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Published on 06 Jul 2013 | over 5 years ago

'SOHA JODA' or 'THE RED ROBE' was a smash hit PUNJABI FILM of 2007 by NARGIS dealing with the problem of elderly men demanding to marry young girls from poor families in Pakistan.

In this song DANCERS: NIDA CHOWDHRY [orange] and SIDRA NOOR [in blue] show a sassy MUJRA and WELL! They have INHERITED a lot of the GLITTERING CHARM from the ACTRESSES of the old TRAVELLING THEATRE of THE PUNJAB. The 'EYE-WINKING-HAND-ON-HIP' SASSY LOOK; The ATTEMPTS-AT-DANCE-WITH-NO-REAL-TRAINING; The HARD, BRAVE, LONE WOMAN on a STAGE offering a MECHANICAL PERFORMANCE that 'APPEARS' like SEDUCTIVE DANCE [MASCULINE 'DRAG' STYLE] that completely DIVORCES the INTIMATE FEMALE from the MALES and may in some way even represent some sort of PURDAH [veiled] PERFORMANCE that seems to AVOID 'real' FEMALE-MALE CONTACT.... MUJRA in PAKISTAN is, well, "complicated man!"....

NIDA maybe not the BEST DANCER but she DOES IT WELL and SURVIVES. She has not been SHOT, KIDNAPPED, ATTACKED or MURDERED...yet...unlike her PUNJABI MUJRA/ACTRESS counterparts SAIMA KHAN [shot in the leg and neck outside a theatre for refusing 'customers'], or NARGIS [kidnapped and hair shaved off], or NADIRA [actress murdered by her jealous husband].

MUJRA originated as KATHAK [delicate court dance of spins and poses in flared dress and tight trousers with ankle bells] in the COURTS of the MUGHAL EMPIRE. MUJRA declined in the 19th Century into PROSTITUTION in areas like HIRA MANDI in LAHORE. INDIAN and PAKISTANI CINEMA made some revival of KATHAK MUJRA 1960s-1980s.

KATHAK 'disappeared' from HINDI CINEMA in the 1990s, possibly due to the fading of GHANDI'S 'ALL INCLUSIVE INDIA' PRINCIPLES that meant that films offered a song to REPRESENT ALL GROUPS in INDIA in a film, including a HINDU DEVOTIONAL, SIKH, LOVE, CABARET, and a MUJRA. 1980s HINDI CINEMA began to appear to be more HINDU-CENTRIC so KATHAK disappeared due to MUGHAL CULTURE links?

Strange ARTISTIC FASHIONS cross-pollinated inside PAKISTAN. The PROBLEM with maintaining KATHAK is that it needs TRAINING, PRACTICE and MUSICIANS. Another added OBSTACLE is that AUDIENCES need some FAMILIARITY of the CONVENTIONS of KATHAK to ENJOY the dance fully. Over in PESHAWAR the PUSHTO FILM INDUSTRY [influenced by MIDDLE EASTERN & TURKISH CULTURE] often employed PUNJABI ACTRESSES and DUBBED their VOICES. These girls came from HIRA MANDI and were shown the RELATIVLY EASY and SEDUCTIVE BELLY DANCE STYLE of PATHAN DANCES. Somewhere, the influence of WESTERN PAKISTAN dislodged KATHAK for the EASY and more 'EROTIC' PUSHTO BELLY DANCE that could be done to a TAPE. So it took little training, it was more sexy and musicians didn't have to be paid and rehearsed with.

The BELLY DANCING MUJRA took over PUNJABI CINEMA from the 1990s onwards. The DECLINE of PUNJABI CINEMA has been partly to do with Pakistan's phemonenon: 'THEATRE KILLED THE CINEMA'. Under more relaxed laws of MUSHARRAF, MUJRA could be performed LIVE in THEATRES. MALE AUDIENCES wanted to 'smell the meat' [comment made to me in LAHORE!] of the LIVE dancers rather than 'dead' CELLULOID IMAGES in the CINEMA. Even at €8 a ticket, audiences will go to the THEATRE for LIVE DANCING. Sadly, the CINEMAS in the PUNJAB began to FALTER in the early 2000s. CRITICS say that the once INTELLECTUAL PAKISTANI THEATRE that produced TV THEATRE like 'CHANDI SONA' has been DEBASED by MUJRA and VULGAR RAUCOUS PUNJABI STAGE COMEDIES...but SUPPORTERS say that DESI [local] CULTURE is being PROMOTED along with SECULAR FREEDOM to DANCE and LAUGH in PUBLIC, and of course, they are a SELL OUT, so the public LIKE them. The newer BELLY DANCE MUJRA has become a VCD PHENOMENON in PAKISTAN. MUJRA is shot in STUDIOS or OPEN AREAS for PUNJABI and PUSHTO AUDIENCES and the MUJRA DISC INDUSTRY is very LUCRATIVE and POPULAR in the CITIES and RURAL AREAS where VCD PLAYERS are CHEAP.

The DANCERS are often POOR UNEDUCATED GIRLS who come from areas of LAHORE like HIRA MANDI. They grow up in families of KHANJAR [prostitutes] in these districts who are wonderfully described in the book, 'THE DANCING GIRLS of LAHORE' penned from BRITISH RESEARCHER, LOUISE BROWN'S four year stay with such a 'KHANJAR' family in HIRA MANDI. The clearest point made in the book is the HIGH PRICE a girl can EARN for DANCE, ENTERTAINING and MISTRESSING in her YOUTH that must be SAVED for her OLD AGE.

NIDA CHOWDHRY appears to be such a girl. On the POSITIVE SIDE she seems ENERGETIC and BRAVE. There is a MIX of an almost MASCULINE CONFIDENCE, seemingly UNTHREATENING 'low education/low awareness', and an ODD 'BABY-ISHNESS' about NIDA which KEEPS HER SAFE. On the NEGATIVE SIDE she has a SEVERE SPEECH IMPEDIMENT which may INDICATE 'SEVERE CHILDHOOD TRAUMA' which is WORRYING. NIDA'S voice has to be DUBBED in CINEMA.
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