Dholida | The Magical 57 Seconds
Women in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali song are often presented as strong, courageous, fearless, emotional, and a woman of content. His lady loves to dance with her fellow sakhi be it the famous Dola re Dola from Devdas, Pinga from Bajirao Mastani, and Ghoomar from Padmavat. Dholida from Gangubai Kathiawadi, where the lead character Gangubai aka Alia Bhatt is seen playing with her sahiyar’s.
The song is set in retro India. As always, the set in SLB movies becomes an essential character. Through the magical lens, the chawls, talkies, film posters, and the poster of the famous Dalda are interwoven with the setting. A simple street with minimal light bulbs and an interesting traditional ‘Toran’ elevates the visual beauty.
All the characters play in hues of earthy brown, and natural tones of green. However, the central character ie. Gangubai is in a white moon-like Gujarati-style saree. Understanding her character, the white can be a symbol of her innocence and purity, depicting her as a sort of demigoddess. A contradiction to her character and that’s what SLB is all about. A unique approach, which differs for good from what people perceive of Gangubai.
Folk lyrics, dance, and music have unimaginable power. The sound and visual of a Gujarati folk art form have reaffirmed my belief that in present times only a Sanjay Leela Bhansali can execute and present the Gujarati culture to the world in a glorious way. A special mention to the sound of manjira.
The actor transforms immensely. How the song transforms from swag to aggression and from happiness to pain. The rhythmic neck movements of all dancers, their agility, and the vitality of performing Garba compliment the tonal quality of the singer Janhvi Shrimankar, which is a visual treat. The transformation of an artist and a character is just brilliantly presented in this song.
What steals the show is the last 57 seconds. Alia’s eyes and expressions need not speak as the entire job is done by her brilliant body language. The dance movements by the choreographer Kruti Mahesh, the cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee plays a vital role to portray how the character of Gangubai feels the need for acceptance from society. Yet, in the very second moment, her pride and dignity are shown, and she won’t accept her defeat. Her eyes keep on negotiating with society. The struggle with society, about winning, power, and the abuse, all mixed together aesthetically in that 57 seconds.
Her smile reflects her thinking of how the world has hated her, betrayed her, but still, she will conquer the world. And at the same time, in the background, all praise of Ma Amba starts and we experience the incredible metaphorical situation comparing the woman, her power, with Ma Amba. The line Ma ne yaad kari tara sharne, tane namu chu, vandu chu – praises the Mataji and praises the women in general. While playing Garba she is not only tired but in reality she is tired of the world. And that’s where the khamma khamma mari maa khamma plays.
A common perception is how a cute and petite actor like Alia playing Gangubai, can command the world? I believe this song and movie proves to be a fine example to understand that it is not always about the body that wins you but attitude, confidence, intention, and mind that can help you, have the right kind of command over people.
The range of expressions and emotions used in this one song is normally used in an entire movie. This 3-minute song tells you the emotional experience of Gangubai, and that’s where the masterclass of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the music director, visualizer, thinker, and director weaves magic for us. The visuals of each frame are a painting and poetry.