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Monday, April 06, 2020

Mujra Magic Lives On

As Bollywood’s latest mujra act tops the charts,we look at why this form still fascinates filmmakers

Written by PriyankaPereira | Published: February 24, 2012 12:39:21 am

With men in uniform milling about at a party and a secret agent on a mission,it is not the best setting for a mujra. But Sriram Raghavan,the director of Agent Vinod,and the film’s lead actor Saif Ali Khan were convinced that the song Dil Mera Muft Ka demanded a mujra treatment. This even took music composer Pritam,who has composed this drum-and-bass-based track,by surprise. Now,the film has actor Kareena Kapoor,in a chic sharara,gyrating to the song,choreographed by Saroj Khan. Matching steps with her is Maryam Zakaria,a model-turned-actress.

Saif,who is also the film’s producer,was sure about having an item number in Agent Vinod. However, he was not in favour of a typical one. “Hence,we decided on the mujra which is a blend of traditional and contemporary styles,” says Saif. Saroj,a veteran in choreographing mujras,says “It can be termed a mujra with fusion beats.” Since the setting was a military party,she couldn’t opt for traditional dance moves. “The director too,asked me to stick to a more contemporary version,” says Saroj.

Mujras have been an integral part of Bollywood films and,in the yesteryear,held that special position which ‘item numbers’ do today. With the graceful and,at times,enticing body movements combined with facial expressions,Rekha in Umrao Jaan and Meena Kumari in Pakeezah popularised this form of poetry-dance that courtesans of the Mughal period practised. Mujra is a blend of elements of Kathak dance with the beauty of poetry that thumris and ghazals encompass. In the black-and-white era,Nalini Jaywant,Nargis and Vyjayanthimala have famously executed mujra numbers. In recent times,Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan made it a rage with Kajra Re in Bunty Aur Babli.

In the period dramas,Pakeezah and Umrao Jaan,the stories demanded mujras to be used extensively. Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan was a story based on the life of a courtesan,and it brought out the grandeur of the mujra like never before. Composed by Khayyam and choreographed by Gopi Krishna,songs such as Inn Aankhon Ki Masti and Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston,went on to make mujras an essential part of Bollywood history.

“Umrao Jaan was based on a novel by Mirza Hadi Ruswa. When we studied the novel and the era,we got to know that dance and song was inseparable from Umrao Jaan and hence,we decided to work the story around the music,” says music composer Khayyam. Rekha went on to do more mujra performances in Muqaddar Ka Sikander.

In the recent years too,the mujra has continued to fascinate filmmakers. Madhuri Dixit’s Maar Daala act in Devdas and Rani Mukerji’s Vari Vari in Mangal Pandey: The Rising bear testimony to this fact. It is back in the popular consciousness with Kapoor’s fusion mujra act. “The most important part of the mujra is that the dancer needs to know when to give importance to facial expressions and when to dance to the rhythm,” says Saroj,who rates Sohanlal-composed mujra number in Jaanwar as one of the best.

Composing music for such a sequence needs special attention. “Mujra is the perfect blend of poetry,music and choreography,” says Khayyam. Composer Ismail Darbar feels that mujras are more a part of a bygone era. “To create a perfect mujra number,the composer needs to have certain amount of aiyyashi in him,” says Darbar,who composed music for Maar Daala. “You need stories that will render to this dance form. In the current scenario,there aren’t too many stories like that. So classical mujras aren’t really possible.” Probably,that is where a Kajra Re fits in.

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