Over the years, Hindi cinema has seen several fads coming and going. But music and dance have remained the essential ingredients of films, both commercial and arthouse.
The industry’s fascination with the classic character of a courtesan is never-ending, with directors like Muzaffar Ali to the more contemporary Sanjay Leela Bhansali singing odes to the nautch girl, famously played by Rekha in Umrao Jaan (1981) and Madhuri Dixit in Devdas (2002).
With Kangna Ranaut retracing the steps with her rendition of a courtesan in Rajjo and Priyanka Chopra’s modern mujra in Ram Leela, here’s looking at the most famous ones...
Film: Agent Vinod (2012)
Song: Dil mera muft ka
Verdict: Bebo teamed up with Maryam Zakaria for this mujra-themed song in the Sriram Raghavan-directed spy thriller. Though the dance steps were far removed from the graceful moves associated with the genre, the overall setup - including the deceptive subplot - passed it off as a tribute to the royal old days of mehfils and kothas.
Film: Devdas (2002)
Song: Maar daala
Verdict: In a mercurial performance as Chandramukhi, Mads took to the floor - quite literally - with heaving dance steps. If those were killer moves, the good news is she’s not done yet. The dhak-dhak girl, who happens to be Kathak maestro Birju Maharaj’s protégé, is donning mujra song once again in the forthcoming Dedh Ishqiya.
Film: Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005)
Song: Main vari vari
Verdict: In her debut performance to a mujra number for a film, Rani managed to bring her own charm to the screen. Playing a colourful character, her song-dance routines prove to be an emotional outlet. Not known for her dancing skills, this particular film along with Aiyyaa begs to differ.
Film: Jeet (1996)
Song: Dil kya karein saheb
Verdict: Chandni Bar comes to mind whenever one thinks of Tabu and dance together. It’s easier to tag her as an actress who took up roles that didn’t require her to shake a leg. However, the accomplished actress once tried herself in a mujra song with a disheveled Sunny Deol’s character enjoying the show from the front row.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Film: Umrao Jaan (2006)
Verdict: Emulating Rekha in a remake itself sounds like a mighty task but Ash made sure she held her own in this otherwise commercial dud by JP Dutta. Decorated with historical couture, the light-eyed beauty looked divine during the musical act. However, her mujra-oriented Kajra re from Bunty Aur Babli remains closer to memory.
Film: Gulaal (2009)
Verdict: If you felt pain while watching this song, you have an exceptional ability to connect with an onscreen character. After all, Mahie was in severe distress due to a back injury during the shoot of this song. Regardless, she still shot for the sequence with a smile on her face and apparently wrapped up the shoot in eight hours flat.
Film: Kisna: The Warrior Poet (2005)
Verdict: In this forgettable film by Subhash Ghai, Isha Sharvani showcased her class as a trained dancer. Apart from her, Sush emerged as a majestic figure even though she had a cameo performance. The former Miss Universe got all the nakhras right and ended up delivering a well-cherished mujra act.
The golden days
Yesteryear actresses who set the standards when it comes to a mujra song in a movie…
Vyjayanthimala set the ball rolling with her courtesan act in Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1956), especially with Ab Aage Teri Marzi track.
Madhubala’s Anarkali act in the classic Mughal-e-Azam (1960) set new standards in filmi Kathak with her dancing to Mohe panghat pe.
Pakeezah (1972)’s Inhi logon ne showed how tragedy queen Meena Kumari at her best.
In the original Umrao Jaan (1981), critics and audiences both surrendered to Rekha during Dil cheez kya hai
The one-film wonder Mandakini came close to mujra during a heartbreaking song in Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985).