Bollywood is known widely for its various dance sequences appearing in movies, Mujra is one of the major part of it.
Mujra originally is a form of dance developed by tawaif (courtesans) during the Mughal era which incorporated elements of the native classical Kathak dance onto music such as thumris and ghazals or poems of those from other Mughal cultures.
Modern Mujra has become a huge sensation in Bollywood starting from Madhuri Dixit's scintillating performance in 'Devdas'. She played a courtesan as Chandramukhi in the 2002, her dance in the song "Maar Dala" became hugely popular that year.
And now Kangana Ranaut is all set to create a new benchmark in the industry with her Mujra performance in her upcoming film, 'Rajjo'. For her role as a nautch girl Kangana has worked very hard to bring authentic performances to the screen. In preparation for this film, Kangana underwent a rigorous Kathak training. Under the esteemed guidance of Rajendra Chaturvedi who is a dynamic and a versatile dancer and who has carved a special niche for himself in the field of Kathak, Kangana has put in her heart and soul in practicing to be perfect for the role of 'Rajjo'.
Now let's go down the memory lane and revisit some historically epic Mujra performance portrayed on the big screen.
The original Chandramukhi in the 1955 'Devdas', Vyjayanthimala was an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer to begin with. Hence, her performance in "Ab Aage Teri Marzi" did not come as a tough task and she looked marvellous in the entire dance sequence.
One of the most beautiful actresses of yesteryears, Madhubala dazzled as Anarkali in the period epic movie 'Mughal-e-Azam' and "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" has become the stuff of pop culture. She was not a trained dancer like most of her contemporaries, but she pulled off the hit Mujra number with elan.
Rekha is another popular name that comes into mind when thinking about all the great Mujra performances. She was absolutely stunning in 'Umrao Jaan' (1981) - her most memorable Mujra performances being "In Aakhon Ki Masti" and "Dil Cheez Kya Hai". Another jewel of hers is "Salaam-e-Ishq" from 'Muqaddar Ka Sikandar'.
When talking about Mujra one cannot miss out the original Mujra queen, Meena Kumari swayed the audiences with her dances in "Chalte Chalte", "Inhi Logon Ne" and "Thare Rahiyo" - all from the classic hit 'Pakeezah'. One of Meena Kumari's last films, she received a posthumous Filmfare nomination for her beautiful portrayal of a tragic courtesan.
Its only the dynamic women of the past who have had the courage to gracefully carry out beautiful Mujra performances, some of the contemporary actress too have tried and succeeded more or less. Although Aishwarya Rai comes off a poor second next to Rekha in the 'Umrao Jaan' remake, but she too is quite good as a tragic 'tawaif'. "Salaam" was a beautiful number that Aishwarya will best be remembered for from the movie. Besides, her performance in the song from 'Bunty Aur Babli' - "Kajra Re", a quite upbeat twist to the classic Mujra, went through the roof when it was released.
Rani Mukherjee the bong beauty in 'Mangal Pandey: The Rising' played the part of a prostitute who falls in love with the protagonist. The Mujra of that film was called 'Main Vari Vari'. Rani looked resplendent in her pink and gold regalia as the chief courtesan - and made the most of her small role in the movie.
Our very own Miss Universe too gave Mujra a chance Sushmita Sen had a small role in 'Kisna: The Warrior Poet' (2005) - and as the courtesan Naima Begum, danced to the much forgettable number 'Chilman Uthegi Nahi'. Although she looked beautiful and danced gracefully, the performance was a marker of how the subtleties of the dance form is now near to being lost in Bollywood.
Just when everyone thought that Mujra was losing its charm and the moves had become redundant, the age of modern Mujras rose, and the churidars are replaced with shararas. Kareena Kapoor brought in this change with "Dil Mera Muft Ka" in 'Agent Vinod' (2012). The beats sound nothing like those of the languid sarods and upbeat tablas of the original mujras. Even though there were no guarantees that this type of music or ensemble could work but Bebo pulled it off and ushered the era of Modern Mujras.
The cinema will now see the rising star Kangana Ranaut create magic on the screen with her moves. The long journey from the 60s to the 21st century has given the world so much in terms of Dance and Mujra specifically that Kangana will have much to compete with and even more to live upto.