Have you ever indulged in some 1970s and 1980s vintage Bollywood whilst you do your weekend vacuum? No? Allow me to introduce you to some bangers.
Written by Vanessa Marian
This is a playlist curated in collaboration with my mum, who went on a starry-eyed trip down memory lane as she revisited melodies from her yesteryears.
What is Bollywood?
A few little notes about Bollywood – it’s the pop music of India – so whilst there may be a sitar, or occasional tabla featured and perhaps a nod to Indian classical dance styles in the video clips – from Kathak to Bharathnatayam – it’s still, in it’s very essence, pop music.
This means it’s created to be catchy, mainstream and pedestrian. It’s the music that get’s played at weddings, in rickshaws and at tween sleepovers.
Let’s delineate it from classical, devotional and folk Indian music.
I like to say, carnatic music is to Beethoven, what Bollywood is to Britney Spears.
India as more than a wanderlust yoga destination.
A huge misconception about India is that it is an isolated monoculture of people who all practise yoga and pray to Hindu gods. In actuality, India is a multi-faceted and diverse melting pot of religions, hundreds of different languages, social-classes, cuisines and lifestyles.
Middle class India makes up the majority of the population, meaning the ‘authentic slum’ experience that so many travellers exoticise and chase is not relatable for a majority of Indians, who live on smartphones, drive cars, listen to heavy metal, house, hip hop, eat pizza and engage in nuanced socio-political discourse on the net.
This is not to take away from the stark reality of economic disparity between the rich, middle class and poor, but to really drive home the idea that India has more than one story.
How to dance to Bollywood music
This is a toughie, because Bollywood is pop. It’s like having a ‘how to dance to pop’ lesson, which isn’t really a genre of dance, though earlier Bollywood heavily features a commercialised version of the North Indian classical style Kathak. Outside of this, here is my best attempt to de-construct Bollywood as a dance form:
Learn some mudras
If we want to take from (and butcher) classical roots, we would start with just one mudra: The Alapadma (lotus). The technique is to stretch out your finger tips to create a fanned out ‘lotus’ then hold your hand in various positions. If I try explain this more, I’ll get too technical, and to be honest, they don’t necessarily nail the technique in Bollywood clips. As seen above.
Accentuate your beauty
Accentuate your hips, highlight your eyes with your hands, trace your face, hit your bangles together and point to your payal (anklet) as you dance. It’s the notion of looking amazing, knowing it and ensuring everyone around you knows it too.
Act out the lyrics
Don’t speak Hindi? Just google the English translation and then literally act it out. If the lyrics are about your heart, point to your heart. If the lyrics are about heart break then hold the back of your hand to your forehead in angst.
We are very literally in Bollywood, so go for it.
Bollywood draws heavily from global pop music.
To expand on this idea of cosmopolitan and global India, this playlist features music from the 70s and 80s, so you can hear a clear disco, rock n roll and synth influence from the 70s and 80s global (particularly American pop culture) in this music.
So have a little guilty pleasure boogie. To those of you who have been following my new-found obsession with the delightful anthropological exploration of my culture in the hit reality Indian Matchmaking show, this is the music Sima from Mumbai would have played at her wedding.
I’ve curated it to start with slow jams to get you teary as Sima’s husband-to-be sees her, unsmiling and coy in her stunning red lehenga. We then build up to some dance floor bangers.