by Ric Galvez
As someone not so far away, India is still exotic for me. I am aware that the country has somehow influenced my own in so many ways including in our language, mythology and customs but still, the panorama that was laid before my eyes when I set afoot in Mumbai was exhilaratingly different. The colors, the flavors and the overall feel were all something new for me.
As the rickety taxi sped through the Horniman Circle with the sole purpose of tasting what it is like to be in an Indian Starbucks, my tongue can still remember the murgh khatta pyaz that we ate earlier in a restaurant inside The Taj. And then out of nowhere a familiar music blared in the radio. I knew this song albeit only familiar with the tune as my handicap with the Hindi language prevented me from learning the title let alone the lyrics.
It has something to do with Miss World, I told myself. I then reached for my phone and searched for Dances of the World and a minute of scrolling – eureka! It’s the song that Vanya Mishra presented at Miss World 2012. I later found out that the song is entitled Dil Cheez Kya Hai taken from the film Umrao Jaan. The movie dates back from 1981 and it is a story based on an Urdu classic that tells a love story between a courtesan and a wealthy lover.
Indeed, Vanya Mishra’s performance at the vast stage in Ordos is a testament the richness of the Indian culture. My further research showed that the original dance in the movie was performed by an actress named Rekha, who by the way, used a more colorful and expensive costume than Vanya. I would love if Vanya had copied everything from the movie – costume, dance moves, the whole works – but Dances of the World has its limits including time but still, the sorrowful voice of Asha Boshle – the voice behind that music – was enough to awaken my interest and curiosity.
India showcased its first ever dance at Miss World in 2009 when Manasvi Mamgai danced to the music of Dhai Shyam Rok Lai of Devdas using timeless moves of classical Indian dance. Manasvi looked so Bollywood with her richly colored costume and I love how she jumped and twirled in such a hectic rhythm.
The year 2014 marks the year when India has successful showed to the world the beauty of its dances and music for the third time. Koyal Rana wowed the London audience with her hip shaking rendition of the song Dola Re Dola which is also taken from the movie Devdas.
So what’s the story behind the choice of these songs? Well, Umrao Jaan is a very popular classic movie that has a huge impact on Bollywood. The songs from the movie still hit the radio stations from time to time and that is why the taxi driver began to wiggle his head and muttered the lyrics of the song as he parked right next to a Catholic church near the Horniman circle. As for the movie Devdas, it’s importance couldn’t be possibility be highlighted enough. Devdas is a hit movie starring no less than Miss World 1994 Aishwarya Rai. Aish herself danced the song in the movie alongside Madhuri Dixit and she should had been positively elated to see Koyal dancing her own dance during the Miss World 2014 finals night.
Indeed the music and the dances that India has shown to the Miss World audience reflect how exotic and unique the country is. I have huge respect for India simply for having such an ancient and colorful culture. I am even more astounded to know that India is yet to tap the other elements of its very diverse cultural heritage. What we have seen so far were dances that surround the Hindi culture and we are yet to see Tamil dances or Kashmiri ones.
India as a nation is truly exotic to those who are outside of the subcontinent. When India began making waves in the pageantry scene in the early 90s, the world began to respect the beauty of its women and Indian delegates had been a threat since then. Setting afoot in India will however tell you that the beauty of this nation does not start and end with its women. The proud nation has so much to offer to its first time visitors like me. From the food to the sights, with its curious yet hospitable people, India is a beauty in itself.