Wish you could dance like Madhuri, Aishwarya or Urmila? One week to perform and don’t know hot to start? Come learn from the best!
Dance with Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa is the first complete handbook on how to dance to your favourite Bollywood number. And who better than the best of Bollywood choreographers and Jhalak celebrity contestants to show you just how to do it? We offer you a step-by-step guide for dance moves on different occasions (at school, college, weddings, sangeet, birthday parties, festivals) and for different groups (kids, moms and dads, budding dancers, solo performers, mixed groups).
Shiamak Davar on the importance of practice
•Juhi Chawla recalls her first bollywood dance sequence
• Lounginus Fernandes offers tips on stage fright
• Saroj Khan, Monica Bedi, Hard Kaur on getting the right look.
Vaibhavi Merchant stresses the importance of song selection
• Mona Sing. On how to perform con1dently
• Farah Khan’s take on high energy quotient
Peppered with photographs, celebrity anecdotes, and real life experiences from the popular dance show on Sony Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, this is a must have for kids, moms, dads, and wannabe stars.
Bollywood Dance is all in the Hips!
I started out in the Hindi film industry as a dancer, not as a choreographer. When I was ten- and-a-half years old, I danced in the film Howrah Bridge, dressed like a boy. I wore jeans, checked shirt and a jockey cap, and I was leading a girl while Madhubala was singing. That is how I started dancing in Hindi movies. And gradually, I became more than a dancer and made my name as a choreographer.
Always a dancer
But life was not always rosy. I am self-made. My parents came from Pakistan during Partition and I was born in Mumbai, in 1948. We had no money and no connections and did not know anybody in this new city. Like many other people displaced by Partition, we had to build our lives up from scratch. By the time I was three years old, my parents had started thinking that I was crazy, because I danced so much. Even though there was no artist or musician in our family to set the example, I loved to dance. I had begun to dance watching my own shadow, captivated, even as a small child. I would dance and dance the whole day.
My parents got so worried, thinking that I was a freak child, that they took me to a doctor He said, ‘There is no problem with her, she just wants to dance. So let her dance!’
It was the same doctor who suggested to my mother that she try to place me in the film industry It seemed like the right thing to do. Not only was I a natural performer, but we needed the money when my mother told him that we had no contacts with producers or anyone in films, he said that he would recommend me to the many people who asked him about child artistes who could dance or act. This is how I got introduced to the film world, and I slowly started getting small roles, but mostly without credit. For my first acting part, I was only three years old—I sat on the moon and sang a song as little Shyama in the film Nazrana. I am not mentioned in the credits at all, but people noticed me and I got more work.
Thereafter, I started doing children’s roles in Hindi films. This was even before Baby Naaz began her own film career I was younger than her and we were in the same school; she was in the seventh standard, I was in the fifth.
My real name is Nirmala, but my father changed it to Saroj when I joined films. He thought our relatives wouldn’t discover what was going on with this small deception, but they still found out and thereafter never stepped into our house or drank our water till they died.
Meeting my master B. Sohanlal
When I was nine or ten years old, my career as a child artiste ended. At this age you are at crossroads: you are neither small nor big and can play neither child roles nor adult ones. So, I joined group dancing instead. This was how I met the legendary choreographer B. Sohanlal. He had a brother, B. Hiralal, who worked on many of Vyajayantimala’s movies. B. Sohanlal himself choreographed a number of popular songs like ‘Hoton Pe Aisi Baat’ (Jewel ThieO, ‘Bol Ri Kathputli’(Kathputl:), and many from Aasha and Madhumati like ‘Chad Gaya Paapi Bichchua’, ‘Eena Meena Deeka’, ‘Apalam Chapalam’, etc.
B. Sohanlal was my master and I his pupil. He was very famous in his time. When I was barely twelve or thirteen years old, he noticed my movements and picked me out of my group and made me his assistant.
The first bollywood dance I choreographed
Once B. Sohanlal had to go to Europe for the shoot of the movie Sangam. Back then, they never took assistants along on foreign locations. He was doing the Rajendra Kumar song, ‘Mera Prem Patra Padkar Turn Naraaz Na Ho’. At the same time, in India, the three Rawal brothers were making the movie Dii Hi To Ha/n with Raj Kapoor and Nutan, directed by P.L. Santoshi, Raj Kumar Santoshi’s father. B. SohanIaIji was not available as he was abroad, and as I was his assistant, I was asked to compose the song. I was thrilled, to choreograph my first dance— Nigahen Milane Ko Ji Chahta Hai—and I also danced in the group. This was the beginning of my career; this is how I started choreographing. I was still only a teenager then.
My independent foray into choreography
The yesteryears actress Sadhana officially made me a choreographer by taking me on for her movie Geeta Mera Naam. She was directing it and her husband was producing it. She said, ‘I don’t want any other chorographer; I will take Saroj.’ We were both Sindhis, so she had an added attachment to me. I was about fifteen at the time. Also, I had done many songs like ‘Jhumka Gira Re Bareilly Ke Bazaar Mein’, ‘Abhi Na Jaao Chhod Kar’, etc., with her as her composer, so we worked well together Masterji would compose the piece with me and I would teach her the dance at her home or in a rehearsal hall. In this manner, I started choreographing on my own, in my 20s. But I never left Masterji. Whenever he needed me, I would leave my choreography assignment and go work for him as his assistant.
I am essentially a director’s choreographer I need to know the storyline before I can make the artist dance. Subhash Ghai’s songs always have a story to tell: you don’t want to skip them while watching the film, since you know the story will develop with the song, they are not just a decorative addition. ‘Choli Ke Peeche’, however, was an item song. For that one he told me, ‘I will not disturb you in this song, you just make Madhuri dance.’ And I made Madhuri dance my way through the song—except at the end, when she picks up the card and shows she has the money, just through her expressions, which was where Subhash Ghai stepped in.
The most memorable dance I have ever choreographed in my whole career has been ‘Dola Re’ from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. For the song, I had to work with the two great dancers of our times: Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. It was very difficult for me to make them compete with each other I had to think about the movements so many times: what would look good on either of them. Also, I did not want Aishwarya to feel that my focus was only on Madhuri, since everyone knows that Madhuri is and will always be my favourite. If you want to know what my favourite dance composition is though, it is not ‘Dola Re’, but ‘Athra Baras Ki Kunwari Kali Thi’ from the film Anjàam. In that song, every word has a meaning to it and Madhuri brings the lyrics alive through her dance: a perfect coordination of movements and expressions.
Madhuri is my favourite dancer because she was almost like a replica of me: she repeated every movement that I showed her, copied each one to the T, even the expressions. She was perhaps the only good dancer in the film industry during her time.
It took seventeen days for Madhuri to learn all the expressions of ‘2k Do Teen’ (Tezaab). The dance was not that difficult, but there must have been 25,000 expressions on her face in that one song! Filmed in 1988, it earned the first award Flim fare magazine ever given for choreography. The song established my name, director N. Chandra’s reputation and Madhuri’s talent as a dancer. ‘Ek Do Teen’ had replaced ‘Hoton Pe Aisi Baat’ as the number one song- dance sequence in Bollywood films. It was an iconic dance of its time, which set new trends in Bollywood. Thereafter, everybody started giving importance to dance numbers in Bollywood productions.
The ABC of Bollywood dance
I have never received any formal training in dance from anybody. But it didn’t handicap me that I had not formally learned Kathak, for instance. I do know Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi, and the difference between the two, of course. My master B. Sohanlal was a Kathak dancer from the Jodhpur gharana, so when I started choreographing on my own, I already knew what Kathak was and knew its basic form; I had done many songs with him. In fact, I was given an award by Lachchu Maharaj of Lucknow for keeping the Kathak tradition alive in Hindi films; in Devdas, Madhuri was doing Kathak movements in ‘Maar Dala’.
The basis of Bollywood dance is very simple: hip shaking. The more you shake your hips, the more popular you get! There is nothing that looks as sexy as a dancer when she shakes her hips wearing a ghagra-choli! It is the only outfit that can make you look really sexy as you do your hip movements. But there is a thin line between looking sexy and looking vulgar. While songs like ‘Choli Ke Peeche’ and ‘Kaante Nahin Katte’ were indeed sexy songs, my ladies never looked indecent; wearing six-yard saris, they looked good, and they looked sexy.
An amateur or beginner dancer should begin learning Bollywood dance with a very simple piece (I do that in Nachie ye With Saroj Khan, my TV show). You start with a song that is very minimal in dance and then teach aspiring dancers how to move—make them shake their hips in different styles. Then you give them one-two-three rhythms that are very simple and common, followed by folk movements that are used in a lot of films. Gradually, you introduce a little bit of western style and more complicated steps.
What makes a good Bollywood dancer
A pretty, mobile face with great expressions is vital for a dancer. She must know when to appear sad or happy, to look at her audience with love or with hatred. It she can understand the lyrics of the song, it is an added advantage, as then she can easily emote. I remember when I was choreographing ‘Maar Dala’ from Devdas, a group of Europeans were watching the rehearsals. They saw my assistant dance with her girls. Suddenly, one of the European women began to cry. When I asked her why—I was puzzled, as she certainly could not understand the words of the song—she told me that the pain could be seen in the dancer’s eyes. You can do the same magic with your dance.
So here is my advice for any wannabe Bollywood dancer: before shaking those hips, try out the expressions. Put your heart out there on your face. I say this because unless the public understands your face, the dance is always going to be naked, without a soul. Until you use your face and the appropriate expressions, people will be left to wonder what the dancer is doing and why. Your eyes are the soul of your dance; they need to show emotions, explain the meaning of the beautiful song you have chosen to perform to.
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