The Dark Mother
October 26, 2008

My exploration of Indian culture via YouTube continues to unearth some musical gems.

In this post I’m featuring several clips showing fictionalised devotions to the Goddess Kali – a primal Hindu deity of fearsome aspect who is familiar to many non-Hindus as the goddess of death and destruction – a not entirely accurate representation of her function within the pantheon.

Kali is one of the consorts of Shiva, and is also closely associated with Durga, who is variously considered her offspring or avatar.

First up is a clip from the film Kannathal, showing a distressed Kali devotee apparently beseeching the the deity for assistance; I may be misreading the imagery, but the goddess does not seem to be entirely convinced. The music, however, is extraordinary:

Next up is a wonderful song-and-dance number from the 2006 film Chingaari, a complex tale of love, death, vengeance and – interestingly – the abuse of power by the Hindu priesthood:

Finally we have another of the massed song-and-dance performances that Bollywood does so well. This time an all-female effort from the film Raja Kaliamman, which includes a frenzied guest appearance by trishula-weilding Durga.

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Of Devas and Divas
October 10, 2008

In recent months I’ve been exploring a wealth of Indian classical music and dance on YouTube. Here are a few of my favourite discoveries…

First up are a couple of clips from a pair of films featuring Padmini (1932-2006), the multi-lingual (Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam) actress and trained Bharathanatyam dancer who starred in over 250 movies.

The first is from the 1956 Tamil language film Madurai Veeran. The song is entitled Aadal Kaaneero. The music is by  G Ramanatha and the lyrics by Kannadasan. The singer is M L Vasanthakumari.  

The second is from a 1954 Hindi language film called Sheev Bhakta. Padmini plays a devadasi, performing a dance of adoration dedicated to Shiva:

The next pair of clips are from the 1962 Tamil-language film Konjum Salangai, and showcase the mindbogglingly expressive talents of another diva of Indian classical dance, Kumari Kamala (1934- )

In the first, Kamala’s character – a court dancer – performs solo, while in the second she participates in an extraordinary 10 minute-long “dance-off” against a jealous rival that has to be seen to be believed!

Finally, here’s a rather funky devotional piece from the 2001 film Kottai Mariamman. I don’t know the identity of the dancer, but the green-faced woman with the trident is evidently meant to be the Goddess Durga; Indian films often feature such matter-of-fact interactions with Hindu deities: