Last year, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa ended up in an avoidable showdown between a sizzler (Sandhya Mridul) and a TV bahu (Prachi Desai). Much drama happened - not all of it fun. But this season - for a variety of reasons, JDJ was a runaway success. There were several reasons behind it.
WWE RAW, anyone?
I've always wanted to watch the ridiculously fake drama that enfolds in any of those zany Worldwide Wrestling (or any of its anya ripoffs) TV telecasts. But yes, there is such a thing as too tacky and I've never had the patience to sit through one. Until JDJ 3 started airing. Allow me to explain.
You know how Gauhar Khan - that terrific dancer with the kind of jhatkas that would make Helen look like Mother Teresa - was anointed Drama Queen of the show? Fair enough, but even more fun was to watch her reactions whenever she was praised by just about anyone.
Judge Heehee praised her - Gauhar punched the air. Saroj Khan praised her - Gauhar quivered, mock-hung her mouth open and pointed back at Saroj in disbelief. Another time she acted like she was on a trampoline. Vaibhavi Merchant did some wah-wah - Gauhar near hyper-ventilated and then went on a quick stumble to indicate her joy. A dog barked in the back - Gauhar prostrated herself. Ok, I made that last one up but you get the point. All of this was like some of that WWE drama I've seen - powered by over-hyped reactions. It was all so entertaining all I can say is Jai Matadi Let's Do Kushti!
Phaadu, Junglee Dancing
I would like to give full credit to Anand Raaj Anand for inventing both: this term - Phaadu Junglee and a form of dancing unlike anything seen before on the show. When ARA dances, even a cup of chai stays suspended in front of my lips (a majorly unlikely event under normal circumstances). Often ARA would execute hugely hilarious moves - but he would dive into it with such spirit (led by that belly) that it was impossible not to be entertained.
In the finale, he arrived in full form - leaning (literally) into one of his songs with Hard Kaur and thrusting his hands through crevices in his body in ways I didn't think possible. He grabbed the mike and said: "Jab Aaye to chhaaye!" All hail the King of Phaadu soundbites!
Judge Grumpy, Heehee and Jhakaas
I have to say initially Saroj Khan annoyed me a bit. But with time, I realized that this was a gruff exterior tempered in the inhospitable climate of Bollywood. She was actually a fair-minded and gracious matron prone to handing out money when impressed. Towards the end, I eagerly awaited someone to invite her to dance so I could see her break out into some debauched mujra moves.
Initially Judge Heehee also annoyed me a bit. Every time she spoke she seemed to be laughing. Often she sounded like a giddy headed Barbie after eight shots of tequila. But towards the end of the show, something funny happened. Judge Heehee picked up the mike and said "Impossible means 'I m possible'. Following which, she positively annoyed me all the time to the point where I'd like to rename her Judge DVR Skip Button.
Vaibhavi Merchant was jhakaas when the show started and she stayed that way - finishing the finale with a dance that was innovative, stylish, cute and dazzling. When judging she delivered sadak chhaap dialogs with grace and class, thus taking the edge off them and coming across as a bindaas types. Most endearingly, she seemed to be dancing all the time - striking tons of abhinay mudras when handing out scores. Vaibaby, call me - we should hang.
JDJ may be all about the stars on the show - but as anyone who watches will tell you, it eventually boils down to the choreographers. And while everyone on JDJ seems to be great, none stood out more this season than Sonia Jaffer and Savio Barnes. Hopefully we'll have an opportunity to talk about Sonia some more in a later post.
But we can talk about Savio now. And here its best to mention a movie called Back at the Barnyard - a movie that got a lukewarm reception but had enough crazy subversive stuff in it that it won me over.
In the movie, after the humans have retired for the night, all the farm animals get together and convert their barn into a blues bar. There is much drinking, singing and dancing. For the climax, the animals all bring out a box and open it. Inside the box is a party animal so strange that it can't be described - its goes by the moniker Wild Mike. The thingy bounds out of the box and bounces off the wall to a hillbilly beat, executing moves strange and jaw dropping.
Savio Barnes was JDJ's Wild Mike.
While I care about my own personal entertainment rather than who will win in the end, it was still strangely suspenseful to see who the audience would vote for.
All season long, Karan Singh Grover hid behind Nicole Alvares' expertly coddling choreography (and his buff chest). Would the saas-bahu crowd surge him to the top like they had Mona Singh and Prachi Desai before him?
The producers of JDJ 3 wrung much drama out of Gauhar's bad chemistry with her first choreographer Hanif Hilal. Would the urban crowd vote for an honest, fair-minded person who kept it professional if a little focussed on herself?
The person who walked away with the trophy (hey nice design - can we use it next year instead of that dreadfully ugly IPL trophy?) was Baichung Bhutia. Sure Baichung couldn't shake a leg and went through all his dances with a goldfish expression till the very end, but his win was a vote of confidence for his willingness and his faith in his choreographer - a fact that he graciously kept driving home to everyone multiple times.