As many of you know already, I am bewildered by the fact that this charming and beautiful woman never made it big as a heroine. The closest she came was in Mere Gaon Mere Desh, where she absolutely shines as dacoit Vinod Khanna’s spy who falls in love with the object of her assignment—Dharmendra. I’ve loved her since I saw Gumnaam years ago and she tore up the dance floor with Herman and company. Like her contemporary Helen, she is able to dance to any kind of song: tawaif, night club, village entertainment. Her most captivating feature in my opinion is her smile—it lights up the screen with joy, and there’s no mistaking it for anyone else’s. Plus, nobody dances like she does—it gives me whiplash just watching her sometimes, but she comes through unscathed!
When she has an actual role, it’s always secondary—the heroine’s best friend, the vamp, etc. I’m always glad to see her, and I think she’s a good actress (why was she not a huge star, why?); but a film where she’s not given an opportunity to dance is just an astonishing and incomprehensible waste of her talent. So here are my favorite times where her dancing skills have not been thrown away (so far—I hope there are more gems to be discovered out there)!
10. “Behrupiye Log Sare” from Ek Khiladi Bawan Pattey (1972) (sung by Asha, music by Sonik Omi). She has two great songs in this film (please somebody put it on DVD with subtitles!). Vinod Khanna in disguise looking like John Lennon! Giant eyeballs! I really need to see this.
9. “Maar Diya Jai” from Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) (sung by Lata, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). Laxmi had three great dances in this film and a good-sized role; this is my favorite of the three. Is she betraying Dharmendra now that she realizes he loves Asha and not her? The suspense! I also love the “snake music” sound.
8. “Ek Muthi Main Pyar” from Sharafat Chhod Di Maine (1976) (sung by Asha, music by Madan Mohan). Another crazy nightclub. Plus: Feroz!
7. “Do Pal Jo Teri Aankhon” from Baharon Ke Sapne (1967) (sung by Asha and Lata, music by RD Burman). Laxmi along with Bela Bose dances up a storm at a party. Just so entertaining to watch these two together! Plus: huge daisy earrings!
6. “Main Sharaab Bechti Hoon” from Raaste Ka Patthar (1972) (sung by Asha, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). This is such a poignant performance—she is dancing crazily, seducing Sudhir, but you can feel and see the desperate unhappiness beneath the frantically perky exterior. Very powerful scene! (Sudhir is fab too).
5. “Main Ek Haseena” from Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) (sung by Asha, music by Laxmikant Pyarelal). So much fun!!!! And she just looks gorgeous, even though she’s a little (just a little) chubbier than she usually was.
4. “Awara Ae Mere Dil” from Raat Aur Din (1967) (sung by Lata, music by Shankar Jaikishan). Laxmi shakes her moneymaker in front of my favorite band Ted Lyons & His Cubs. They paired together in the number one song and dance on my list too!
3. “Gulabi Raat Gulabi” from Upkar (1967) (sung by Asha, music by Kalyanji Anandji). Fabulous cabaret number and song; stands out even from all the other really good songs in the film.
2. “Nazar Meri Badi Idhar Se” from Rustom-E-Hind (1965) (sung by Asha, music by Hansraj Behl). This is just cracktastic. She looks like she’s having a seizure. The best part of this is her crazed shaking and shimmying: she probably single-handedly could have put a good chiropractor’s children through graduate school!
1. “Jaan Pehchaan Ho” from Gumnaam (1965) (sung by Rafi, music by Shankar Jaikishan). Could it be anything else? I think not! I never never never tire of watching it. Never.
Post update: I have replaced the at best unreliable links to Youtube with video remastered and then uploaded by tommydan1 at Dailymotion. Thanks again Tom!