I remember while being in high school it was quite taxing to prepare for the Board exams and one would look forward for even a momentary respite from the tedium of endless revisions and preparations. Have great memories of watching Prabhu Deva dance numbers on the national television network.
So ‘Urvasi Urvasi, take it easy Urvasi …’ and ‘Muqabla Muqabla … ‘ were rather entertaining numbers from the man who came to be known as India’s Michael Jackson. And before that we had him team with the emerging music director A R Rahman to deliver the riveting ‘Chikku bukku chikku bukku raile…’
We were used to Mithun Chakraborty as a ‘Disco Dancer’ in Hindi cinema and that was followed by Govinda as a ‘Street Dancer’, but I don’t remember any dancing stars in Tamil cinema before Prabhu Deva. In fact the only remarkable memory about male dancers in Tollywood is of the talented Bhagyaraj aping our ‘Jumping Jack’ Jeetendra in delivering ‘PT exercise style’ steps in his songs. And the trend in Tamil movies was to focus on the heroine for dance numbers and it was a revolution when we saw Prabhu Deva emerge on the screen and do western style numbers – again a novelty in our movies.
He was a trained dancer who understood both the Indian and Western forms of dance. He was a choreographer as well. And this enabled him to produce some amazing dance sequences, that even contributed to the success of his movies. People did not much care about whether he could act well or not, they enjoyed watching his songs.
He brought newer approaches to the song, the use of graphics in ‘Chikku bukku chikku bukku raile … ‘ and ‘Muqabla Muqabla … ‘ left you mesmerized. One would watch endless repeats of the cowboy act wherein suddenly the hero would be shot to pieces and still continue to dance. The immaculate moves including the invisible dancing cap and legs were great visuals that just lingered in your mind. It was like an early lesson in the ‘gestalt’ concept that we learnt later on at college.
Even the lyrics very zany and slangish Tamil with mix of pidgin English that was just right to appeal to the youth. No wonder we loved mindless lyrics, ‘Urvasi Urvasi, take it easy Urvasi, oosi pola udumba illan teva illa pharmacy … ‘. He did a rap number with Vadivelu called ‘Pettai Rap’ and eventually did a number with Apache Indian as well.
Prabhu Deva kept evolving to keeps himself relevant. He tried his hand at doing comic roles and succeeded in the attempt. One such popular attempt was his movie, ‘Kathala Kathala’, with Kamal Haasan He ensured that dancing remained a part of his roles or else he kept making special appearances in songs to keep himself in the public eye. One such popular performance was teaming up with the dancing heart-throb Madhuri Dixit in the hindi movie Pukar for the popular song, ‘Ke Sera Sera…’
And finally he donned the hat of a director and went on to deliver popular hits in Tamil and Hindi. The audience still loved his dances so he continued to make cameo appearances to cater to their demands. Songs like ‘Pokkiri Pongal’ where he teamed up with Vijay in the Tamil movie Pokkiri and Jalwa with Salman in the Hindi movie Wanted were indeed popular with the audiences.
So Prabhu Deva has evolved from a star dancer to a star performer – we stay clued in to watch the next moves he makes in a career that has crossed twenty-five years now.