Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dance Baby Dance

There is little to do at a kiddie birthday party( if you are not helping the host with dishing out cake, and other sundry goodies) other than sit back and be an anthropologist, or whatever else.

As the mother who works with the child all around her, I am in the priveleged postion of attending ALL the parties. The poor father, alienated from his child, slaves away in Nariman Point and is denied the insights available at these parties.

The party could be a home-grown affair like the ones I organise, or could be in restaurants- the drill is more or less the same. The party games I go nuts planning and thinking up are rare - the music plays, children dance, there might or might not be a screaming MC, the cake is cut and the food served. Its a pretty good routine, the kids love it.

The music - its always Bollywood songs. Again a pretty good idea, the kids love it.* The music begins to blare and they all start jumping around, from 2 years to 10, they all know what to do. Actually I err, they do not begin to jump around and move to the rhythm, they begin an elaborate routine of predefined steps, akin to those associated with the song in a film. Seldom do you see free movement. Even my child, who hardly watches any tv, has picked up the specific dance steps. If not, then instead of jumping in and moving her body, she watches and only then begins to mimic the steps around her.

Its at home that she jumps around to the rhythm of music. Its not filmy music. Songs from films can only be danced to in codified moves.

A pity really.

But berating the takeover of bollywood music in kiddy parties is not the point of this post.

Film music rocks-in my heart and in my head. Kids shouting saala, sexy in sync with a song bothers me a wee bit, but not long enough to stop me from joining in. (My child is mortified that I join in the dancing, and do not go through the prescribed routine but do my own thing. I think I have another year or two before she orders me to stop moving my booty, because I dont do it 'right'.)

Yesterday as I sat in a corner sipping my orange tang( cokes and their ilk have pretty much been banned from most parties- yippee- its back to rooh afza and tang) I watched the little ones dance with gusto. It pleased me no end that the steps, especially for the girls, are aggressive and energetic. The sexuality is unabashed too. Gone are the delicate, pretty steps. And the shy, come hither sexuality is erased completely. These kids will grow up with a different notion of the body- the girls, if dance remains an important definer of the body for them as they grow older, seem assertive and walk with a swagger.

I guess after making a film on the Carribbean- I have a totally different take on how sexuality is foregrounded in the dance. I see these children play out elaborate sexualised moves dressed in their cotton frocks, with no one as an audience , they dance for themselves. The moves dont bother me in this context. Infact, I welcome the warrior like dance moves in place of seductive, feminine steps.

Its when I see the little girls and boys dressed like Saif and Kareena, enacting those highly sexualised moves, in front of an audience of doting adults, or worse in front of TV cameras in studios that will reward the winning pair with xyz amount of money that I get creeped out. Its a very small shift, you might say, but therein lies the critical difference.

The first instance is about children dancing unabashedly for themselves. The second is about perfecting the moves for appreciation. Perfecting the moves is where the sense of body and self moves into another sphere- the pout at the right moment - the shake of the hip in response to a pelvic thrust in sync. Thats disconcerting.

Now I am told that the child is rehearsing for the annual day function. A dance based on 'Dhol baje'. The boys have been given their set of moves and the girls have their own. Will the boys be aggressive and energetic and the girls pretty and delicate? From what I see my child doing at home, i think thats what it will be. I would be happy to see the whole lot of them jumping with abandon like Shahrukh**. I think I am going to be dissapointed that robust aggression will be neatly pencilled out of the way the girls will dance. Luckily birthday parties allow the girls to jump like Shahrukh, rather than slither like Shilpa Shetty. But I need not loose heart, Kareena and her creed seem to be holding their hands up in the air with abandon much more than her bosom and bottom thrusting sister.
I think I will show Sanah Mumtaz dancing in 'Jai Jai Shiv Shankar' . And I will buy the CD before the next birthday.

* Sanah's last party I forgot to buy film music. The kids suffered through Calypso, Raeggae and Mallu drums that I had chosen as vibrant, energetic music. I was the laughing stock of the party. The children were annoyed, the adults mocked me and we played Dil Chahta Hai a million times.

**What Shahrukh has done to filmy dance desereves a seperate post- I love him for his love of his body. His love for his body does not translate to thrusting his chest, muscles or pelvis into my face. He moves his torso, his arms, his legs with masti. His sexuality is not about body parts.


Grasshopper said...

Ah finally! Now I know why I love Shahrukh Khan! Thanks, Darling, dance on.

Space Bar said...

Lovely post.

Its a very small shift, you might say, but therein lies the critical difference.

See, this is what I was trying to say about Jahaji as well: how does the camera become different in your film when it shows that girl (forgot her name)? Does it? (I didn't think it did, at least not enough).

Birthday parties here are so different! Or maybe my kid and his friends have different parties. Or maybe Bombay can't help it.

You have to post more!

Banno said...

Am waiting to know what Sanah thinks of 'Jai Jai Shiv Shankar'. Ah, I went through all that filmi grind myself, it's great when you are dancing along. But yes, very disconcerting to see made-up kids in 'sexy' dresses doing sexy numbers for a prize on TV.

farinaz said...

Great insight!
I was surprised how a 3-year old Aisha had also picked up intricate dance steps mainly from watching MONSOON WEDDING! At her 5th birthday part, she and 3 other friends dressed up and required the rest (children and adults) BE the audience, while she and her bunch of selected friends danced to Chunari Chunari. I felt quite conflicted. On one had, I was appalled (with my convent upbringing, etc) at what felt like this overt exhibitionism. On the other hand, I wanted to nurture the lack of self-consciouness in her, which had long been hacked off in me! So she danced away with great abandon, while my friends and her friends sat there, trying to gamely clap along, not sure what to think!
I still wonder, in awe, where did she get that!

sushma said...

what a beautiful way of observing reflectiing . I could not have penned it better. I always knew why I love shah rukh khan, its the chemistry , physics and sexuality all rolled into one . But I loved the you have described it .

SUR NOTES said...

Grasshopper: You here for the bombay launch?

Space Bar: You mean Stacey? While filming her I had the opposite problem. To try and begin to cenceptualise how she was being watched wqithin the community event- not the way we were watching as outsiders - wide eyed and somewhat alienated.

The presence of the local camerapersons provided the practical clue to the problem. They were the ones with the light attached to the top of the camera- we watched them watch.

While editing the material I felt that the tension was probably addressed through the presence of the cemeraman in the frame with stacey.

If I had filmed Stacey over a couple of days I might have been able to address the tension more fully, probably.

Banno: Will keep you posted about mumtaz :)

F'naz: Actually chunari chunari is all the more fun because its the character trying to do a bollywood number -its not organically within the film.

Sushma: Dont tell my father, your husband. He will ban us- given what a shahrukh hater he is :)