20 top dancing stars of Hindi cinema

Madhuri Dixit Nene is probably the youngest of our iconic stars known for their dances and music. Photo: Publicity Photo

With a high degree of unfairness, Hindi films had been loosely and unfairly straitjacketed as nothing more than ‘song and dance affairs’. The fact also remains that our filmmakers, choreographers, composers and lyricists have designed countless song numbers that have survived the test of time, helped make their films run, and over the years, attained cult status.

Of course, this would not have been possible minus the contributions of on-screen actors and also singers, and over the decades, certain names became synonymous with dance. On International Dance Day, here is looking at such actors and actresses, leads as well as character artistes, who have shown a definite yen for choreography.

Amitabh Bachchan

Each of these legends had their own signature style, and Amitabh’s technique, initially loosely modeled on the iconic Bhagwan’s manner, was an instant hit in countless movies. As the One-Man entertainer, he managed to make an impact with multiple iconic numbers such as My name is Anthony Gonsalves (Amar Akbar Anthony), Khaike paan Banaraswala (Don), Pardesiya (Mr. Natwarlal), Saara zamana  (Yaarana), Tum saath ho jab apne (Kaalia) and Pag ghunghroo (Namak Halaal). His leitmotif was also exploited by filmmakers when he played older roles in films as assorted as Major Saab, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…, Baghban and more.

Aruna Irani

Besides her intense dramatic portrayals or fluid comic turns, Aruna Irani was a consummate dancer too. Who can forget songs like Ae phansa (Bobby), Dilbar dil se pyare and other songs in Caravan, the understated Panditji mere marne ke baad (Roti Kapada Aur Makaan), Mere beri ke ber mat todo (Anokhi Raat) or Koi mar jaaye (Deewaar)?

Asha Parekh

Trained in Kathak, the now-Phalke laureate Asha Parekh was a natural pro at dances. The actress stunned us in songs as assorted as Parde mein rehne do (Shikar), Sayonara (Love in Tokyo), Sona lai jaa re (Mera Gaon Mera Desh), Chunari sambhal gori (Baharon Ke Sapne), Khat likh de saawariya (Aaye Din Bahaar Ke), Dekho bijli dole (Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon) and O mere sona (Teesri Manzil).


He sashayed into people’s hearts with his immortal songs from his production, Albela. But he also had songs enacted in less famous films like Jhamelaa, Gateway of India, Sapne Suhane and Bhagam Bhag. In his later years, he was still summoned to gyrate in dance numbers, rarely with lip-sync (as in Chor Sipahee) and usually only as a necessary audience-friendly element.


When offered her first dance, that, too, a cabaret song, Bindu never let on that she could not shake a leg, but worked so hard on Mera naam hai Shabnam from Kati Patang gave an add-on shade to her vamp image! And just a year later, Hungama ho gaya from Anhonee and Raaz ki baat (Dharma) made her immortal for all time! Dard-e-dil badhta jaaye (Buniyaad), Diljalon ka dil jalaakar (Zanjeer), Dekho idhar bhi  (Imtihan) and Aao yaaron gao (Hawas) were but four other illustrious gems.


Hindi cinema’s original vamp who is also said to have mentored her successor, Helen, reigned in the 1940s and 1950s, and made Western dance a compulsion in many movies! It is said that she would charge Rs. 6000 per song in the 1950s, when a middle-class family could live on Rs. 100 per month! Among her later songs were in films like Mr & Mrs 55 and Madhumati, but she was already a big name much earlier.


He is as famous for his dancing as his comedy and his spectacular success as a hero. Govinda inspired his filmmakers, composers and lyricists to come up with incredible situational songs like Main to raste se jaa raha tha (Coolie No. 1), A aa ee (Raja Babu), What is mobile number (Haseena Maan Jaayegi) and others. His earliest films like Love 86, Ilzaam and Khudgarz also proved his dancing mettle, and choreographer Shiamak Davar once told me that Govinda was the only big star who danced “with his whole being!”

Helen enacts Monica o my darling in Caravan. Photo: Publicity Photo

The uncrowned Czarina of dance, a detailed discography of Helen’s Western and Indian numbers alone could fill a mini-book! The Padma Shri actress who grooved as late as in Khamoshi—The Musical (1996) and Mohabbatein (2000), was famous for never showing her navel even as she wore body suits in her dances.

Her songs are so famous they do not need mention and even her most famous films would occupy too much space. Among the crème-de-la-crème are Howrah Bridge, Gumnaam, An Evening In Paris, Night in London, Inteqam, Caravan, Don and Inkaar.

Hema Malini

The original ‘Dream Girl’ was a proficient Bharatanatyam dancer even before she came into films. Incredibly, even as she remained a top star for two decades and turned filmmaker and singer in reel life, and wife, mother and MP in real life, she continues to be a stage performer. Among her films that exploited her dancing skills most are Sapnon Ka Saudagar, Abhinetri, Sharafat, Kasauti and Naach Uthe Sansaar.


He got the ‘Jumping Jack’ image thanks to Farz, but his patent pattern of dancing and his ability to frenetically cavort from the 1970s to the early 1990s, aided by his array of chartbusters, has ensured Jeetendra a due place among our dancing stars. Jigri Dost, Humjoli, Caravan, Himmatwala and Tohfa are among his many dancing peaks of his very long innings.

Madhuri Dixit-Nene

For the last three decades plus, this actress has remained synonymous with dance numbers in Hindi cinema. Her breakthrough came with the epic Ek do teen char (Tezaab), which along with her Choli ke peeche (Khal-Nayak) counts among two of Hindi cinema’s all-time biggest hits. Add Dhak dhak karne laga (Beta), Dola re dola (Devdas), Koi aaye leke pyar (Sailaab) and hit tracks from films like Khel, Dil To Pagal Hai, Thanedaar and more and you have a Diva whose ‘diva-ine’ tracks are truly phenomenal.

Mithun Chakraborty became famous for his disco numbers. Photo: Publicity Photo

Mithun Chakraborty

The man who introduced disco on screen with Suraksha soon went on to achieve fame with a series of disco-based movies, peaking with Disco Dancer. But Mithun Chakraborty also became well-known for other styles of dance as well, as shown by his moves in films like Tarana, Prem Pratiggya and many others.


She emerged from a “junior artiste” background to reign as the Numero Uno heroine until marriage beckoned. But the pug-nosed Mumtaz was a rage as a dancing actress, whether she was playing a supporting actress, a comedienne, vamp or heroine. From cabarets to mujra and folk, she effortlessly essayed all. And so her Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera (Mere Sanam), Aaj kal tere mere pyar (Brahmchari), Agar dilbar ki rusvai (Khilona), Duniya mein pyar ki (Sachaa Jhutha), Bindiya chamkegi (Do Raaste), Duniya mein logon ko (Apna Desh) or Shehri babu (Loafer) were all hit, hot and happening illustrations of her brilliance.

Neetu Singh

Among the cutest faces around, Neetu Singh’s image as a dancer was fueled by her early cameo in Lekar hum deewana dil (Hum Kisise Kum Naheen). Though she was not a classically-trained dancer, her intrinsic sense of rhythm and her young, almost teenybopper image, went well with choreographers, come Khel Khel Mein or Parvarish or Kaala Patthar. The Rishi-Neetu dance was thus a treat to watch.


The stylish enigma that was Rekha was a blend of oomph, dancing expertise and evocative emotions. As a result, she was a favorite for the expressive mujra songs (Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Umrao Jaan, Deedaar-E-Yaar) as well as the folk-based serenades (Mr. Natwarlal, Suhaag) or even the Western croons (Janbaaz).

Rishi Kapoor

Arguably the classiest and most versatile major hero ever, Rishi Kapoor was not just the obvious choice for films as varied as Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, Sargam and Karz but also someone who danced so effortlessly and in such a stylized manner in multiple genres of cinema and roles.

Shammi Kapoor with Sharmila Tagore in An Evening In Paris. Photo: Publicity Photo

Shammi Kapoor

And Rishi’s uncle, Shammi Kapoor, was the ultimate dancing star. After he was given a ‘Rebel Star’ image with Tumsa Nahin Dekha, the sky was never the limit for this colorful Kapoor, who cavorted in his films to the extent he had to take steroids for his ruined knee-joints and was thus compelled to end his romantic career due to the resultant weight gain. China Town, Junglee, Rajkumar, Kashmir Ki Kali, An Evening In Paris, Brahmchari, Prince—one can go on and on about his magnificent screen dances. Shammi would even choreograph his own songs, just as he took keen interest in his music.


In her breakthrough film, she grooved to Naino mein sapna (Himmatwala). Colossal melodies like Kaate nahin kat-te and Hawa Hawaai (Mr. India), Mere haathon mein (Chandni), Morni baaga maa bole (Lamhe) and Main aisi cheez nahin (Khuda Gawah) were among her follow-up stunners. Sridevi could infuse magic both into raag-based Tadpat beete (Jaag Utha Insan) as in mischievous numbers like Naam mera premkali (Chaalbaaz).


The OG superstar was a danseuse nonpareil. The woman big enough to star in home productions of the four biggest stars who also produced films—Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar—also had her own tour de forces in Nagin  and Amrapali. And Aasha, Gunga Jumna, Madhumati, Devdas and Jewel Thief were among her other triumphs in that era of strong music.

Waheeda Rehman

The Phalke laureate was a trained Kathak dancer and this epitome of grace explored her dancing skills in a variety of movies. Paan khaaye saiyyan hamaro (Teesri Kasam), Mose chhal kiye jaaye and Piya tose naina laage re (Guide), Rangila re (Prem Pujari) and other songs were all testimony to her expertise at nrityashastra.



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