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Wednesday July 26 marked a special day in the promotion of two upcoming, big budget films: Punjab Nahin Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2. The makers of PNJ had revved their fans up for a video release of one of their songs – ‘24/7 Lak Hilna’ – whereas ‘Kaif o Suroor’ from Na Maloom Afraad 2 came as a last minute surprise, obviously planned by the producers of the film to steal a bit of Punjab’s thunder. It worked and one person got caught in the rain.

Urwa Hocane really got the short end of the stick in this little promotional stunt.

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way before I make a case for her. I was one of the first people to point out that she’s not the most elegant dancer; we have seen enough of her in award show performances to realize that she does not have natural flair when it comes to dancing and honestly, that’s no crime. I don’t know how many brownie points Mehwish Hayat or Sohai Ali Abro have earned by knowing how to dance but I’m assuming none. No one brings home an award for Best Dancer in a movie. So everyone noticed and repeatedly pointed out that Urwa couldn’t dance. Point taken.

What no one pointed out is that while Urwa can’t dance, she was let down by a number of things in the video. Let me explain. Not every Bollywood actor or actress can dance (and I allude to Bollywood because every artist from across the border appears to be genetically linked to Michael Jackson) however, expert choreography, camera work and hundreds of hours of practice ensure that the dance looks good on camera. Cases in point are Saif Ali Khan (infamous for having two left feet) and Sushmita Sen, who’s initial ‘dance numbers’ would be strategically shot with arm movement and very little foot work.

urwa hocane

Urwa’s character is one of the leads in the love triangle

Coming back to ‘24/7’, the first let down was the choreography of the song. Choreographer Shabina Khan may be doing some decent work in Bollywood but she really didn’t develop any memorable steps for this wedding song. And it was shot from all the wrong angles. Secondly, Urwa’s styling was all wrong. I don’t know many girls who can dance in a mermaid cut, hip hugging lehnga; it allowed her no room for movement at all. The hair didn’t help either. To top it off, the promo of the video was shot in a way that suggests that she is paired with Ahmed Ali Butt, whereas she’s a lead in the Humayun Saeed – Mehwish Hayat – Urwa Hocane love triangle.

The biggest disservice to the Udaari star, who will be featuring in three of the country’s biggest films of 2017 (Na Maloom Afraad 2, Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Rangreza) was the fact that her dance was compared to Sadaf Kanwal’s item song and she was thus categorized as an item girl as well. Urwa Hocane is not an item girl, not to trivialize item girls in any way (I personally loved Sadaf Kanwal in ‘Kaif O Suroor’ and Mehwish Hayat in ‘Billi’) but she’s a serious actor who’s doing leading roles. This dance song is a wedding number that (I am told) occurs as part of the plot and hasn’t been added for a bonus swirl of sizzle.

If Urwa doesn’t act to impress in the film then she will and should get flak for letting her fans down but giving her a tough time for not knowing how to dance is unfair and somewhat hypocritical in a country that swears by the fact that dance is not part of our culture. We criticize our leading ladies when they can dance (eyebrows are raised) and we criticize them when they can’t. But Urwa Hocane is an actor and not a dancer and until she fails at her craft, we need to cut her some slack.

This story was first published in Instep on Wednesday, 2nd August 2017.