How Dhinchak Pooja influenced the jilted nagin dancer from Shahjahanpur

The innocent folly of unpolished genius.

 |  5-minute read |   01-07-2017
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In UP’s Shahjahanpur, Priyanka Tripathi, 23, has called off her wedding with Anubhav Mishra. Mishraji’s fault was that he got drunk and danced the naagin dance at his wedding.

Mishraji woke up the next day with the mother of all hangovers. He kept asking: "But what happened?"

The naagin dance, though not sanctioned by Hindu ritual, has become something of a pop/ poop tradition in north Indian weddings. Men writhe and wriggle, often using a handkerchief in place of the "been", the wind instrument, to the sounds of which, the snake is supposed to uncoil, rise and recoil. In Mishraji’s unfortunate case, the bride recoiled along with the selfsame snake.

To my mind, Priyanka ma’am was a bit harsh on Mishraji. Who knows, if she had forgiven him, Mishraji might have settled down into ordinary routine and humdrum, post-marriage. That he might never have dared to dance again is another matter. Or Priyanka ma’am and Mishraji could have joined salsa classes, and, as they grew older, perhaps even learned to dance the tango. Mishraji’s latent talent could have been channelled. Instead, he was expelled from marriage school.

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Mishraji’s dancing though poses grave questions about Indian male dancing in general. We have a rich tradition of classical dance, but this form of dance can only be danced by those who have practiced for years.

In my twenties, I used to haunt places called ‘pubs’, which were bars with small dance floors. There was one in Dehradun called Quest: the Fulfilment. The distinguishing feature of these bars was that the women came but left early. They were like afternoon discos—afternoon being the only free time between classes and the evening home/hostel curfew. After the women were gone, the men would continue to drink and dance. I would have thought that once the girls left, the boys would return to their tables and mope but that wasn’t ever the case. The men continued to dance among themselves. I too would join in if I was sufficiently drunk.

These were heterosexual men. They loved dancing. Unfortunately, they had no role models. If you can’t do the kuchipudi, and anyway you cannot do it in a club, who do you look to for direction and inspiration? Bollywood actors, of course.

But Bollywood actors don’t offer the greatest dancing examples. Jeetendra was supposed to be a good dancer but let’s face it, his were some of the most ridiculous moves ever in dance history. When Jumpin’ Jack looked so silly doing them, what chance does an ordinary Indian man have?

Or think Anil Kapoor, in Ram Lakhan, doing "1,2 ka 4, 4,2 ka 1" with his gang of village louts. Sanjay Dutt was no better. At their best, Bollywood heroes could manage some kind of swaying PT in tandem; at their worst, it was all impromptu pelvic thrusting and little else. Govinda, the Virar ka chokra, was the most accomplished pelvic thruster of them all. It must also be pointed out that the heroes’ pelvic thrusts were matched by the choli-thrusting of Bollywood actresses. Blame the choreographers or the heroes themselves, but over the years we evolved our own style of dancing, which has no parallel anywhere in the world.

Then Hrithik Roshan arrived on the scene. Sui generis and out of nowhere. (There was Javed Jaffrey before Hrithik but he wasn’t a hero and didn’t have the same kind of impact.) That sort of changed Bollywood dancing from lewd and suggestive to having some aesthetic value, but, to be honest, it would be really unfair to expect Mishraji to dance like Hrithik.

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The coming of MTV also brought about some changes. Bollywood song-and-dance sequences became the staple fodder of MTV India. The contrast between American hip hop videos and the tacky Indian ones was glaring and embarrassing. Bollywood slicked up ever since and hasn’t looked back. Now, a Hindi film dance sequence looks the same as an American rap or Korean boy-band or girl-band one. The world is one McDonald’s hamburger. I miss Anil Kapoor in Ram Lakhan.

To get back to Mishraji. I’ve kept this little secret from you, but I’ve known Mishraji for some time now. Knowing Mishraji’s enthusiasm for drinking and half-expecting something like this to happen, I had deliberately stayed away from the wedding, even though I had an invite, which incidentally featured a rather romantic sketch of two snakes hissing lip-to-lip.

After he’d recovered from the shock, he called me up. When I asked him what happened, he squarely put the blame on the rapper Dhinchak Pooja whose videos have gone viral on YouTube. He said he was a big fan of hers. He said she had come to him in a dream and he was just following the words to her songs. He used the word ‘divyashakti’.

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Mishraji said that what led to him getting so drunk were words from déclassé Dhinchak’s "Daru": "Karenge party sari raat/ Hogi daaru ki barsaat/ Jo na nache/ Usko maaru/ Teri party mein hum nachenge/ Dance floor ko tod kar/ Dance floor pe tu bhi aaja/ Apni botal phod kar."

These were incendiary words, fuel to fire, as far as Mishraji was concerned. Especially: "Dance floor pe tu bhi aaja/ Apni botal phod kar." At that moment, Mishraji told me remorsefully, he threw all caution to the wind and broke the dance floor. Besides, he said, Dhinchak Pooja was threatening to beat up anyone who wasn’t dancing. He wasn’t taking any chances, this being his wedding.

What now? Mishraji, having ignored my advice to join ballet classes, is now taking proper Bollywood dancing lessons. He reckons what really upset Priyanka was not the naagin dance per se, but that he didn’t perform it the way it’s supposed to, like Sridevi in Nagina.Now I’m worried: a trained suicide bomber is far more dangerous than an untrained one.

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Writer

Palash Krishna Mehrotra Palash Krishna Mehrotra @palashmehrotra

Freelance journalist and author of The Butterfly Generation.

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