Prabhudheva’s best dance sequences: From ‘Chikku Bukku’ to ‘Guleba’

Prabhudheva turns 47 today

Prabhudheva turns 47 today   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

The choreographer-actor-producer-director turns 47 today. Here we collate a list of a few of his best dance performances in Tamil films

Until a certain Prabhudheva came along, dance choreography in Tamil cinema — unless it was based on a classical dance form — was limited to functional exercises, weird mannerisms of star actors and (if you’re a connoisseur of Telugu film songs on YouTube) odd movements of the waist and derriere.

His rise to prominence as a choreographer, first, and an actor, subsequently, inspired many others, especially his peers who debuted in Tamil films around the same time and were looking to make their mark, to take up dancing and improve this peculiar skill to move their feet faster than your eyes can follow. Years later, we had a rejuvenated Vijay and actors like Bharath and Allu Arjun follow suit.

But it was Prabhudheva who first captured the imagination of a millennial crowd unlike any actor or film personality had done before. It was with awe that people tuned into their television sets in the ‘90s to watch him bend his body at will. Such unmatched skill even led a TV network, at one point, to name a talent hunt show after the man. The objective: to find out who was going to be the next Prabhudheva? And some say, they are still searching for ‘The One’.

The man who rose to fame as the Indian equivalent of Michael Jackson — only on the count of similarity and ease with which Prabhudheva twisted and moved his body around — turns 47 today, and we bring you a list of 10 songs (across a career spanning three decades) that best captured this wiry-haired, soft-spoken actor-director’s dancing prowess.

‘Chikku Bukku Chikku Bukku Rayile’ — Gentleman (1993)


Prabhudheva gives a great deal of attention to his costume detail much like the choreography. Until ‘Chikku Bukku’, he had only appeared in songs that had the essence of ‘gaana’ to its music, and rural/rustic to its visual detail. ‘April Mayile’ song by Ilaiyaraaja in Idhayam, although urban, was a more melody track. Courtesy Rahman, ‘Chikku Bukku’ became the dance pop sensation that everybody loved to move their feet to. And there was Prabhudheva, alongside Gautami Tadimalla, capturing youngsters’ attention with his high jumps and baggy pants, twisting his body like it was nobody else’s business.

‘Metro Channel’ — Indhu (1994)


This film saw the debut of Prabhudheva in a lead role although he had made several appearances in films prior to Indhu.

Deva’s beats renders this song a very disco-pop feel, and the copious MJ influence is felt not only in the music but also in Prabhudheva’s costumes and moves. Matching steps with him is Khushbu, who also appeared in a dance sequence in his directorial Villu (2009), starring Vijay. This iconic track from the ‘90s was featured in last year’s super hit film Kaithi.

‘Mukkala Mukkabala’ - Kaadhalan (1994)


Prabhudheva emerged as a box office success after S Shankar’s Kaadhalan. The story behind Kaadhalan goes that Shankar was not keen on casting Prabhudheva, an untested entity, in a big budget production venture. When the producer KT Kunjumon insisted, the decision was made to splash out on songs and bet the film’s success on its visual appeal. It was a bet that paid off and much of the credit went to Prabhudheva’s enigmatic choreography and AR Rahman’s mind-blowing album.

The dance solo at the end of the track is the highlight. The white suit, hat, glove and boots became synonymous with the song. Kaadhalan also had other equally well-choreographed songs like ‘Pettai Rap’ and ‘Urvasi Urvasi’. But so popular is ‘Mukkala Mukkabala’ that it was remixed in the recently-released Street Dancer 3D, and which had the now 47-year-old dancing icon retrace his steps in the trademark white suit: faceless and without hands but still leaving us all in awe.

Vennilavae Vennilavae — Minsara Kanavu (1997)


What best conveys the emotion in a song? The lyrics? The singer’s voice? The mood/setting of the song? The actors? Prabhudheva proved that dance too can make us feel what a Catch 22 situation feels like in this beautifully choreographed song. It fetched him a National Award.

When he jumps off a high point at the conclusion of the line: “Naam Iravin Madiyil Pillaigal Aavom... Paalootta Nilavundu”, it is not just Hariharan’s mellifluous voice or the gentle beats of AR Rahman that makes us feel the drop, it is Prabhudheva.

‘Kaasumela’ — Kaathala Kaathala (1998)


This lovely ‘dappankuthu’ song is courtesy Karthik Raja. Making things more interesting on screen alongside Prabhudheva is an ‘effervescent’ Kamal Haasan, who, as we recall, has not moved his feet to such a foot-thumping, masala song ever since.

Kaathala Kaathala was a successful film due to its strong writing and comedy. But ‘Kaasumela’ lives on with the viewer long after the film is over. This is one of those ‘must watch’ videos for the sheer chaos that unfolds, and the bliss that it helps generate.

‘Kaathadikkuthu’ — Ninaivirukkum Varai (1999)


The gaana anthem of the late ‘90s, and who else but Deva to come up with such a masterpiece! If ‘Kaasumela’ was organised in its chaos, ‘Kaathadikkuthu’ was unhinged from the start. The brilliance in this choreography is how over two dozen people are on the screen in every frame of the song, and still manage to move in a synchronised manner to the thump of Deva’s beats without it ever appearing jarring, which takes some coaching. As the film’s heroine Keerthi Reddy exclaims: “Ithaan party!” Another fun song in this film is the ‘Thirupathi Ezhumalai Venkatesa’ number.

‘Karu Karu Karupaayi’ — Eazhaiyin Sirippil (2000)


If there ever was one actor who could match step-to-step with Prabhudheva (and it doesn’t mean similar skill/prowess) on screen it was Roja. The pair had an amazing chemistry in all their films, and which, especially, came through in the many fun song sequences they have danced together in.

This number sung by Unni Menon and Anuradha Sriram is an example. Quirkiness and fun quotient have always been an innate quality of Prabhudheva’s choreography, and this one is no different. There are other impressively choreographed songs the Prabhudheva-Roja combo have given us. Do check out ‘Masthana Masthana’ from Raasaiyya (1995) and ‘Siva Siva Siva Sankara’ from the record-creating film Suyamvaram (1999).

‘Vaadi Vaadi Nattukatta’ — Alli Thandha Vaanam (2001)


This one is for the highlight reel. ‘Vaadi Vaadi’ has that moment when Prabhudheva goes: ‘Guys, just hold on to my hands, and watch my body do the rest.’ It is the ultimate “Hold my beer” moment, and when his wiry frame moves twists around, at some point, you do tend to wonder if that body is made of muscle or latex.

‘All Day Jolly Day’ — Manadhai Thirudivittai (2001)


One of the priceless songs in Tamil cinema. The choreography in this is top-notch in how it tries to bring back retro style to fit into the new millennium. Credit where it is due, the song is what it is due to Yuvan Shankar Raja, one of the brightest, young talents emerging in Tamil cinema at the time.

The jazzy beats and the predominantly mannerism-based choreograph throughout makes it a jolly watch. Watch out for when the wigs and bell bottoms come on. And did we mention how good a pair Prabhudheva and Roja make on screen? There is just one hiccup; they cannot scale the legendary status of Prabhudheva-Vadivelu. United to create chaos for a song, after their exploits in ‘Pettai Rap’, Vadivelu hit it out of the park in ‘All Day Jolly Day’.

‘Guleba’ — Gulaebaghavali (2018)


Is there any other man in their mid-40s who is as nimble-footed and dance with such suave as Prabhudheva? On the comeback trail, as an actor, Guleba had a wider appeal because Prabhudheva had expanded his markets to beyond South India, and was an established name as a filmmaker in Bollywood. Much like ‘Kaathadikkuthu’, there is chaos on screen but much like ‘Kaasumela’, it is super organised. The costumes are flashy, the lights and the set make it impossible to take your eyes away from the dancing sensation.

Special Mention:

‘Rowdy Baby’ — Maari 2 (2018)


The most viewed Indian song on YouTube (the all time record) belongs to Rowdy Baby. Now, credit goes to Yuvan Shankar Raja’s beats and the screen presence of Sai Pallavi and Dhanush, the stunning set in which it was shot. But the dance moves belong to our man Prabhudheva. Rowdy Baby bent our imagination as much as ‘Main Aisa Kyun Hoon’ did to Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya (2004).

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 3:15:36 PM |

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