In this interview with indianexpress.com, Shiamak Davar revisits the experience of choreographing dance sequences in his first ever Bollywood project, Yash Chopra’s Dil Toh Pagal Hai, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor. He also shares how Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor, who had been his students for a while, took to dance from a very young age.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q. You changed the way dance was shown in Bollywood with Dil To Pagal Hai.
In the beginning, I was very apprehensive because I thought it would never work. My dance style is so different. It is a very indo-modern style. It is not a typical Bollywood dance. I told Yash (Chopra) uncle that I was very scared that it will not work, and Shah Rukh (Khan) brainwashed the hell out of me to do otherwise. He convinced me to do it as he too wanted to change the kind of dance that was there in the movies. Eventually, after I did my first song, I did “Chakk Dhum Dhum” and then I did “Le Gayi Le Gayi”. After these came the most challenging sequence of them all – the jugalbandi between Madhuri (Dixit) and Karisma (Kapoor).
The place where we were shooting this piece was very small. There were no lyrics. We had nothing but the rhythm. It was an empty space with literally nothing, not even props. It was just two people dancing. Now when I look back, I feel very happy that people loved that one. Madhuri is a trained Kathak dancer, Karisma was sensational. We wanted to show the jugalbandi between a classical girl and a modern girl, and we wanted both to complement each other. I gave them the same choreography. Both of them had very similar steps. Since Madhuri was classically trained, her pelvic and hip movement had a breezy flow, whereas Karisma would do it like fire. Both of them were emitting such different energies. Madhuri was like a queen who knew what she was doing, she was very subtle. Whereas Karishma had a young, strong and high octane energy. It was lovely. It used to be difficult sometimes for them, but then they complemented each other.
When the dance in Dil Toh Pagal Hai unfolded on screens, I didn’t know what it meant. People loved the dance, and that’s all that was important to me. I didn’t even know National Awards existed before I won one for this film (laughs).
Q. After Dil Toh Pagal Hai, you went on to choreograph so many performances at Bollywood award shows. Tell us about your experience over the years.
I just wish I could get more work like that. But unfortunately, it doesn’t come the way it used to. Now there are a thousand award shows happening. The magic is lost as there is an award show every second day. While I am happy doing them, it was more fun when we had maybe two award shows in a year.
Now everyone has a formula for these things. Nothing new is tried. There is no experiment. Songs in films today are so beautifully done with such glossy artwork, sets, costumes, sound and light, but the choreography doesn’t go anywhere. The techniques have progressed, but I feel the choreography has not. Of course, choreography has improved in the last twenty years, but what I am trying to say is that there shouldn’t be a formula when it comes to dance. Boundaries should be pushed instead. Nowadays we only have hip-hop, jumping and gymnastics. I don’t find that dance. Gymnastics is beautiful, and I love gymnastics, but it is not dance.
Everything now is about the ‘wow’ factor. It is entertaining to see people jump from heights or through a ring, but that is a circus act, not dance. I wish we did more. I wish while choreographing a song, we don’t set ‘hit’ formulas and a hook step. It has become more commercial, and I feel a little sad about it as dance is an art.
Q. Many stars have learnt dancing from you. Did you expect them to become such big stars one day?
By the grace of God, all of them came to me as normal kids. Shahid and Alia came in as normal children who wanted to learn dance and become dancers. Most of them came as students who wanted to learn, even Sushant (Singh Rajput) and Varun (Dhawan). Then they became stars. They were all so young and passionate. They were lovely students. Shahid will always be my baccha. Alia was a baby when she came to me. So when I see them as big stars today, I have to remind myself that these guys are not bacchas anymore. They are stars now, and I feel very happy for them.