Big Bollywood dance number: Sneha Taurani's 'Bhangra Paa Le' transcends culture
Sunny Kaushal, Rukshar Dhillon, and director Sneha Taurani speak about the universal appeal of Bhangra and what went behind making Bhangra Paa Le.
Hindi films centered on dance are no novelty. From V Shantaram's Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955) all the way to Remo D'Souza's ABCD franchise, the mentions abound. Sneha Taurani's upcoming film, Bhangra Paa Le, takes off from a familiar setup, but introduces a new element.
The musical drama shines a light on Bhangra, the upbeat Punjabi form that transcends time and cultures. Bhangra was originally associated with Vaisakhi, or harvest season, in central Punjab. Over the years, it acquired a more free form status, and was popularised worldwide by Punjabi pop culture.
Sunny Kaushal, who plays the male lead in Bhangra Paa Le, says there are many facets to the dance he wasn't aware of. "Being a Punjabi, I was a fairly decent Bhangra dancer from childhood. But doing it on stage with a crew is completely different. I had to learn it from scratch and make tweaks to my posture and knee movements. I trained for four months under our choreographers Vijay Ganguly and Adil Shaikh. It looks nice and easy but technically it's not."
The film's story cuts across two timelines. In the present, Jaggi (Sunny) is a student who wants to showcase his talents on a world stage. He participates in an international dance competition, attempting to fuse Bhangra with western forms. A parallel track follows Jaggi's grandfather, also played by Sunny, fighting in World War II. Music and dance become the strand that ties off their arcs. "Bhangra Paa Le isn't just a dance film focused on a competition," Sunny says, "It's a really sweet story about generational bonds." The parallel narrative also allows for a more authentic representation of the form, he adds. "I remember I was shooting the introductory dance for the grandfather's part. I decided to do it barefoot, since that's how Bhangra was originally performed.