While we all (im)patiently await the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest historical romance, “Padmavati,” starring Deepika Padukone, we will just have to make do with the sole musical number that has been released for the wetting of our collective cinematic appetite. “Ghoomar” is a musical number in which Padukone showcases regal and skillful dancing while adorned in an enchanting Rimple Narula lehenga. Since the song’s release, it is safe to say that the global South Asian community has kept the track on heavy rotation, allowing the song to accumulate over eight million views on YouTube within its first 24 hours of release.
Outside of its Bollywood dressings, however, ghoomar is a traditional Rajasthani folk dance representing feminine energy and devotion to the Goddess Saraswati—the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and wisdom. The dance focuses heavily on aesthetics in movements and gestures — and is typically performed by women adorned in flowing dresses with wide skirts called ghagara. With a series of pirouettes, spins and hip movements, dancers move in and out of a wide circle while performing ghoomar which creates a mesmerizing optic that resembles a bejeweled kaleidoscope output. Some ghoomar performers incorporate fire in their dancing or stack earthen pots or brass pitchers upon their heads, balancing them all while masterfully spinning and dancing.
Ghoomar can also be performed solo, without group involvement. Per Rajasthani traditions, new brides perform ghoomar upon being welcomed to their marital home, although Padukone seems to be doing this marital dance in the now-trending Bollywood track with her designer-clad entourage on her cinematic wedding night. Ghoomar is also performed for major holidays like Diwali and Holi, as well as on auspicious geological events like the beginning of the monsoon season. It is a beloved facet of Rajasthani culture, such that it is performed at frequent opportunities for cultural exhibition, as described above.
The most imperative facet of the ghoomar dance form, however, is its symbolism as performative femininity for Rajasthani women. The dance is performed by girls once they enter womanhood—each movement, spin and thrust is an earned exercise. Even in the face of the well-documented political and social adversities continuously endured by Rajasthani women, ghoomar is a language that allows Rajasthani women to speak boldly through this powerful display of physical expression. Ghoomar is an act that belongs to Rajasthani women and it creates a space that belongs to them as well.
Padukone described the preparations for dancing “Ghoomar” as “one of the most difficult song sequences” she has ever done with Bhansali, and she is reported to have done 66 twirls over the course of shooting the three-minute song.It remains uncertain that we will ever get to see the release of “Padmavati” but, for now, at least we can delight in Padukone’s graceful execution of the ancient dance form of feminine power. It is a dance that optimally represents the opulence of Rajasthan, the Land of Kings and, quite evidently, Queens as well.
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.
“Thank You For Coming” is a one-of-a-kind Bollywood film that is not only a through-and-through entertainer but also an inspiring story about a young woman, Kanika Kapoor (played by ace actress Bhumi Pednekar), who sets out to seek pleasure in bed; and, she’s not settling for anything less!
The film premiered at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival to an audience that was impressed with so many facets of the film — the comic timing of the impeccable cast, the subject matter of female pleasure, and the fantastic direction by debutant Karan Boolani — just to name a few!