In the beginning everyone was singing on TV. Then they started dancing. Now they’re doing both. But the flavour of the moment is definitely dance. Couples, individuals, dance groups, everyone’s moving and shaking, giving the words ‘greased lightning’ and ‘coiled springs’ an entirely new meaning altogether. Whether it’s Sony or Colors or Zee, every channel has dance contests. Most of them, however, are Indian versions of foreign shows — and right now, many of the English channels are showing the original shows.
For instance, you can see Dancing With The Stars on BBC and Got To Dance on AXN. Dancing With The Stars (Jhalak Dikhla Jaa in India) is all flashing lights and glitzy glamour and high octane excitement and energy. In fact, as the show starts, all the people on the sets — anchors, contestants, judges — look so super charged up and smile so much, you feel you’re watching a sort of Oscars on steroids.
There are three judges — Len Goodman, an, er, oldish British gentleman, who I believe is (was?) a professional ballroom dancer; Bruno Tonioli, an Italian choreographer and Carrie Ann Inaba, also a choreographer and dancer. Mr Goodman looks like he should be gliding sedately in the ballroom of some stately British manor with some prim old dowager in his arms. Carrie Ann Inaba is quite bright and vivacious. But it is Bruno Tonioli who is the most fun. After one of the performances by 82-year-old American actress Cloris Leachman, Mr Tonioli declared that she was like the Battleship Geriatrica that could turn into Enterprise. Not to be outdone, Ms Leachman seductively swung a bare leg on to the judges’ table, leading to Mr Goodman suddenly experiencing some breathing difficulties.
Much of the dancing was great, but after a while it all blurred into a sameness, and I have to confess I began missing the Bollywood jhatkas and songs. Also, apart from a few participants, such as Kim Kardashian, we’re not so familiar with the others — I’m sure they’re certified, card-holding celebs in the US, it’s just that they don’t strike any particular chord with us.
Got To Dance (AXN) is a British show, with a variety of participants: street groups, single men and women — and yes, lots of small children, including ten-year-olds, one of whom was autistic. What is it with all these child participants? Even in our desi shows, there are any number of children and it always makes for slightly uncomfortable viewing, specially when they execute fairly adult dance moves. But clearly this is a malaise that extends across continents. There’s nothing wrong with children enjoying dancing, but is it all right for 10-year-olds to practice for hours (which they have to do for such shows), or to go through difficult parts of the show like the elimination process? I wonder.
And finally. I also caught up with a couple of programmes on TLC — such as Invite Mr Wright. Ian Wright travels to different parts of the world and his various adventures are entertaining if slightly loony. The India episode was very much the white-man-in-chaotic-India kind (the traffic gave him nightmares; so tell us something new), but it was also quite mad and wacky.
Ian Wright was attached to Bollywood star Arshad Warsi in the episode and hung around his (Arshad’s) vanity van, on the sets of his film in Goa; Mr Wright also got his portfolio done, and learnt some good Bollywood dance moves. In a more recent episode, he lands up in Singapore, and tries to buy chewing gum in a shop. My favourite bit: The shop assistant asks him for his passport and Ian whispers back conspiratorially, “It’s for private use… you know, just in my room, I’ll just smell it for a bit.”