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5 fabulous dance numbers of Malaika Arora – Birthday special

As model and dancer Malaika Arora turns 45 today (23 October), we revisit five of her memorable dance numbers.

Mayur Lookhar

The song-and-dance sequences in most films make Indian cinema different. Unfortunately, not many stars are blessed with the ability to dance, nor can many dancers act.

Helen made a career in Hindi cinema as a sensual dancer. There was a time when a commercial masala entertainer was incomplete without a sumptuous dance number by the cabaret queen.

In the new era, not many have been able to match up to Helen's charisma. The one person who came close was Malaika Arora, who built a career around dance numbers, also called 'item' numbers in mainstream Hindi cinema.

Arora started her career in the early 1990s as a model and cashed in on the pop music fever later in the decade. She featured most famously in the music video for Malkit Singh and Bally Sagoo’s 'Gud Naal Ishq Mitha', which brought her to the attention of Hindi film directors.

While Arora has not performed dance numbers by the dozen, the few she has in the past two decades are memorable. Though she turns 45 today (23 October), she does not look it, having taken good care of her health and fitness and continued to showcase her dancing skills in the odd film song. In celebration, we revisit five of her memorable dance numbers.

'Chaiyya Chaiyya' — Dil Se (1998)

Shah Rukh Khan, Malaika Arora and a bunch of men dancing on top of a moving train was an idea choreographer Farah Khan and director Mani Ratnam were crazy enough to implement. Arora and the men were like banjaras (nomads). This unique concept was enough to put 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' in the book of Hindi cinema's greatest songs.

Bulleh Shah's 'Thaiyya Thaiyya Thaiyya' was rechristened 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' by Gulzar. Music maestro AR Rahman produced a rollicking score. But it was really the daring dance performance that took one’s breath away.

They couldn’t go full throttle on a moving train, but Arora, Khan and company put in enough energy and pulled off some daring moves that had a jaw-dropping effect on the viewers. Some of the moves were choreographed to the sounds of the engine and the whistle. Arora’s frantic movements to the particular sounds were simply majestic.

This track was about dancing souls taking a train to heaven. While Shah Rukh Khan as the star of the film got most of the praise, it was Malaika Arora who sent out the message: if you need a great dancer, don’t look too far.

'Hoth Rasiley' — Welcome (2007)

After Dil Se (1998), Malaika Arora featured in a few popular tracks, one of them being 'Kaal Dhamaal' in which she was paired, again, with superstar Shah Rukh Khan. However, Arora was reduced to a sexy siren in the number.

It took the 'Hoth Rasiley' song from Welcome (2007) for Arora to be able to showcase her skills again. This desi dance track did not see Arora with too many moves, but the expressions and sensuous steps struck. Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar are also seen in the track. Arora's thumkas, jhatkas and the classic Marilyn Monroe move were memorable. The music stood out more, but Arora charmed viewers with her trademark desi moves.

'Munni Badnaam Hui' — Dabangg (2010)

Dabangg marked the start of a new phase in actor Salman Khan’s career, but it was also a memorable film for Malaika Arora. Khan, her brother-in-law at the time, and Arora gave us the electrifyingly raunchy dance number 'Munni Badnaam Hui'.

The song was inspired by the Bhojpuri folk number 'Ladka Badnaam Hua', with composer Lalit Pandit changing it to 'Munni Badnaam Hui'. The lyrics did not make much sense, but the music, vibe, and visuals left you wanting more. Choreographer Farah Khan gave Arora some saucy desi and some unconventional dance moves. And Munni (Arora), the village dancer, went on to charm audiences with an electrifying performance.

'Anarkali Disco Chali' — Housefull 2 (2012)

With mainstream heroines also making cameo appearances in dance numbers, Malaika Arora had to come up with an innovative way to stay ahead of the pack. 'Anarkali Disco Chali' stood out for its theme. The revered courtesan [Begum Nadira, better known as Anarkali] had become the icon for mujra numbers. But with time, even a legendary figure needs to break free.

The composer duo of Sajid and Wajid took Anarkali the disco way. Initially dressed as a mujra dancer, this Anarkali showed that she is more than ready to dump Salim and groove to disco music. Anarkali was quickly transformed into a new-age 'item' girl, and owned those desi moves.

'Fashion Khatam Mujhpe' — Dolly Ki Doli (2015)

This was an underrated track, as Dolly Ki Doli did not have any big names in the cast. The con drama, starring Sonam Kapoor, had Malaika Arora in this rollicking dance number 'Fashion Khatam Mujhpe'.

Arora played the Delhi erotic dancer Ragini performing at a wedding. With no stars around, she had the freedom to do what she wanted. The choreography was a nice mix of desi contemporary and a few unconventional moves.

'Munni Badnaam Hui' singer Mamta Sharma was at the microphone again. The song required a certain swag, and Sharma brought in the necessary oomph. Arora’s expressions were whistle-worthy. Rajkummar Rao, too, basked in the beautiful dancer's company.