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"ThillanaMohanambal" [1968]


Padmini has acted and danced in over 250 films. She was a top star in Bollywood as well as four other Indian regional cinema's, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu. Padmini could speak all of those regional languages, so consequently her voice never needed to be dubbed for her parts. She was a trained classical dancer under Guru Gopinath and made her film debut when she was 17, in Uday Shankar's dance extravaganza, "Kalpana". She had a film career that spanned over 40 years.

Padmini's charisma as a dancer allowed her to cross all regional boundaries and she excelled in many different styles from Bharatnatyam to Western. Along with Viyjayantimala, her South Indian compatriot, Padmini could also be credited with popularizing, refining, and setting the standard and expectation for Indian Popular Cinema's psudo-classical style of dance, that after them, have become a virtual prerequisite of every Bollywood and Indian popular film.




"Payal" [1957]

Primarily Padmini was a star of Malayalam and Tamil cinema, but she also made her mark in Bollywood with films like "Payal" [1957], Babubhai Mistry's "Mahabharat" [1965], Raj Kapoor's "Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai" [1961], and "Mera Naam Joker" [1971].

Padmini had two sisters, Lalitha and Ragini, that were also dancers, they were popularly known as the Travancore sisters. After her marriage in 1961 Padmini semi-retired from films and focused on married life and refining her classical dance. She made a base for herself in the United States and in 1977 opened her classical dance school in New Jersey, The 'Padmini School of Fine Arts'. Her school is today one of the largest Indian Classical Dance institutions in America.




"Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai" [1961]

To watch Padmini dance in her films from the 1950s and 60s is a revelation. Many of her dances highly integrate pretensions of classical movements and facial expressions originally meant for the traditional stage. The transition of the performance of classical styles, as presented by Padmini, from stage to film screen feel like a natural metamorphosis. The construct was incredibly popular, and the movie going public grew to demand classical style dances in not only Padmini and Vyjayantimala films but all films.

One becomes strikingly aware of the link and influence between classical dance on modern Indian Popular Film's general dramatic presentation and song picturization style. In this regard it was dancers like Padmini and Vyjayantimala who helped mold and evolve Bollywood and Indian Popular Cinema into the form it is today.



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first uploaded: 19.19.03