Apr 282018

On International Dance Day, mid-day asks Bollywood’s coveted choreographers to revisit a special sequence designed by them


Jaane Kiske Khwaab – Guzaarish
This one was both, special and difficult to construct for two reasons. To begin with, Hrithik had only recently undergone a knee surgery to treat an ACL tear. Back then, I was doing a lot of choreography that involved movements that went into and off the floor. So, physically, it was difficult for him to perform them. Also, he comes from a specific language [of dance], while, back then, I was executing an entirely different language of movement. So, I was under a lot of pressure. Although he is a beautiful dancer, I wasn’t sure I could choreograph for him. But, he was welcoming. He encouraged me to try different things despite his injury. While I had designed the dance on two of my team members, I adapted it to play to his strengths. Hrithik has a long body, which is also soft and supple. So, I amended movements that were rounded in nature to look longer instead. Because, he could execute them beautifully.

Ashley Lobo

In the choreography you see him use props, and move over beams. While VFX was used later to add the moon and lighting, he had to actually execute the choreography with the props, and while walking on the beams. It wasn’t tough for him because he naturally understands movement. But, even dancers quit when they have an ACL tear. I couldn’t believe he was doing it.

Also, if you see the dance, you’ll notice an element of silence and stillness. For him to come into that space, we needed him to have certain control over his breath. Before class, we made him meditate every day for 30 minutes. I’d take him through a process called Prana Paint, which involves painting the floor with movement to engage your body and reach that level of stillness. With Prana Paint, you essentially paint the air with your breath. It’s a process that helps the viewer feel the performer’s energy.

Jagga Jasoos

Galti Se Mistake – Jagga Jasoos
I think, given the lack of planning, and the eventual acclaim that the choreography received, this track will always be special for me. At the time, I was assisting dada [Anurag Basu, director] on the film, and we knew that the track’s first scratch, the audio, was good. We wanted a choreographer who could do justice to the tune and were contemplating roping in Ganesh Acharya. But, he was busy with another assignment. Eventually, dada asked me to work on it. We brought 30 to 40 dancers on set, even though we didn’t know what we were going to do with them.

The brief was simple – it needs to showcase the tomfoolery between the boys in a hostel. So, we started designing steps that were quirky, but soon realised that choreography alone wouldn’t suffice if we wanted to showcase their banter. So, we added elements to the song. For the line – main body banounga, I suggested we use the ladi of pav to showcase abs. Similarly, we used the boys to form a human cycle that Ranbir Kapoor could ride on. All these elements, the entire choreography was designed on the set.

Vijay Ganguly
Vijay Ganguly

Also, we had four days to shoot the song, and did not even have the entire edit with us on day one. Every time we arrived on set, Pritam da [music composer] would give us a new version of the songs, with a few lines tweaked, or some music added. So we were working on a new piece every day. We had designed four high-octane bars [segments in dance] for a particular chunk of music towards the end of the track. When Ranbir saw the choreography, he said, “This is tough. How can I do it?” But, eventually, we broke it down to shoot one bar at a time for him. Eventually, the DoP told dada that he should urge Ranbir to perform the entire segment at once. Ranbir was hesitant, but took five minutes to pull himself together. Eventually, he performed it better than the dancers did. Ranbir made the choreography look better.

Dil Toh Pagal Hai

Dance Of Envy – Dil Toh Pagal Hai
The sequence came at a very crucial point in the film. The characters, played by Madhuri Dixit Nene and Karisma Kapoor, were coming face-to-face for a dance off. It was essential that their emotions be portrayed aptly through their dance. The name of the song – Dance Of Envy – was itself descriptive of what was required. Karisma’s character was trying to win back Shah Rukh Khan’s Rahul. She needed to show him that even with a broken leg, she could still dance. Madhuri’s character, on the other hand, was comfortable in her space and she looked at it [the competition] from a healthier space, one of two dancers sharing the stage.

The sequence did not come with the paraphernalia of a dance company. There were only two actors competing with each other. There was Karisma with her raw power and youthful, vibrant strength, and Madhuri with her effortless grace and finesse. While both performed Jazz, the steps were choreographed to suit their individualities. This sequence was nothing but pure dance!


I had not started choreographing [for films] until Dil Toh Pagal Hai came my way. I was apprehensive about doing so since I feared my style was too Western. But, on the insistence of Yash [Chopra, director] uncle and Shah Rukh, I decided to go ahead. Honestly, I was also excited when I heard Madhuri and Karisma were to feature in it because they are fine performers. Even though my style of choreography is different, they rehearsed and perfected the moves.

People relate dance to choreography alone. But, there is a subtlety in movement, which is also dance. At one moment, when Karisma decides to join Madhuri on the dance floor, she unzips her jacket before going on stage. That movement too is part of choreography.

Zindagi Na MilegiâÂÂ?ÂÂ?Dobara

Senorita – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
I think, this one was special because we won the National Award for it. When the project came our way, we hadn’t worked on a film assignment for six months because we were part of a reality show. Zoya had briefed us about the song and we had designed it in Mumbai. When we showed the sequence to her in Spain, she loved it.

We know that the primary discussion around the song was pertaining to the fact that the three actors – Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar Abhay Deol – were dancers of different calibres. But, Bosco [Martis] and I believe that every artiste has a different body language. You need to teach them according to that. Of course, Abhay was hesitant. But I spent time with him and Farhan to work according to their body languages, while Bosco taught Hrithik. We had to tell them what was lacking.

Caesar Gonsalves
Caesar Gonsalves

We had to make them find that inner style. Also, what worked for the sequence was that individually, they had distinct characters in the film. And the manner in which they pulled off the dance was in accordance with their character. That’s what made it look so beautiful. For me, I think Farhan was the best in the song. Hrithik is, of course, superb. But, the cool and calm that Farhan got into his movements made him look dapper. He was perfect.

The backdrop was that these three boys had essentially gate-crashed a village party. So, these people from the local village were actually on set. They came in with their own drinks and participated in the going-on. So, not everything was acted out. A lot of it was real. Also, since we had professional Spanish dancers and the locals on set, each time we’d take a break from the shoot, one of them would break into a song and dance. They’d either perform Flamingo or Tap, and everyone would clap or join in. The party really began when we stopped shooting.

Love Aaj Kal

Chor Baazari – Love Aaj Kal
What makes this track particularly special is that we won awards for it when all of it was actually designed on the set. This proved that for good choreography, one need not always have an ensemble of dancers to depend on.

Also, it was special because I love working with Imtiaz [Ali, director]. I think, when we work together, we feed on each other’s ideas. If I give him a move, he takes it further and makes it a scene. Similarly, when he paints a scene for me, I find a way to add movement to it. When we reached Delhi to shoot for the song, we didn’t have a sequence in mind. The movements were all natural and impromptu. It was just the body reacting to the quirky beats at that moment. Saif [Ali Khan] may not be the best dancer, but we shared a rapport after collaborating on Race. He could make any movement his own, always adding his style to it. He allowed things to unfold naturally, and felt the rhythm of the song. That was important. Also, it was a free-spirited dance. We were choreographing on the go across the streets of Mumbai and Delhi, and using things like taxis to enhance the sequence. So it was lively.

Bosco Martis

There were also some incidents that scared us. Deepika [Padukone] could have had an accident that day. If you see the song, there’s a scene where she’s dancing atop a table. While filming, the actors must have missed their cues given the chaos. Saif was meant to hold her when she falls, but he didn’t. Fortunately, Deepika, athletic and focused as she is, managed to save herself. She could have fallen from a height of eight feet that day.

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