There are some things general entertainment channels know how to do — and do quite well. Like dance, for instance. For many years now, A-list, B-list, C-list, D-list and even Z-list celebrities (if there’s anything below Z, add that too, because some of them clearly belong there) have pirouetted their way from channel to channel, flitting from one dance show to another. The top rung has usually come in as judges, while the in-between and lower rungs have invariably been the participants.
Item girls (or should I say ‘item women’) such as Malaika Arora Khan have appeared as judges in so many dance contests by now that it’s impossible to keep track of either the shows or the channels. The enduring image is of Ms Khan sitting at the judges’ table, dressed in some extremely glamorous garment (and always with a dramatically plunging neckline), saying things like, “You’ll were very good though if you’ll had a little more energy…”
Mostly, it’s the Bollywood celebs who do the judging (people like Farah Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Sushmita Sen, Arshad Warsi etc) while the TV stars do all the dancing (that includes small screen actors and actresses as well as reality show participants).
But here’s the thing. Watching people dance is much more entertaining than watching people bawl or fight (two of the most widely prevalent activities in TV serials and shows), even if the dancing is awful, which it usually isn’t.
Which is why I was quite happy to watch dance show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, which has just kicked off its fourth season on Sony. The (very long) opening episode was a full-on Bollywood-style dhamaka, with flashing lights, blingy costumes, item songs, dances etc. The high point was the high-energy performances by celebrity guests such as Govinda who danced (like only Govinda can) to a medley of his hit songs, from Hero No. 1 to Partner.
Dharmendra, wife Hema Malini and daughter Esha Deol also made guest appearances — one murmured words of encouragement (Hema), another enacted scenes from his movies (Dharamendra) and the third (Esha) danced — not very well.
But the real highlight was when the three judges came on. There was Remo D’Souza who, if he has any bones in his body, has managed to keep the fact a well-guarded secret; Malaika Arora Khan who had no choice but to reprise her ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ number from Dabangg; and fresh-from-the-USA Madhuri Dixit, who danced to her big hits like ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ and ‘Dhak Dhak Karne Laga’. Though Madhuri looks older (well, she is older), her hundred watt smile is still dazzling and she can still do those Bollywood jhatkas without a trace of self-consciousness. My only query: what’s with the accent? Maybe it’s because she’s been in the US for a few years now, but it’s still giggle-inducing.
Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa is anchored by Mona Singh and TV actor Sumeet Raghavan. I’ve always liked Singh as an anchor — she’s warm, vivacious and smiles a lot. Sumeet, it turns out, is a good foil to her chirpiness.
The participants are a bit of a mixed bag. There are ‘senior’ actors like Shekhar Suman, who, with his seriously worked-out body and alarmingly smooth-skinned face (wrinkles? What’s that?) looks a little surreal. Then there is the very overweight Renuka Shahane (also with a dazzling hundred watt smile) who’s trying hard to move to the music, with, um, mixed results. And then there are the babes (model Yana Gupta, singer Anushka Manchanda), the TV actors, actresses — and boxer Akhil Kumar. And of course, their choreographers.
Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’s format (based on the international Dancing With The Stars) works well and makes for fun, relaxed viewing. (And if they manage to maintain the lightness/brightness of the first episode in future episodes too, it would be just perfect).