When Shiamak Davar made Karisma Kapoor do “Le Gayi Le Gayi” way back in 1997 film Dil To Pagal Hai, many eyes were glued to the screens. No, not because the song was a blockbuster or Karisma looked her sexiest best, but because the song’s choreography was something never seen before in Indian films. With those peculiar twists and turns, here was one choreographer who had introduced a Bollywood crazy nation to what was called ‘contemporary jaaz’. Two decades down the line and Shiamak has changed the way dance is perceived in India.
“I was very hesitant to choreograph for Bollywood when Dil To Pagal Hai was offered to me as I thought my style was too western. But the fact that two amazing performers, Madhuri and Karisma were in the film, I agreed. I think that film set the tone for structured choreography in Bollywood. My intention is to understand the song and the situation and translate that into movement. The positive response of the audience is a confirmation that it found a connect,” recalled the ace choreographer during an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
Shiamak’s unique dance style isn’t difficult to guess. The ‘guru of dance’ as many call him, has created his own ‘Shiamak Style’ apart from promoting ballet, ballroom and hip hop. His dancers sport jazzy fusion clothes, big bindis, bangles, braids and mix the modern with folk – an absolute departure from the typical Amitabh Bachchan style of dancing from the 1970s and Govinda style from 1990s.
“Dance has always been an integral part of Bollywood movies. The choreography has progressed over the years and the movements are more stylised. But that does not take away from the legendary moves of Mr. Bachchan, the effortless performance of Govinda, the perfectionism of Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff’s flexibility,” he said.
As compared to the old times, having a basic training in dance has become a prerequisite for anyone entering films today. Actors like Varun Dhawan, Shahid Kapoor and Sushant Singh Rajput were his students much before venturing into Bollywood. Shiamak explains why aspiring newbies not only polish their physique and acting skills but also aim for some basic dance knowledge. “The level of choreography may be more difficult today. So it becomes easier for actors if they train in dance, as it is so important to our cinema. Today, actors come better prepared due to stiff competition. Therefore, when audiences see the likes of Shahid, Sushant and Varun perform, they recognise their training and quality of movement,” explained Shiamak.
Watch | Le Gayi song from Dil To Pagal Hai
Shiamak is best known for films like Taal, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Dhoom 2 and the recent Jagga Jasoos. He holds several international honours along with a National Award. He has also been associated with several award shows, mainly choreographing for the IIFA for a decade now. Shiamak has also choreographed global events like the closing ceremonies of the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games, the World Economic Forum, Davos (2006) and performing for Bill Clinton. In 2011, he choreographed dance sequences for Mission Impossible 4. During the IIFA 2014, he also made Hollywood stars John Travolta and Kevin Spacey dance, leaving Travolta totally surprised!
“I enjoy choreographing shows and events, it taps my creative space,” he said.
Now, with the influx of numerous dance-based TV shows, Shiamak feels it is a great platform for the raw talent in the interiors of the country. “Reality shows give them a stage and a starting point. So it is a definite boost towards finding talent. What people need to understand is this raw talent needs training. Contemporary dance is not gymnastics, there is choreography. This knowledge of movement will only come with training and learning,” said the 56-year-old choreographer.
To nurture such talent, he has been running his Shiamak Davar’s Institute for Performing Arts (SDIPA) for decades now, with centres in several cities across India. Out of the several courses, its Summer Funk is quite popular among the youth, his most recent one being the Summer Funk’18 in Pune which aims at being the city’s biggest summer musical. Ask Shiamak if he thinks he has achieved enough and he replies, “I’m never content, dance is ever evolving so there is always so much to learn and teach. Summer Funk is a platform for everyone to experience the joy of dance, learn their favourite style and perform on stage in a professional set up. From four years to 84 years, students from all walks of life participate. The talent in our country is phenomenal, and my Dance Education program in schools, my One Year Dance Certification Programs and regular dance classes takes up most of my time.”
With several choreographers turning to making films today, what is Shiamak’s take? “I think choreographers have a great vision and the ability to translate that into movement or film. It is great to see films that have dance as its core essence. It is a great opportunity for dancers also to find a larger platform and see themselves on the big screen,” he said.
Finally, which actor he thinks can carry his moves to perfection? “It difficult to name just one, there are many like Shahid, Varun, Sushant, Hrithik.”