Up” series, for instance) that cast actual amazing dancers as their leads. But no one talks about them.

      Anyway, you are totally right about the Hindi films! The stars have a variety of dancing talent, but they are there working with the choreographers to get the moves just right and everything, and then the chorus is brought in last minute to support them and sort of shuffle through steps they just learned. Even if the stars are terrible dancers (like Amitabh), the moves are designed to highlight them and make them look as good as possible, they are still expected to put in the work as part of leading the film.

      On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 10:25 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. OMG what a fun post! I guess Prabhudeva must have choreographed Shahid’s performance at the IIFA’s that I got to go to last year, which was off the hook. And, based on the Action Jackson video, I think you ought to include Prabhudeva in your next TGIF post that deals with hot people in glasses. Rawr.

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    • Prabhudeva is a strange kind of hot, if he is standing there silently he is incredibly graceful and dignified. But if he is “acting” he always tends to go sort of too big for my taste.

      If you ever feel like a really over the top nothing but dance kind of movie, check out ABCD. It’s ridiculous and silly and makes no sense, but the plot is just there to string together a series of amazing dance numbers. Oh, and Prabhu is very dignified and hot.

      On Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 6:41 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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