It's jelly, it's rubber, it's Prabhu Deva! It's April and everyone's sitting at home bored out of their skulls, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. If we need a situation song to describe our condition, perhaps there's nothing like Prabhu Deva's 'April May-ile' from Idhayam. The rough translation of the first few lines of the song goes, "In the months of April and May, there is no greenery, everything is dried up. I don't like this city anymore, I don't like this world anymoreâ€¦ it's super boring! Do we really need this? Go away, man!"
Of course, Prabhu Deva and his friends from the 1991 movie were singing about the lack of college girls on the road during these summer months, but in our current situation, things are even worse. NOBODY is supposed to be on the roads.
An actor, director, producer, dancer and choreographer, Prabhu Deva turned 47 on April 3. But as far as his dancing goes, he's only gotten better with the years, if that was even possible.
The son of dance master Mugur Sundar, his first on screen appearance was in the 'Panivizhum Iravu' song from Mouna Ragam (1986), directed by Mani Ratnam. Looking at the fluid movements of the male lead dancer, you may think it's Prabhu Deva but that's John Babu who also went on to become a choreographer. Prabhu Deva was only a boy at the time of the shoot. He appears briefly around 2:24 minutes here, dressed as a boy playing a flute.
He made several such one song appearances, notably in the 'Chikku Bukku Rayile' song from Gentleman (1993), in which he danced with Gauthami at a railway station. It had music by AR Rahman, who'd stormed into national fame with Roja just a year ago.
The song became a runaway hit and still has amazing recall value. The Prabhu Deva pants made a mark just as much as Gauthami's iconic green bustier top.
His first film as the lead was Indhu in 1994, directed by Pavithran. Clearly inspired by pop star Michael Jackson, Prabhu Deva's moves stunned the audience and made the film a big hit. Here he is, dancing with Khushbu, who was by then all the rage in the Tamil film industry, having delivered blockbusters with superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan.
While the heroine of Indhu was Roja, Khushbu made a special appearance in the foot-tapping 'Metro Channel' song.
The 'Aye Kutti Munnala' song from the same film would today be (rightly) categorised as sexual harassment, but in those days, it passed for 'wooing'. Dancing with birds and an outlandish 'fusion' costume, Prabhu Deva proved that he wasn't just about flexibility. He was a damn good entertainer who could mix up comedy with his moves.
In the same year came the sensational Kadhalan, directed by Shankar. There couldn't have been a better on screen marriage for the senses. Rahman's pulsating music and Prabhu Deva's scintillating moves came together to uplift a mostly mediocre love story. The album, also released in Telugu and Hindi, became a phenomenon, as did Prabhu Deva's dance.
It's hard to pick a favourite from this film and 'Muqabla' obviously features right on top of Prabhu Deva's greatest hits ever. So does the unique 'Pettai Rap' which still prompts '90s kids to respond with "Evaavvo?" when someone says "Stop it!".
These songs may have made older people in those days scratch their heads and wonder what on earth the lyrics meant and perhaps remember Illaiyarajaa or MS Viswanathan with nostalgia, but young people were dazzled with what was on offer. They couldn't get enough of the music and dance from the film. 'Urvasi Urvasi', with Prabhu Deva dancing on a glass bus, became nothing short of an anthem for the youth. The 'Take it easy policy' song has hilarious if politically incorrect lyrics and Prabhu Deva's expressions and body language made it unforgettable.
The album also included the soulful 'Ennavale' and folksy 'Gopala Gopala'.
For those inclined to think of Prabhu Deva's dance as being merely flashy, his elegant moves in 'Vennilave Vennilave' from Minsara Kanavu, blending different dance styles, would come as a pleasant surprise.
As he romanced Kajol in the film, playing the role of Cupid who inadvertently falls in love with the woman he's supposed to set up for someone else, Prabhu Deva was all angst and yearning, but not without his humour. Whether it's the energetic 'Ooh la la' or the funny 'Strawberry Kanne' (a fruit that wasn't even so common back then in Tamil Nadu instantly became a familiar household name), Prabhu Deva was a delight to watch.
'Yeppa Yeppa Aiyappa' from Ezhayin Sirippil (2000) and of course, 'Kaasumela' from Kadhala Kadhala (1998) in which he danced with Kamal Haasan are two other songs which deserve to be on the Prabhu Deva favourites list. It's rare to see a duet with two male actors but that's exactly what the second song was, with Prabhu Deva and Kamal sharing a crackling chemistry on screen and matching every step.
'Oothikinu Kadichukava' from Ninaivirukkum Varai (1999) was another amazing gaana song which had the younger generation transfixed. The song, which had music composed by Deva, easily became another Prabhu Deva 'philosophy' song like 'Urvasi Urvasi'.
Prabhu Deva became such a legend that even the queen of dance, Madhuri Dixit, confessed that she'd been nervous to dance with him in Pukar (2000). But there's no trace of any discomfort in either of the dancers in the famous 'Kay Sera Sera', with both proving themselves yet again.
Prabhu Deva's films â€“ the ones he's acted in, directed or choreographed â€“ aren't really great when it comes to the content, but they have almost never failed to entertain. He brings in so much fun to the screen, throwing in disparate elements, creating drama out of the dance and disrupting what we're used to watching. The 'Vaada Mappilla' song from Villu, with Vijay, Nayanthara and Vadivelu, is a good example of this.
And how can we leave out 'Rowdy Baby' from Maari 2? The movie itself made little impact but the song became a tsunami, breaking several records. It was the most streamed Indian video of 2019 and the seventh globally. One cannot take credit away from the actors Sai Pallavi and Dhanush or music director Yuvan Shankar Raja, but the choreography was one of the biggest reasons for the song to click. It has Prabhu Deva's stamp all over it â€“ entertainment, entertainment and more entertainment.