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"Make a song and dance about it"

India's Bollywood brings to life the most mundane and magical moments of our day-to-day, transforming them into vibrant, expressive, and emotive anthems. The physical, emotional, and vocal range of Bollywood's song and dance scenes (and routines) is as wide as it is deep. The ways in which it blesses its audiences with generational wisdom and poetic insight is nothing but scripted genius. How might this inspire of our ways of learning?

Photo credit: Pavan Gupta

What is so Radical and Wild about Bollywood cinema?

Although perhaps more wild than radical, there is a lot to be learnt from Bollywood and its unapologetic, melodramatic way of making a song and dance out of everything. Such musical ritual communicates an emotionality that has been largely stigmatised in the western world. In fact, such soppy goodness is looked down on or cringed at by white, patriarchal systems of oppression that numb us to the delights and despairs of love and grief, betrayal and forgiveness, anger and flirtation, melody and melancholy: all life's vital signs In this sense, Bollywood is an art form that challenges this systematic flat-lining from which we westerners are judged, measured, and weighed (as we see in academia where the less emotional you are, the more 'rational' and 'objective' you can be as currencies of intellect). Instead, Bollywood taps into and unleashes the ebb and flow of existence, in all its hysteria and social complexities, so that we are moved to vicariously live our roller-coaster lives through the screen, learning and re-learning our emotional capacity through starry-eyed wonder.

How can Bollywood inform/influence learning?

In Bollywood, musicality expresses reality - a primal instinct from which there is no escaping. The boundary-pusher here is about how we can authentically articulate and communicate our full uncensored selves in arenas of learning. Perhaps this vernacular shows up as spontaneous, rehearsed, choreographed - however it shows up is not important. What is important is a reimagining of our learning environments which invites expressed emotion out of the fiction and up to the surface.

So often we are learning about subject matters of social consciousness; so how might we use emotional intensity (and its creative expression) to build knowledge? What might it look like to anchor our learning in the ways in which emotion shows up in our bodies? How often do we still ourselves to be present with how fear or pain or guilt or trauma physically feels and flows like in the body? And how can we use such an exploration as arterial pathways to lifelong learning and heightened sense of awareness? Could learning be shaped exclusively through highly-sensory vibes and vibrations, rhythms and repetitions, as we so love about Bollywood? And, therefore, what barriers can be broken between our inner and outer voices to uncensor ourselves as our full selves?

The framing of these questions helps us think about all the parts of our individual and collective humanities we don't bring into the conventional classroom. We must permit ourselves to make a song and dance about learning as and when the feeling takes us.

An absolute must-watch from the Bollywood film 'Dil Se':


“I've always thought people would find a lot more pleasure in their routines if they burst into song at significant moments.” - John Barrowman

Vanessa Faloye.

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