Shailesh Kapoor: 2008-2013: The Great Indian Dance Revolution

21 Jun,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


Three dance reality shows are currently vying for viewer attention on the weekends. Last week, Zee TV aired ABCD – Any Body (sic) Can Dance, India’s answer to Step Up. Backed by some innovative promotions featuring the channel’s homegrown stars, the film scored higher than biggies like Race 2 on the (much-maligned) rating charts.


Circa 2008. India almost didn’t know what dance was about. It was a fancy Western idea restricted to the upper echelons of the society, such as the celebrities in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, or a boring old-fashioned tradition of the Indian classical form. Bollywood had been using dance liberally for years. But unlike some of the other Bollywood inspirations, most famously the hairstyles, filmi dance didn’t make it to the mainstream.


But we are a country of celebrations. Wedding functions often involve girl gangs performing to Bollywood hits. And as we got more liberal (relatively, of course), wedding dances became an important expression of an Indian woman’s desire to be free.


The stage was, therefore, set in 2008-09, when two television shows, none boasting of big budgets or high profile launches, brought in a revolution. Nachle Ve With Saroj Khan has arguably been the most under-rated show on Indian television if you look at its social impact vis-à-vis its media buzz. The show made “learning dance” legitimate, even cool. Simple, middle class girls and boys would watch this incredibly deglamorized show to prepare for their next wedding sangeet performance. There was nothing inaccessible here. It was as mass as ‘infotainment’ could get.


Then came Dance India Dance (DID), which brought fancy foreign words like Hip Hop, Popping & Locking and Slow Motion to Indian parlance. DID gave wings to the aspirations of a small-town India, which was enthralled seeing three average-looking judges encourage young talent from across the country.


I’m not sure if someone has exact statistic on the increase in the number of dance academies in India over the last five years, but some crude estimates peg it at 400 percent.  In researches, we now hear mothers and daughters dancing together to Bollywood songs at their homes, and for some curious reason, “in front of the mirror.”


Bollywood may not admit it, but the dance revolution started by television has impacted it too. For one, the quality of commercial dancing has gone up several notches. But even more importantly, viewers today are looking at dance steps with a critical eye, comparing them to what they have seen on TV, expecting the next level. It’s a win-win-win, as the viewers, the TV industry and Bollywood have got into an effortlessly symbiotic relationship here.


Yet, we have certainly not seen it all when it comes to dance. ABCD came almost three decades after Mithun Chakraborty’s Disco Dancer and Dance Dance. It remains the only dance-based film in our contemporary cinema. ABCD 2 or EFGH (Every Friend Goes Hip-Hopping) should not be a bad idea. And DID is still discovering new pastures, with its superbly executed Supermoms show that’s doing very well currently.


So be prepared for more, because the Dance Revolution is well and truly here. All it took was five years!


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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One response to “Shailesh Kapoor: 2008-2013: The Great Indian Dance Revolution”

  1. Kashmira Grewal says:

    For the lay person, it would be difficult to comment on technicalities like ratings/TRPs, but as a viewer, I salute Zee TV, for pioneering the concept and reaching out to talents in areas of the yet unexplored India, and quite literally ferreting out stupendous and unbelievable talents from strata of societies who have been sidelined and ignored for as long as you would care to remember; whether it is singing, dramebaazi, dance or even India’s Got Talent on Colours. The passion, the single minded devotion to their craft which translates into virtual worship almost is a pleasure to see, and one such ‘find’ of DID 1 who touched me most, was the still humble, funny and intense Dharmesh, referred to as Dharmesh Sir by his ‘students’ and very affectionately by the Judges on the Show too. It is also very heartening to see people from the Comedy series make it to platforms like Jhalak, and carve a niche for themselves too. So all in all, kudos to our television industry!

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