Dancing democracy

Paromita Vohra  Among the many important days last week — May Day, Maharashtra Day— there was also, International Dance Day. That’s a day I’m all for commemorating for many reasons. One of these is that dance is liberating, allowing us to express ourselves in many ways from the simple to the complex. You can be fat, not-really-fat or even thin, old, young or in-between, of varied gender, colour, region, education and all you need to dance is your own body. The things about our identity that society often uses to constrain us do not come in the way of dancing. Dance can make us feel free and happy — and a lot can happen over free and happy I believe.

Then, if you have the gifts of rhythm, talent, dedication, application and imagination, you can be a good or great dancer. You can become a performer or win dance contests. It’s one idea of democracy in a nutshell. Everyone can have the possibility of dancing, but not everyone will excel enough to compete or win. Your ability will count more than only the advantages of birth. This is why dance is a popular subject of stories where the underdog triumphs.

Dancing democracy
Illustration / Amit Bandre

It has been the phenomenon documentaries like Breakin’ Mumbai have tracked and the basis of successful television dance shows and films like ABCD - Any Body Can Dance, whose sequel ABCD2 with Varun Dhawan, is coming soon. Can’t wait because Varun Dhawan sure can dance.

Alas, this can’t be said for many of the contestants on the once double delight of celebrity and dance show Nach Baliye. A more colourless, listless cast than the one on the premiere episode of Season 7 I haven’t seen. Just because the anchors keep saying this time Nach is Too Much, it doesn’t change the truth that lacking both celebrity and dance, actually, Nach is Too Little.

Did I say truth? OMG, how retro of me. The thing is, Nach Baliye has been stripped of all its joy and now been put to the service of that has-been monster, reality television. What reality? The reality of the love between the couples whose judge is the nation’s favourite rakhi brother Chetan Bhagat. Chetan Bhaiya said in an interview: “I was skeptical of reality shows, and I informed Ekta about it. She said ‘Go and find out whether it is real or not’. So, I will make sure that all those doubts are cleared. I will also make sure it is real.”

We’ll just have to take his ISO 9000 word for it, because if we go by the evidence of our own eyes, we would find it hard to call the mediocre fakery so far on screen, real — or really entertaining.

It’s sad that Nach Baliye 7 has turned a thing of beauty into a lie forever. It replaces that democratic idea that Anybody Can Dance with the counterfeit democracy of Everybody Can be Mediocre. In that hokey fakeness called reality, you can make a really low standard and call it high and claiming it is equality, simply change the meaning of excellence and individuality.

It’s the exact opposite of ABCD2’s killer dialogue, all heart and soul — we dance to express, not to impress. In Nach Baliye they dance not to express but to depress. Oh and meanwhile love will also be put in a box marked Monday and Tuesday like medication. Talk about turning joy and fun and talent into tasteless tomatoes on the marketing shelf.

Luckily there is still thodi si democracy in the republic of television, so we can watch other dance shows where dance matters I guess.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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