Shiamak Davar: Yash Chopra wanted me to choreograph 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' but I was scared my style of dancing would never work - #Big Interview - Times of India
In the year 1997, with the release of Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor starrer, 'Dil To Pagal Hai', Bollywood's style of dancing witnessed a transition to an all-new form. The film was acclaimed not just for the story and performances but for its dance choreography, too. And that's how Shiamak Davar got introduced to the world with his unconventional approach and western influences in dance. His unique vision brought magic to the screen which gave audiences the kind of larger-than-life dance performances that they had rarely seen in Hindi films. ETimes reached out to the ace choreographer for a conversation about his journey into movies. Shiamak recalled his trials and tribulations and also revealed about his several collaborations with artistes like Vishal Bhardwaj, Shah Rukh Khan and Yash Chopra. He also reveals his love for RRR's 'Naatu Naatu' and the prospects of winning an Oscar.
The name Shiamak Davar has become a brand in terms of dance. But was your journey towards success a tough one?
Who do you consider to be legends of their craft?
When I say legends, I mean working with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan. They are so wonderful to work with. And then, we work with the juniors and we can feel that there is a zameen aasmaan ka difference.
Can you elaborate on that difference?
Legends are humble, they don't make my dancers wait, they come on time, they learn their work and they don't change the choreography. Today, if SRK has a broken leg and his back, he will still perform for me. I remember during one of the Award functions, SRK had an injury, but he did the performance for me. These legends will follow our instructions the way we say it and the new ones will bring their own directors and choreographers, I don't know what they want to do. I feel very sad. That is why I love my legends. Old is gold, no matter what you say!
You recently shared a picture of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan on social media. What was the story behind that?
The picture was taken during one of the Filmfare Awards and I know Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan very well because of their work. I've worked with them in the past, especially with SRK because he and Yash (Chopra) uncle were the ones who actually wanted me to do 'Dil To Pagal Hai'. It was actually Shah Rukh, who forced me to do the film. Interestingly, Yash (Chopra) uncle had even asked me to work on 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge', but at that time, I didn't do the movie because I was scared and worried about my style of dancing. I thought my style of choreography would never work.
What convinced you to say yes to 'Dil To Pagal Hai'?
Gauri used to come to my classes and Shah Rukh often came to receive her. He would stand at the classes, smoking a cigarette, waiting for her patiently like an adoring husband (smiles). Literally, I like an adoring husband. One day, he told me that there is a movie coming out and he wanted me to do it. SRK invited me for dinner and I was surprised as to 'why is he calling me for dinner?'. But when I went there, SRK asked me to do 'DTPH'. He convinced me by telling me that they wanted my style of dancing. Frankly speaking, if Shah Rukh hadn't convinced me, I am sure I wouldn't have done 'Dil To Pagal Hai' either. Because my style of dancing was very much different. It was western but Yash (Chopra) uncle had faith in me and SRK pushed me further. So I am so happy that I did the movie.
Do Shah Rukh Khan and you still inspire each other?
These days, I am really excited for Shah Rukh. 'Pathaan' is doing extremely well. I called him and told him how happy and excited I am to see him back. I wanted him to do my shows again, I really missed him.
With 'Dil To Pagal Hai', the audience witnessed a new style of dancing altogether. What liberties were given to you as a choreographer, since dance was the soul of the film?
So, when I stepped in for 'Dil To Pagal Hai', I told Yash uncle, 'Now that I am doing it, I need my dance company, my costume and my understanding of music'. So even when Uttam Singh was composing the jugalbandi (The Dance of Envy) song with Madhuri and Karisma, I said that I want to give music to the dance song. I gave the idea of the music. I had complete control over the music and the dance of the film. If someone is hiring me as a professional, then they should get the best from me. And Yash uncle allowed everything. He agreed with my costumes, music, choreography and everything. That's the reason why I was able to deliver as a good dance director.
Your album 'Mohabbat Kar Le' was released in the same year as DTPH. How did that song make its way to the film?
While I was rehearsing with Madhuri in my dance studio, just for the rehearsal I said, let me play my song Mohabbat Karle Re. Yash uncle went mad after hearing the song and decided to include it in the movie. That's how the song ended up in the film.
Your songs Jaane Kisne and Mohabbat Kar Le are still favourites with music aficionados. Have you ever thought about reviving the singing career?
I really have a few music video songs to be released but I have to be free and right now my dance school takes up a lot of my time. I teach there and we give scholarships, which is a one-year program, especially for kids who are from the lower-income group, but have the talent. Between my school and the Book A Smile foundation, we are running this one-year scholarship program. My school is very important to me and it is the main reason I am where I am today. There's also my Victory Art Foundation, which is for people with special needs. For people who have no money, the foundation pays for their education, food, boarding, lodging and everything. All that work is keeping me busy.
How did you end up collaborating with Vishal Bhardwaj for the musical short film 'Fursat'?
I've been a huge Vishal Bhardwaj fan from the time I saw 'Omkara' and 'Kaminey'. I love all his other movies, too. I just called him and said 'I am a huge fan and I want to work with you'. He was very much taken aback and said, 'Shiamak Davar is saying this to me?'. But gradually, the collaboration happened with the short film 'Fursat'. One day, he was just narrating the story and while listening to it, I told him that I wanted to show him something. It was something that I was working on then. It was an Indo-contemporary style which was very different from the Shiamak Davar style that everyone saw in 'DTPH'. I showed Vishal a video and he lost his mind. He immediately said that he wanted the style in the film. I countered him and asked if that was possible because the style was very 'hatke'. I also asked him, what will the client say? But Vishal was very adamant about including that style of choreography in the movie. When we started auditioning, he wanted Ishaan (Khatter) and I was so happy because he is my student and he knows the Shiamak style of dancing. Then there is a sweet girl called Wamiqa (Gabbi) who also came on board. Before Ishaan, one boy, who had done one film, came into the picture, but he was so proud that we couldn't take him. Then came Ishaan and we were relieved. My assistant directors Jai and Anisha both handled the shoot and did a great job along with Vishal. And Vishal had the guts to go with my Indo-contemporary choreography. That's why I love him.
Many years back, you stated in an interview that Shahid Kapoor had more potential and people have not seen the best of him yet. After so many years and so many of Shahid's outstanding performances, will you still say the same?
I will still say the same. Shahid has done a superb job in films like 'Kaminey', Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat, Kabir Singh and others. But I will still say that people haven't seen the best of Shahid. Because I have seen Shahid dance and he has still not been choreographed in a way that will make people go crazy. He is that good a dancer.
The song 'Naatu Naatu' from 'RRR' has been nominated at the Oscars. What are your views on the choreography of the song?
I just can't tell you how excited I was when I heard about the nomination. The choreography is outstanding. The music is fabulous and what should I say about SS Rajamouli? He has done a fantastic job. I know Ram Charan very well as I worked with him during an award function in Chennai. He is such a humble, warm guy and so talented. When I saw Ram in 'RRR', I completely went mad and called him saying, 'I am in love with him with what he has done in the film'. The way Ram and Jr. NTR performed, is just unbelievable. Both are legends. I really wish and pray, they win the Oscar.
The choreography is amazing. When people work in this manner, they tend to inspire everyone and I am inspired by the choreography of Naatu Naatu. These days, we see dances that look all too similar. Though the steps and footwork are different, they end up looking the same. But the footwork that is showcased in 'Naatu Naatu' is outstanding. We see a lot of footwork in a lot of contemporary songs, for example, there is the 'Pathaan' song Jhoome Re Pathaan, where there is a lot of footwork. Then there is Kartik Aaryan's Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 title song which has a lot of footwork. They all are nice but after seeing 'Naatu Naatu', which has legendary footwork, we have to ask ourselves what can be next?