1. Monica, My Darling! - Caravan (1971).
Bollywood’s most beloved item dancer Helen truly arrived with this rooftop cabaret club dance. Helen’s “exotic” name and origins (Anglo-Indian, Burmese), allied to lithe-limbed prowess and smouldering eyes, saw her portray vampish characters (cabaret singer, gangster’s moll, courtesan, travelling dance girl) in breathy, dance sequences.
Oh and here’s proof, pole-dancing is clearly INDIAN.
2. Pug Ghungru… Namak Halal (1982).
No Bollywood list could be complete without Amitabh Bhachan, aka The Big B (or “long legs” as he was known in our house), who at 6 ft 1 has literally towered over short-ass Indian cinema for over four decades and is still going strong.
This is Amitabh in his fresh-faced, pre-superstar prime, playing the village idiot working as a porter in a flash hotel who steps in to the breach when the hotel singer is too drunk to perform.
There’s a Bollywood dance move to pick up here, with Amitabh demonstrating “The Sweeper”, with added flourish.
3. I Am A Disco Dancer - Disco Dancer (1982).
The title song from so-bad-it’s-good cult classic Disco Dancer sees Mithun (playing Jimmy) in a sliver onesie and matching platforms channelling John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever.
Disco Dancer is a film that keeps on giving, through incredible outfits, a dazzling disco soundtrack (sampled by MIA) and a plot from the gods with Jimmy’s arch-enemy attempting to electrocute our hero through his electric guitar at the disco dancing championships.
It seems choreography hadn’t quite achieved the laser-guided precision that Bollywood would later become renowned for.
4. Main Teri Dushman - Nagina (1986).
Sri Devi socks it to the bad guys in this bewitching, iconic Snake Dance in an 1980s classic that stands apart as its central protagonist is a woman. The plot sees the villain convince Sri Devi’s beau and his mum, that she is possessed by a snake.
SO, if you’ve ever wanted to see a person embody a snake through dancing - as I’m sure we all have - look no further.
5. Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai? - Khalnayak (1993).
This super-hit song, from super-hit thriller Khalnayak, sees cherished Bollywood babe Madhuri Dixit ask “What’s beneath this blouse?” Answers on a postcard please.
6. Sarkaye Liyo - Raju Babu (1994).
In comedy and dance terms Govinda (in the fetching wife-beater), is a Bollywood great.
His whole-hearted dancing (think Carlton in the Fresh Prince…) was inspired by endlessly copying Disco Dancer (see 3) as a kid, while his everyman screen persona allied to electric chemistry with Karishma Kapoor (above) saw the duo pair up as a will-they-won’t-they? couple in ELEVEN films.
Govinda became an MP (2004- 2009). Yes, he really did.
7. Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast - Mohra (1994).
As we can see Bollywood dancing is all about THE HIPS. Ladies - sway, shimmy and sashay. Guys - lustily thrust. And perhaps leave out the airing your arm-pit bit.
8. Chaiya Chaiya - Dil Se (1998).
A game-changing sequence, starring Bollywood’s ‘King of Romance’ Shah Rukh Khan at the peak of his swoon-some powers and popular item dancer Malaika Arora, pulling off some powerful moves - on a moving train. ON A MOVING TRAIN.
9. Dola De Rola - Devdas (2002).
Two of Bollywood’s most treasured actresses, Madhuri Dixit (see 5) and Aishwarya Rai (now daughter-in-law of the Big B), team up for this wedding-themed spectacular set piece that looks as sumptuous as an oil painting and mesmerises with its scale, complexity and execution.
10. Dhoom Again - DHOOM:2 (2006).
The DHOOM franchise is almost as famous for its spectacular opening credits as the films themselves. DHOOM:2 nods to the ladies as Bollywood’s most-ripped actor, Hrithik Roshan shows off impressive technical ability (as well as his bulging guns).
If you’ve ever wondered if biceps can heave like a Bollywood bosom, you know where to look.
11. Chikni Chameli - Agneepath (2012).
Katrina Kaif shows the lads how to “shake it like a Polaroid” in this breathtaking, new-school-item-number-on-steroids.